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Forum of the Real discusses the evolution of contemporary documentary


- Programmers Dennis Lim and Jean-Pierre Rehm, and directors Catarina Mourão and Lois Patiño were among the guests at the forum

Forum of the Real discusses the evolution of contemporary documentary
l-r: Lois Patiño, Rodrigo Areias, Martin Pawley, Beli Martínez and Nuno Rodrigues

Last Friday, the second Porto/Post/Doc hosted the Forum of the Real, which brought together several programmers and filmmakers for three debates organised under one generic topic: “Documenting the Imaginary”. The theme fits in perfectly with both the motto of the festival (“Our Stories Are Real”) and its programme, which showcases and questions the evolution of contemporary non-fiction films.

Two main ideas seemed to underpin the debates: on one hand, the growing difficulty to define a genre that has been flirting with fiction for years, and, on the other hand, the limitations on the dissemination of documentaries, particularly in Portugal and in the Spanish region of Galicia.

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The Portuguese situation was at the centre of the first debate. Former Gulbenkian programmer António Pinto Ribeiro considered that the biggest mistake made by Portuguese documentaries over the last 20 years was linked to the low level of attention paid by local filmmakers to socio-political issues: “We have memory issues! It’s as if there was a big collective amnesia for certain topics.” Memory was precisely one of the topics tackled by filmmaker Catarina Maurão in her latest film, The Wolf’s Lair [+see also:
film review
film profile
, which is being shown in the festival’s competition section (read more). According to Mourão, the large number of moving images that audiences can gain access to nowadays contributes to a “disbelief regarding their truthfulness”. The boundaries between reality and fiction are becoming a “disturbing territory”.

In the afternoon debates, Dennis Lim (Film Society of Lincoln Centre) tried to address the topic in more concrete terms: “Documenting the imaginary is not documenting; it’s suggesting.” Just like Porto/Post/Doc, Lim’s New York-based Art of the Real showcase embraces that very paradox: art versus real. “What we are doing is expanding the definition of non-fiction films; it’s going beyond and producing a lot of good work that sits in this hybrid zone.” But is that risky, somehow? “We have more and more documentaries, but we trust them less and less.”

Jean-Pierre Rehm (FID) also pointed out the contradiction: “Documenting is archiving; it’s shaping the images you hold in your hands into a film format. Imaginary sounds like the opposite; it’s like an image that’s either lost or yet to come.”

The last debate focused on the collective imagination supposedly linking Portugal and Galicia, and on the synergies that can be established between the two. Producer Beli Martinez underlined the need to create a certain local collective imagination, which can afterwards be exported as a sort of recognisable brand. Nuno Rodrigues (Vila do Conde Short Film Festival) stressed that there is a willingness to enhance collaboration between Portuguese and Galician professionals, using the example of Lois Patiño’s latest short, Night Without Distance, which was produced by the Vila do Conde Festival as part of the Campus programme.

Patiño, certainly the most internationally acclaimed director making new cinema in Galicia, was also present at the debate: “These synergies are the fruit of a generational proximity. We met at several festivals and became friends,” he said. However, as Portuguese producer-director Rodrigo Areias remarked, “There is as yet no institutional background to frame these connections.”

Porto/Post/Doc will bring its second edition to an end tomorrow, 8 December.

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