FESTIVAL DEI POPOLI: BROADCASTING A LEGACY
It all began in 1959 when a group of Communications Studies scholars founded the Festival dei Popoli with the intention of promoting documentary films with a social edge. First, they organized an international documentary film festival, today regarded as one of the most important festivals of its kind. At the same time, they also created an archive that has grown in the last 49 years to number over 10,000 titles, including video and film reels. Such an archive has allowed the association to launch an initiative to teach filmmaking, with courses and workshops for aspiring filmmakers and documentarians, besides the important work in film restoration. Year after year, the Festival introduces to the public the most notable filmmakers in the genre by organizing retrospectives of their work (among them, Jean Rouch, Ken Loach, Vittorio de Seta, Fred Wiseman, Richard Leacock, Lindsay Anderson, Abbas Kiarostami, Nagisa Oshima, Artavazd Pelechian and Aleksandr Sokurov). Meanwhile, it also organizes conferences and roundtable discussions with esteemed guests from various branches of the humanities (Roland Barthes, Umberto Eco, Francesco Alberoni, Edgar Morin, Mary Douglas, Elemire Zolla, Carlo Tullio Altan and Jean-Louis Comolli). Following the suggested themes of the Festival, the guests analyze myriad aspects of the contemporary world, broadening the films with their reflections on the nature of representation.
With these reflections in mind, the next edition of the Festival dei Popoli will focus on examining the profound changes that documentary film faces in an era of new technologies, new forms of reproducing reality, and new means of distribution. Without abandoning its basic anthropologic and social roots, the Festival will open itself up to the world once again through a particularly defined program, while not forgetting the plurality of existing cinematographic forms. Through a discussion of mise-en-scene, our goal is to understand how the line between reality and fiction has been blurred over time, often at the risk of creating a “small hole” in the certitude of its audience. Although the festival’s core focus remains the material and spiritual life of man, there also exists a drive to examine formal exploration, the language used to represent different subjects, and the specific aesthetic of filmmakers, as well as the human and social elements they choose to film. In this sense, the new course of the Festival dei Popoli will balance continuity and innovation, concentrating its program on a few key points: understanding the world, exploring the form, and producing films of the future.
To achieve such, the Festival will adopt a spirit of fervent dialectics; beyond the regular structure and organization of the program, the festival will also act as an artistic retreat. More than just organizing post-screening talks, we want to invite filmmakers and producers to “live together” for a week in the hopes that they make long lasting connections through workshops, roundtable discussions and social gatherings. Therefore it will take the form of a studio, a place not only to watch films and talk about world topics, but to help create the films of tomorrow. In this sense, the aim is to create a fund that will select high-quality creative projects to partially finance, offering filmmakers residencies, tutelage and meetings with producers. To see its mission through, the Festival will expand a local promotional campaign (city, province, region) to a national (opportunities in other cities) and international stage (as happened in June in New York, with screenings of our best archival films). The Festival will collaborate with other local cultural institutions on developing contacts and supporting “established” projects in the arena of film. Also, it will organize screenings abroad to showcase documentaries made in each host country. In exchange, participating countries will become an outlet for the screening of Italian documentaries. Finally, in collaboration with other festivals, the Festival dei Popoli will transfer documentaries to digital, making a collection of DVDs available online or through a web of specialized libraries.
Along with its plans to meet the new goals, the 49th edition of the Festival dei Popoli will kick things off with a roundtable discussion, Nanook’s Legacy, which will ask international participants (filmmakers, producers, critics and festival directors) to reflect on the state of the documentary and how the term coined by Grierson in his paper on Flaherty’s film no longer corresponds to the same thing, inasmuch as the focus of nonfiction film has shifted to employ other forms.
Such a transformation will be made more evident by the retrospective A Baltic Diagonal, which takes a look at the last forty years of documentary production in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania (the idea is to examine the evolution of this cinematic form from a technical and linguistic revolution—live cinema—to that of digital technology, covering an arc of time equivalent to the festival’s). The retrospective will highlight the personalities in the Works of Claire Simon, a filmmaker who alternates documentary and fiction with intriguing, effecting structural and linguistic hybrids; and the series The Faces of Power, which showcases numerous titles in the history of cinema in order to examine the cinematic representation of power.
Along the same lines, the two competitions are the International Competition, made up of twenty-four films that depict the look and spirit of the world; and the Free Style Competition, consisting of twenty films that experiment with documentary form.