Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Surplus: A very good film

Do you want to see a very good documentary? Then you should try to get a copy of Surplus: Terrorized into being consumers. You can actually get a free taste of the film by going into the Atmo website where is possible to get a DVD copy of the entire film.
This television production/film was made in Sweden and shot in several countries. It does not have a story in the traditional sense. Instead it is a very stylized compelling argument about the society we live in.

I have de the feeling that the most interesting, engaging and experimental narratives in film today are happening in the field called documentary, understood as the creative treatment of actuality.

The borders between documentary and fiction films are very narrow and many of its makers have abandoned for long ago the concept of objectivity and neutrality in their documentaries.
There are many good examples of this trend from Nobodys business to Bowling for Columbine and Surplus is something at the same level of elaboration and commitment.

I have taken from their site Erik Gandini's 10-point manifesto for making documentaries. In response to Lars Von Triers "Dogumentary Manifesto". He disagrees with Triars and says: never try to be realistic or neutral and insist that this manifesto applies for Surplus only.

Manifesto by Erik Gandini:
1. No location should be revealed in the film. The viewer shouldn't really know where he is but find himself in an evironment, a dimension that he recognizes and percieves as such. A big city, a continent , an island... a planet. (Possibly reveal the locations in the end of the film.)

2. The filmmaker shouldn't show himself, unless he is more interesting than the characters in the film.(this is optional, some filmmakers are more interesting than their real life characters)

3. The victims of the film (in the case of Surplus: George Bush, Steve Ballmer, Fidel Castro and the G8 leaders) should have no chance at all to even know that they are participating in the film. Even less have a chance of replying the filmaker in the end of the film.
On the contrary they should be subjected to Johan Soederbergs (the editor) lipsynchronizing Read My Lips- treatment: to say things that they would never say and that everybody know are more true than the things they usually say.

4. No clips should ever be separated with a 12-frame black pause. On the contrary, try to create the feeling that all the images and caracters are part of the same dimension or planet as described in point 1. For that I suggest frequent use of dissolves, both on images and sound between the clips.

5. Sound and images should under no circumstances be left unmanipulated (at least some colouring).

6. Feel free to shoot images without sound and recreate the sound in postproduction. Note that background sounds (explosions, crashes, music etc.) should be boosted to create the desired feeling or atmosphere. Words and speeches should be chosen for how the musically fit in the composition.(remember: diferent people speak with different beat per minut-speed and different tonality)

7. Reconstruction of the concept of the film is necessary. Don't make the same film you planned while writing the script. Let reality influence you during the process and be open to drastic changes from the original concept.

8. Hidden cameras are absolutely allowed if relevant.

9. If you have acess to an archive that provides you with cheap footage, feel free to use it.

10. Don't try to be too realistic or neutral. Cameras, microphones and editing suites are extraordinary tools not only to reproduce how reality is but to visualize how reality feels. The wide range of cinematic tools gives you all the (previously too expensive nowadays affordable) freedom to realize your visions. Don' t reduce yourself and your creativity to those of a surveillance camera. Work as much as you can with very talented artists that are better than you in Shooting, Composing and Editing.


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