x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Diff panel urges documentary filmmakers to continue fighting

Documentaries 'are important because they represented how societies work.'

DUBAI // Filmmakers were urged to keep fighting the "political and commercial war" at a Dubai International Film Festival (Diff) panel discussion.

The discussion focused on documentaries and politics, the relationship between the two subjects, whether or not documentaries are required to reflect political situations, and if so, what room there is for manoeuvre.

The Palestinian director Michel Khleifi said that as a result of sensitive issues some documentaries explored, it was important for filmmakers to maintain their creativity and not lose faith.

"The camera is an extraordinary tool of communication," Khleifi said. "For me, this art form was born out of a political situation in Palestine, and as you try to express yourself you cannot evade the subject of politics."

The Diff's Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, Souleymane Cisse (the director of Waati), said politics was at the forefront of every country; after which came finance.

"For me, a film is a dream, and when I dream I write without censorship. The new generation faces difficult problems with this cinematography machine which requires structure, moral and financial support," Cisse said.

The Malian filmmaker has enjoyed a career spanning 35 years. His film from 1974, Den Muso (The Girl), was banned by the Malian ministry of culture and led to his arrest, reportedly for having accepted French funding.

Yet he shows no sign of stopping. His latest project, Tell Me Who You Are, is about a married woman who struggles between her personal desires, guilt and solitude. "Some say my work resembles documentaries rather than fiction, and I don't mind. You have to give your audience the chance to identify themselves through what they see."

In the UK, producers like Lina Gopaul, a producer with Smoking Dogs Films, face problems of censorship, too. "Television is conservative and has its boundaries in terms of cultural and political filmmaking. Documentaries amount to five per cent of broadcasting annually, out of which probably only one per cent are political," she said.

Rasmus Abrahamsen, a Danish producer, said documentaries were important because they represented how societies worked.

elshoush@thenational.ae