“Creative Courage in Nonfiction Storytelling” from Getting Real 2018
Alain Resnais said about Night and Fog, “I want to address the viewer in a critical state…to create a space for contemplation.” In the Getting Real session entitled “Creative Courage in Nonfiction Storytelling,” filmmakers Yance Ford, Jenni Olson and Jennie Livingston showed us how to do just that.
Taken together, their personal essay films—Ford’s Strong Island, Olson’s The Royal Road and Livingston’s work-in-progress, Earth Camp One—reflect many of the formal choices that distinguish Renais’ film. He insisted on concentration camp inmate and poet Jean Cayrol as the author of the narration. Silence and music by Hans Eisler focus the viewer’s attention, along with extended tracking shots and landscapes of the barracks, and the use of color for the present, in contrast to the black and white archival footage. And, he infused the work with shocking moments of humor. He did whatever it took to remember and ask why.
The session was a model for filmmakers discussing their work. Their rapt attention to each other’s clips, their searching questions and their appreciation of the risks each had taken were adopted by the audience in an insightful Q&A.
The interdependence of the personal and political was a through-line in presentations and discussion. Livingston remarked about Ford’s and Olson’s works: “A personal film is really a political film and I think that is really true of both of your films.”