“I began to move beyond the simplicity of windows and mirrors and was confronted with the power of the frame.”
This is a quote from Alan Berliner, faced with the Turkish uprising; and this “frame” is the focus of the issue. The social frame, the political frame and the frame of mind that influence the way we perceive the world before us and the way we reproduce reality in the stories we tell.
What makes a story truthful? Obviously there is more to truthfulness than the mere representation of something real. As filmmakers and storytellers, we have great responsibility for the reality we (re)present. Our stories can challenge or reinforce the viewers’ perceptions of reality and our stories actively participate in reality. This is even more poignant in the case of documentary filmmaking.
So how do our preconceptions shape the stories we are attracted to and the way we frame these stories? In this issue, Indian film critic Meenakishi Shedde gives an Indian perspective on the stories told in and about India. Many of the very successful documentaries by Western filmmakers portray an Indian reality far more recognisable to a Western audience than to an Indian one. You might say the stories are as dictated by the audience as by reality itself. This is far from challenging our reality and our audience. Of course, the desire for “national connections” – a.k.a. “why should a British/German/Danish etc audience care?” – in production financing doesn’t help either.
The framework of financing is the focus of a series of articles called “the state of docs.” In Russia, state financing for documentaries is definitely a source of limitation rather than expression, which is why the filmmakers with integrity and artistic ambition manage without help from the state.
In Greece, where there are so many important and pressing stories to tell at the moment, public TV – and thus one of the only sources of funding for documentary – has more or less imploded. Kostas Spiropoulos takes us through the mistakes and rescue attempts made by Greek public TV.
After the Turkish cultural uprising, the political and national context in which stories are produced, told, and indeed, received has come into focus, and it seems a new wave of filmmakers and stories is forming in Turkey.
Commercial TV has the productions that constantly reinforce our perspective of reality covered, so there is no reason to use public financing for that as well. We need to be aware of the framework within which we work and let the frame shine through.
Filmmaking is about asking questions, not about illustrating a thesis or reconfirming a mindset. If our stories don’t shake the framework of our reality, they don’t get us anywhere. _