Hubert Sauper, Special Guest at the 12th FICM, offered a conversation with the audience, moderated by film critic Nick Roddick, in the Teatro Rubén Romero.
The Austrian-born director became known for his famous documentary Darwin’s Nightmare (2004), which shows the social and ecological effects caused by the fishing industry in Lake Victoria, Tanzania. The film was awarded the Europa Cinemas Label at the 61st Venice International Film Festival.
Hubert Sauper attended the 12th FICM to present his latest work We Come as Friends. The film is situated in Africa at the time in which Sudán breaks into two nations. The documentary reveals the thoughts and dreams of the people involved in the conflict: Chinese workers in the oil fields, UN peacekeepers, Sudanese army chiefs, U.S. evangelists and locals living there. The film participated in the 64th Berlin International Film Festival and the 30th Sundance Film Festival, among others.
As part of his activities at the 12th FICM, Hubert Sauper spoke to the public about various aspects of his vision and experience as a documentary filmmaker.
On the documentary as a creative work:
“It’s very important to understand that these kinds of film, creative documentaries, are factual; they have to do with people in real life, in real life situations. There are people who don’t represent anything (…) The creative part comes with the form of the film, the way in which you commit yourself, involving the photography, the type of lighting, the type of sound, the editing, the rhythm, the tone, the energy of the film. It’s a very creative, very strong way of creating (…) which at the end is an artificial result.”
On the similarity between the writing process and the creation of his documentary:
“The way of editing a film is similar to the writing process. Imagine having 300 hours of film and you have to produce only two hours. You have to cut 99% of everything you’ve shot and you have to accommodate it in a certain order. Literally, at the end of the production, you have all the words of the dictionary, but you have to write a novel with all of that. All you have to do is to put the words of the dictionary in order to turn it into novel. You have all the parts of the film and you must put them in order.”
On his passion for making documentaries:
“For me, the most interesting thing up to now is making documentaries because it exposes my life to very unlikely situations. Sometimes I find myself in parts of the world or inside people’s lives that I never would have thought even existed (…) it’s an amazing and wonderful way of life.”
On choosing to make his latest films in Africa:
“My last three films were shot in Africa, but they don’t talk about Africa. This is a region where I found the circumstances to describe the irony and enigma of human interaction (…) In We Come as Friends, I try to describe the soliloquy of colonialism, but I could have made it in Mexico, in Indiana, etc. (…) But in Central Africa I found that I had access to people, situations and places that facilitated that description.”
On the documentary as a tool for empowerment:
“The filmmaker can give a voice to the thoughts of people who have no power. Presenting their problems before a big audience gives them great empowerment.”
On the pact between the director and the audience:
“There is a pact between the director and the audience in each film. The more honest, sincere and intelligent the filmmaker’s thoughts are, the more he/she will help people to understand things for themselves. (…) As a viewing audience, you enter into an intellectual anesthesia if you go to a film that tells you something that you’re seeing (…) You lose the pact with the audience and as a director you’re thinking your audience is stupid (…) If you can talk at a first, second, and even on many levels with this language, you’ll provoke more in your viewers. They’ll have the opportunity to discover their feelings and they’ll have a sense of what is happening in real life.”
Article by Alejandro M. Azpiri (@nosoyalexalejo)