Documentary filmmakers just love sharing

14. 7. 2014

Author: Filip Ĺ ebek

Among the main tutors of the first week of Ex Oriente Film 2014 workshop that takes place in Rijeka, Croatia, there will be an experienced Lithuanian documentary filmmaker, a member of European Film Academy and European Documentary Network, Audrius Stonys. An author of successful documentaries awarded at international festivals is also the only Lithuanian filmmaker who won the European Film Academy Felix award for best European documentary film of the year (1992). I am always pleased when someone profits from my experience and my way of seeing of cinematography, says the acclaimed filmmaker about the upcoming workshop in Rijeka.

Our Croatian friends and co-organizers of Ex Oriente Film and REFINERI workshop in Rijeka have chosen projects for the workshop. These projects are crossing the boundaries of "typical" documentary films towards the hybrid films and visual arts. I would like to know your opinion on staging and re-enactments in documentary films.
From my point of view the important question is not “how” it was made, but “why”. Art has a purpose to reach the unreachable Truth. Or better to say to come closer to the Truth. Or to see glimpses of the Truth. We as a film makers chose different roads. I as a viewer do not care what road has been chosen, for me it is important if I felt that magic closeness of the Truth. It is possible to lie in fiction and equally in documentary film. When a documentary film maker decides, that he has an obligation to feed audience with an information, he slides on the surface of reality. All lies are resting there. I truly believe that any method is good if it helps you to reach the inner Truth.

Every spring I watch hundreds of documentary films during the preselection for Karlovy Vary IFF and I am often disappointed, how many directors resign to the artistic part of the film and are strictly focused on the content. Do you think, that a documentary filmmaker can learn such a artistic way of shooting and editing or does he have to be born with it, like a real artist?
Our days the documentary cinema is living under a terrible pressure of market. The message you hear so many times in different forums is: we don’t care about your point of view, give us a story, a subject. So a film maker more than ever needs a courage to make subjective, artistic films. It is also about trust. If I, as an artist, believe in audience, believe that there are still people who can think and feel, who go to the cinema not to kill time, but to find answers to the existential questions. If answer is yes, then cinema is alive, if no, there is no point for us to make films.

Do you agree, that it is not possible to be objective in documentary filmmaking and should the objectivity be important in the documentary field at all?
Let the newspapers be objective! Or surveillance cameras in the petrol stations! Any artistic move in it’s nature is totally subjective. Art was born from the need to share not some objective information, but subjective feelings, thoughts, fears and joys. The term “objective reality” for me is a synonym of “lie”.

What is the situation with documentaries like in your country now? For example in our country there in the last 8-10 years there have been a small boom of documentaries, which are now often seen in cinemas and some have very good attendance. Do you have a similar experience or is it possible to enjoy them just in TV in Lithuania?
I am glad to live in the country which still considers a documentary cinema as an Art. Mostly this is because of the generation of Lithuanian documentary film makers of 60ties and 70ties. Henrikas Sablevicius, Robertas Verba, Rimtautas Silinis and others they managed to create in the ocean of soviet lie a little island of inner truth. Since then Lithuania documentary films has a steady audience which is waiting for every new film to appear on the screen. May be we can not compete with commercial block basters, but I always opposed the view, that Art could be measured in money, sold tickets or other mathematical methods.

How difficult is it to raise money for the documentary film in Lithuania? Do you get a strong support from the Ministry of Culture?
I already partly answered this question. We still have strong support for Documentary cinema from our Ministry of Culture and National Film Centre. And still it is not easy to make films. But I don’t know any country where it would be easy. I think it is totally right, that you need to prove every time, that your wish to make a film is a moral and existential choice. If not, these money could and should be spend anywhere else where they are needed more.

During the years I realized, that for many documentary filmmakers it is a very sensitive topic, when I ask them if they paid their characters any money. Some of them don't want to talk about it, but others told me that of course they paid the protagonists for the time they spent with them. What is your opinion on this matter have you personally paid any money to Ramin for example?
No, I never pay to my characters. But at the same time I totally understand film makers who do that. If I would pay to my characters, I would never know if they speak with me and let me in to their life because they trust me or because I payed them. It is like buying love. We know how it is called…

Let us get back to Ramin - this film was very succesfull at the festivals all over the world, was it also in cinemas in Latvia or Georgia?
Yes, the film traveled quiet a lot. And it was screened in Latvia, Lithuania and Georgia. It still travels. In July the film will go to Parnu film festival in Estonia. The character of my film Ramin Lomsadze never traveled much. Now he lives in his small house in Kvareli and his only travel is from house to shop and back. But his images are traveling all over the world. This is one of the wonders of cinema.

How exactly did Institute of documentary film help to Ramin?
This was an Ex Oriente Work in Progress workshop. The film was at the editing stage. The workshop was extremely important for us and undoubtably useful for the film. We met three excellent editors who watched and analysed with us the rough cut of the film. One of the editors was Tonicka Jankova. I deeply respect her professionalism and she is an amazing person. Her advices and support helped us to finish the film.

Why have you agreed to be one of the main tutors of the first Ex Oriente Film workshop and what do you expect from the meetings with the young filmmakers?
I think cinema is all about sharing. You are alive till you have a need, an urge to share the beauty and complicity of this world. If I can be useful, if anybody could use my experience or my understanding of cinema, I will be always glad to give it. I think documentary professional world is much more open and friendly than fiction. We love sharing.

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