In the beginning was the Word. Documentary is often taken as the realm of the word. The voice of God narration, the eye-witness account, the confession, the sound-bite. The genre is plagued by words. Words that tell the truth, words that speak with authority, words that tell us what to see, words that are backed up by imagery as if it were evidence or –all too often- words that could quite simply do without pictures. For many Latin American documentary filmmakers, not surprisingly, words have come readily under suspicion. By the same token, the evidence presented by pictures is rarely accepted without questions. The films presented in this year’s program all work the equivocal relationship between words and pictures. In Invernadero, a real writer plays a fictional writer who shares his own name, Mario Bellatín, but not necessarily all of the same attributes. Pan-Cinema Permanente takes its title from a poem by another very real writer, Wally Salomão, who talks about the omnipresence of fiction in real life. In Cuchillo de palo, the off-screen words of the young filmmaker interact in disquieting ways with her own presence on screen as she grapples with her father’s silence. Viajo porque preciso, volto porque te amo imposes an imaginary first-person narration on documentary images of a real trip to the hinterland of the Brazilian Sertão.
Each after its own wayward fashion, every one of these four extraordinary films compels us to examine the truth claims of words and pictures in the documentary context. And, by extension, consider the uses of the documentary genre itself.
Andrés Di Tella
The Department of Spanish and Portuguese Languages and Cultures, Program in Latin American Studies, University Center for Human Values, Council of the Humanities, Program of Gender and Sexuality Studies, Lewis Center for the Arts, and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Center
- This conference is funded, in part, by a gift to the University Center for Human Values in honor of James A. Moffett ’29.
- All films to be screened in the original language with English subtitles.
- All screenings and festival activities are free and open to the public.
The Princeton Documentary Festival was created to bring attention to the current creative explosion of documentary filmmaking in Latin America and Spain. Through public screenings, commentary and discussions, the festival provides its audience with exceptional, cutting-edge films that would not be otherwise available. The aim is to contribute to a more comprehensive vision of the cultures from which this work springs, while encouraging a more informed debate on the specific topic addressed in each series and on the current state of documentary production.