Elena Duque • Programmer, Doc’s Kingdom
“As a programmer, you also have a responsibility to change what is considered to be the canon of film history”
- As the 2023 edition of the Portuguese event kicked off, this year’s programmer, selected in the first-ever call opened by the seminar, broke down what is happening in Odemira until 5 December
As the new edition of Doc’s Kingdom kicked off, Cineuropa talked to Elena Duque, this year’s programmer, selected in the first-ever call opened by the seminar, which is happening in Odemira, Portugal, from 30 November-5 December.
Cineuropa: When you were announced as this year’s seminar programmer, a statement was shared that read: “Make films speak to make people speak.” How does this connect with how you perceive and embrace programming and this year’s theme, “Cut-Across”?
Elena Duque: I think that as a programmer, there's barely enough time at festivals to get to talk about films. You usually have Q&As, for which you have limited time available because you are on a very tight schedule. It’s just a complement to the screenings. Here, for the first time, I will be in a context in which there will be time to really see and talk about the films in depth, so to speak. So for me, it was a new thing to discover because I've never worked in a context like this. Maybe it's similar to what you do in a class. It was a challenge for me because you need to think about the programmes you are making, for people to watch, as a good starting point for a discussion.
The subject of the seminar this year is something that has to do with form; it's not a topic as such. There are films that deal with very different subjects. The challenge was to join all of these films through this formal concern, but also to ensure that this formal concern would lead to a political point of view somehow.
There is a constellation of guests: different voices, fields of interest, places and generations. How was it thought out in terms of the variety of the discussions as well as the cinematic experiences?
The intergenerational aspect has always been present; it was also present at the edition I came to as an invited artist for the first time, back in 2021. Manuela Serra was there, a filmmaker who made her feature at the beginning of the 1980s, and she was there with people who had only made two short films. The same thing is happening at this edition. I think that nowadays, when you construct a programme, you have to think about inclusion in many ways, while never losing sight of what you're making in terms of the concept. So, I think this is a delicate balance to strike, but it’s also what makes the profession of programming films so interesting – to try to get people from different perspectives, from different generations, of different genders. I was at a talk here a few days ago, discussing how, as a programmer, you also have a responsibility to change what is considered to be the canon of film history. You have a responsibility towards what you're programming, who you are programming and where they come from, but you also have a responsibility in terms of researching and going back into the past to see what things were not visible enough owing to the circumstances of their time. That happened, for example, with Amy Halpern, who was the filmmaker that initiated the programme. I think her work is brilliant and should be enshrined in history, but it was ignored. The same goes for Noémia Delgado: her film has been restored recently, but still, she was only able to make one feature.
After the seminar, what would you like people to take away from this experience?
I've been listening to the conversations that people have been having already, and I think the idea would be to raise questions that would enrich our own work or lives. The fact that we have people coming from different perspectives, generations, disciplines and places makes you think outside the box. On one hand, I hope to raise some kind of interest in the filmmakers we are featuring because they are artists I would like to see succeed somehow. Also, I would like to inspire these kinds of reflections on cinema in everybody – and on life itself, because in the end, there are many things that you can transpose to life. I was in a discussion about what documentary is, about what could be considered a document, and about how this idea of a document could also be authoritarian or an imposition. Maybe we need to change how we think about a document, what we consider to be a fact and what we consider to be the truth. This goes back to the concept of the seminar, which is a formal concept, but it also deals with form in cinema. And how you say things is sometimes just as important as the thing you are saying, because you cannot separate these two elements.
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