Documentary Film. Riddles of Globalisation
The Fourteenth Documentary Film Symposium held in Riga on September 9 - 13, 2001 has finished its work proving to be a successful event. The Symposium gathered 37 delegates from 13 European countries and many Latvian representatives including students of the Academy of Culture and the University of Latvia, professionals and those interested in documentary cinema.
During three days of screenings
42 documentaries were shown in the cinema "Riga", while every night after screenings debates were held where the participants and spectators could advance their thoughts and exchange views on the films. The discussions were positively appreciated as the film directors could hear the opinions of their counterparts and experts from different counties.
The Symposium was very well attended, the hall of the cinema "Riga" (250 seats) was full. In room 17 of the cinema one could see video-on-demand – the program of last Latvian documentaries and the Symposium program. The opportunity was used by many participants and guests of the Symposium as well as by representatives of mass media.
The theoretical part of the Symposium was held on September 12 and 13 in a conference hall of the hotel "Reval Latvia".
During it one could listen to 14 speakers reading out their reports and take part in the Round Table the session of which was filmed while all the debates and reports were recorded on audio tapes.
The Symposium was supported by the National Film Centre of Latvia with 5000 LVL, Culture Capital Foundation with 5000 LVL, Soros Foundation Latvia with 8100 USD, Nordic Baltic Film Fund with 20 000 DKK and the German partners contributed 15 000 DM to the event.
The Symposium was a significant event for the development of Latvian documentary filmmaking as:
1. So wide program of foreign documentaries is offered to Riga spectators only during the symposia, which take place once in two years.
2. Many students of the Academy of Culture and the University of Latvia attended the Symposium taking part in discussions and learning the opinions of professional filmmakers and experts.
3. We have collected the video library of the Symposium program, which can be used by students and professionals.
4. The Round Table was an interesting and important session appreciated positively by all the participants. The discussions have been filmed and recorded on audio tape what will be used for processing the Symposium materials as we try to publish them after each symposium.
5. The experts from all participating countries delivered interesting reports. Already now some of them have been translated into Latvian and published in the current issue of the magazine "Kino Raksti".
6. During the Symposium professional filmmakers and experts from different countries could share their experience and exchange views on the further development and the aims of documentary cinema. The Symposium can be considered a bridge between the East and the West.

Baiba Urbane
Director of the Symposium
Documentary Film. Riddles of Globalisation
Processes of globalisation and their consequences have become decisive factors in all areas of life at the turn of the centuries, and their role is likely to keep increasing in the future. They equally affect the existence of culture and art and opportunities of their development.

In view of the fact, that globalisation is associated with big hopes, as well as, - quite possibly, even bigger concerns (especially in the area of culture), the necessity to study the existent experience and draw conclusions about the trends of future development and possible strategies of action becomes vital.

Not only the film industry itself, but the society as a whole might find study of globalisation specifically in the area of film particularly relevant, as film is one of the first, and, in any case, the most impressive phenomenon, which has marked the beginning of the era of globalisation. The screen has become a symbol of this era, since globalisation is unthinkable without it. It was on the movie screens that people saw their own planet for the first time. For the first time, nearly all inhabitants of this planet, regardless of their place of residence, found a common acquaintance who was called simply by his first name - Charlie, or Sharlo. Thus, for the second century, cinema is developing as a global phenomenon.

Documentary film has its own experience both in the promotion of globalisation processes and assessing their consequences. Documentary film was the first to give the audiences a grasp of the fantastic diversity of the humankind and its cultures, and, at the same time, about its amazing homogeneity. However, each new stage of globalisation (especially – commercialisation and introduction of new information technology), placed documentary film as an art phenomenon almost on the brink of extinction. Yet, the principle "Those who change shall survive" has proved to be true so far. At this moment, however, the humankind is undergoing a stage of globalisation which, with its scope, rate and consequences, has no contender. How should the documentary film change under these circumstances?

It is obvious that the answers are to be sought, in the first place, in the recent documentary films. We should make an attempt to look into not only the work of the past two years, but, possibly, of the entire 1990-ties, not so much in terms of individual films, as in terms of a process, trying to see how it has documented the turbulent time of change, as well as assessing the impact it has left on the language of the documentary filmmaking and the documentary filmmakers’ vision.

This will provide a deeper insight of the process of globalisation on the whole and, especially in the area of documentary filmmaking. Moreover, to quote one of the thesis of the historic Mainz Manifesto (1983) (which was one of the first documents dedicated to the issues of film during the age of globalisation): The basic rule of film history is: innovation in feature film is always inspired by documentary filmmaking. If the documentary film becomes fully commissioned, if the documentary film is unable to sustain its own tradition, the outcome is equally fatal for the filmmaking and television on the whole.

If we wish to view the fate of the documentary film from this perspective and level, however, we have to make some major preparations. When back in 1977, the decision was made to have our symposium in Riga for the first time, it was based on the feeling that the Latvian documentary film, which had previously experienced rapid growth, was starting to stagnate. It was then that we decided to prepare a comprehensive retrospective of our own and foreign documentaries, and, together with the leading foreign experts, discuss what exactly is happening in our art and where one should see opportunities for new directions of development. That gave us a better understanding of ourselves; a better sense of the link with processes happening elsewhere; it helped us to avoid sinking in provincialism and complacency. It looks like now is the right time to relive the experience of that time, - in totally new conditions.

Besides providing a traditionally representative international film program and participation of experts (both film theorists and (sic!) scholars of globalisation), this also means ensuring active participation of the local documentary filmmakers, other film professionals and enthusiasts in both preparation and proceedings of the symposium. Involving the young people, first of all, undergraduate and graduate student, is of utmost importance; for interest of young people in our documentary film is a guarantee for its survival in any circumstances caused by globalisation. Film Department of the Academy of Culture and Communication Department of the University of Latvia are ready to offer study and research assignments dedicated to the issues of the symposium, so the best of them might contribute to the discussion of the symposium.

One of the major preparatory tasks is formulating of the globalisation riddles, answers to which are to be sought during the symposium. What should they be like? Highly global? For instance, will documentary film have any place at all in the globalised world? It is probably impossible to avoid questions of this sort. Yet, it would be wrong to confine ourselves to those questions alone: documentary film is a specific occupation of specific people; and generalisations alone won’t do. Obviously, a theoretical symposium is hardly the place for solving the most specific riddle: where to find the money? But there are still other riddles, which give the search for money its true meaning: for example: can the documentary filmmakers give other people, struggling in the ocean of globalisation, something that would help them to overcome the fear of the sense of their own insignificance, of the danger to lose the bond with their own culture, language, people, and, after all, with their own selves? Something that would help them to participate in the dialogue of cultures and nations and would prevent them from blending into a single common primitive pidgin? A riddle of another kind: Can the documentary film (art film, creative, auteur film) have its own audience in the modern times? What kind of an audience could that be? And under what conditions? We could keep listing the riddles… Perhaps it would be more useful to collect an exhaustive list and then see which ones the participants of the symposium find most real.

Abram Kleckin

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