Imre Szeman, / The Politics of Documentary Today: A Roundtable (Part 1)

Imre Szeman
Open Society Archives / Budapest, Hungary / November 9, 2007

Participants: Leo De Boer (Netherlands), Dr. Christian Christensen (Sweden), Diana Groó (Hungary), Christian Frei (Switzerland), Anna Ginestí Rosell (Germany)

The following discussion on “The Politics of Documentary Today” took place at the end of the two-day workshop Alternative Images: Documentary as Counter-Culture, held in Budapest, Hungary in conjunction with the fourth Verzió: International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival. The workshop explored current trends in documentary filmmaking, from the political economy of distribution to the apparent increase in popularity of the documentary form and the explosion in the number of documentaries being made today. The main issue which all of the papers took up was the political impact of documentary in the era of globalization. The vast majority of documentaries today understand themselves as offering complex narratives and pointed interventions into a media and political landscape characterized by stasis and a lack of real alternatives or positive visions of the future. Such direct, political energies might suggest that this visual form is bringing about changes in our political circumstances, if not in our consciousness of the dire straits we find ourselves in political, socially and ecologically. But while there are more documentaries made than ever, it has also become more difficult than ever to see them in movie theatres: the new ‘home’ of documentaries seem to have become film festivals and on-line sites such as YouTube. What do such shifts mean for the impact of the documentary form today?

The concluding roundtable asked directors and producers involved in the Verzió Festival to reflect on questions related to the politics of documentary today. Does documentary have an impact on politics? How and why? Have new forms of political documentary emerged alongside new production techniques? Finally, should the focus of contemporary documentary be on the local or the global, and what are the implications in each case? The interesting answers given to these and other questions provide those of us interested in contemporary visual culture a great deal of food for critical thought.

Films discussed (director, title, date):

Davis Guggenheim, An Inconvenient Truth (2006)
Joris Ivens, Spanish Earth (1937)
Hubert Sauper’s Darwin’s Nightmare (2004)
Leni Riefenstahl, Triumph of the Will (1935)
Emile de Antonio, Point of Order (1964)

Fernando Solanas, Hour of the Furnaces (1973)
Bruce Connor, Cosmic Ray (1962)
Michael Moore, Sicko (2007)
Michael Moore, Fahrenheit 911 (2004)
Robert Greenwald, Outfoxed (2004)

Luc Jacquet, March of the Penguins (2005)
Christian Frei, The Giants Buddhas (2005)
Christian Frei, War Photographer (2001)
Theo van Gogh, Submission (2004)
Siddiq Barmak, Osama (2003),

Chrisian Mungiu, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007).
Leo De Boer, The Red Stuff (2000)
Tom Whitter, First on the Moon (2005)
Gabriel Range, Death of a President (2004)
Kevin Hull, Einstein’s Brain (1994)

Jim Brown and Gary Burns, Radiant City (2006)
Joris Ivens, Indonesia Calling (1946)
Gereon Wetzel, Castells (2006)
Christian Frei, Ricardo, Miriam y Fidel (1997)
Leo de Boer, The Russian Folk (1996)

Leo de Boer, Train to Grozny (2000)

Imre Szeman: Thanks to everybody who has participated in this workshop over the past two days. We are concluding the workshop with a roundtable. The roundtable includes six discussants, some of whom have participated in the workshop to date, some of whom have not, but all of whom are involved in documentary cinema in one way or another.

The topic of the roundtable is an issue that has come up repeatedly over the past two days: the politics of documentary today. This is what we will be discussed at some length over the next two hours.

Let me introduce our participants on this roundtable.

Leo De Boer (Netherlands) is a filmmaker, screenwriter and lecturer. He studied history at the University of Amsterdam, followed by four years at the Dutch Film Academy. He has worked as film editor at NOS Dutch National Television and is presently lecturer at the Utrecht School of the Arts (HKU). De Boer is the screenwriter and director of several documentaries and feature films, including documentaries such as The Russian Folk (1996), Dreaming in October (1999), Under Moscow (2001), and showing here in Budapest, The Red Years: Were We Terrorists? (2005)

Allan Siegel (Hungary) is a filmmaker, video artist, writer and teacher. In New York he was involved in the experimental filmmaking movement and was a founding member of the film collective Newsreel. His films have been presented at major festivals in North America, Europe and Asia, and have appeared in exhibitions in Budapest, Pécs, Chicago, New York and Montreal. He was a lecturer at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and has taught at other universities in the United States. He is currently a lecturer in the Intermedia Department at the Hungarian Academy of Fine Arts, and is completing Usti Opre, a film about Roma musicians in Central Europe.

Dr. Christian Christensen (Sweden) is Assistant Professor in Media and Communication Studies and Director of the Human IT research center at Karlstad University. His areas of research interest include international media and politics, new and alternative media, documentary film and journalism. He has published in a variety of journals including The Harvard International Journal of Press and Politics, Global Media and Communication, and the British Journalism Review. He is editor of Human IT: Technology in Social Context (Cambridge Scholars Press, forthcoming). An article by Dr. Christensen on his research on documentary film was published in the October 2007 issue of Le Monde Diplomatique.

Diana Groó (Hungary) received her education in Budapest, Hungary, obtaining a Bachelors degree in French and Hebrew from the Faculty of Arts, Eötvös Loránd University, followed by a Masters in TV and Film Directing, Department of Film and Television Directing at the Hungarian Film Academy. She co-founded the DocClub (2000) and Madzag Film (2001) associations, and Katapult Film studio (2002). Since 2001, she has been a director and scriptwriter at the Cinema Film and Katapult Film studios. She directed her first feature film, A Miracle in Cracow in 2004, and since 2001 had been working on a series of art historical films known collectively as the Wild Imagination series. Her film Elöttem az élet (My Life is Ahead of Me, 2006), is being screened here at the Verzió Festival.

Christian Frei (Switzerland) is a filmmaker. He studied Visual Media at the Department of Journalism and Communication at Fribourg University. He shot his first documentary in 1981, and has been working as an independent filmmaker and producer since 1984. He works regularly for the Swiss National Television SF DRS. His works include Ricardo, Miriam y Fidel (1997) and War Photographer (2001). His award-winning The Giants Buddhas (2005) is being shown in Budapest.

Anna Ginestí Rosell (Germany) was born in 1975 near Barcelona. She received a PhD in Classics from the Autonomous University of Barcelona. She worked as assistant at the International Documentary Film Festival in Munich. Recently, she has been working with Gereon Wetzel as production manager for the documentary Castells (2006) and other forthcoming projects.

What are the politics of documentary today? There are two issues that have come up in the discussions that we’ve had over the past two days. The first concerns questions of audience and space. In recent years there has been a change in the kinds of spaces in which documentaries have typically been shown – a chance which may open up new political possibilities while closing down others. While there are fewer documentaries being show in regular movie theatres, an unprecedented number are available for purchase on DVD, for viewing on YouTube, for distribution via Bit Torrent, and so on. What does this mean for how we imagine the politics of documentary?

The other issue has to do with relationship between politics and form. Do filmmakers have to respond to contemporary political circumstances with a re-imagined documentary form, or can older forms of documentary still serve us in the present situation? But you are free of course to speak about whatever you like.

Leo De Boer: These are interesting points. I’m just talking off the cuff, just saying what comes to mind. I speak as a filmmaker. I am not a very theoretically inclined person. In fact, I try to avoid this: as a filmmaker, I don’t work from fixed ideas. But I do think that film is an enormously powerful medium. If you want to define it for yourself as a filmmaker, you know that you are working on people’s emotions. For me, film has much more to do with emotions than with politics (though maybe in the end politics has to do with emotions as well—the two are not alien in the end). This being so, film is a powerful means to express something that can be political. It can have political connotations: there are lots of examples of this. Even Al Gore’s film, An Inconvenient Truth (2006), has an absolutely political influence – he won the Nobel Prize and we still have to see what impact that has, but it is a good example of the scale and impact that film can take.

The filmmaker Joris Ivens made enormously political films, such as Spanish Earth (1937) about the Spanish Civil War. At the time he made it nobody knew about the Civil War. This is big difference between filmmakers now and then: they served as our eyes. Film had a political meaning to show things hidden from the world. I think this is still going on. If you take Hubert Sauper’s Darwin’s Nightmare (2004) it has the same effect. It is not political in the narrow sense, but it certainly has an influence. I can see it on my actions: if I’m at the fish market I certainly won’t buy Victoria Carp! It’s very direct, something I notice in other people, too. Film can have an effect on people.

But if the question is should documentaries have political implications, I think that’s a very hard question to answer as a filmmaker. I cannot tell anyone what to make or not make. It’s a bit like the opposition between artistic and engaged cinema – the two choices one has to make when one starts a film. Do you film as an artist or have you got a prevailing message? Of course, the two can intermingle. Every film has a form that has to be created. I think that as a filmmaker that you are very concerned with the form of the film. Formal aspects are crucial in getting whatever content you have across.

The Gore film is actually a good example of this. It’s very American, it’s very rhetorical, and so it’s not very critical of itself, but I think that this is why it works. The film is very smartly made. You might be able to question it on factual grounds (in the UK, for instance, you can only show it in schools if you discuss the eight or nine points that are scientifically wrong, or at least still debatable) . But I don’t think that this is very important because of the strong form.

I don’t know if Leni Riefenstahl’s documentaries have been mentioned, but they are an example of what I have in mind. They are hard to resist because the form pulls you along: you are seduced. We filmmakers are essentially seducers.

A Dutch author said once: what is badly written is not true. And this is what one has to have in mind in making a film. An agenda is a start. But then you have to do it really well to convince people of this message.

Allan Siegel: This raises some good points, I must agree. I think that one way for me to start is talk about some films that influenced me as a filmmaker, and which to a certain extent provide some context to think about documentary film which is political – or political film which is documentary: I’m not sure which one comes first.

One of the films is Point of Order (1964) by the American filmmaker Emile de Antonio. The film was about the McCarthy hearings in the U.S. He made this film out of footage that CBS was about to throw out. At the time that the film was screened the discourse about the McCarthy hearings and what it represented about American society was a closed discourse—not a public discourse. This film brought questions about the hearings into the foreground. It had an impact on me.

The other film was Hour of the Furnaces (1973) by Fernando Solanas, which I saw in a movie theatre in New York. It’s a seven-hour documentary. The film was made and shown clandestinely in Argentina. It raised points about Argentine society, imperialism, and a whole range of political questions that were circulating and being discussed in Latin America. The film was an event, not just a film. People would sit through the film and talk about the points in the film with other members of the audience. This film had a huge impact on me.

The other film which had a huge impact on me was Cosmic Ray (1962) by Bruce Connor. It’s not a documentary, but a tremendously artfully made film which takes up the question of form. What struck me about this film (and which relates to the other two) is the way that the filmmaker was able to recontextualize the material in the film. The film was made of appropriated footage, and the recontexualization enabled us to see something that was familiar in a new way. This I thought was very profound.

This to me has something to do with what it means to make a film political: it’s able to provoke in the audience a questioning of the normal perception of what the world looks like, in relation to whatever issue the filmmaker is interested in. I agree with Leo that to make a film one has to believe passionately about whatever the film is about – whether it’s about bridges or the Vietnam War, whatever the subject matter is.

Finally, to me what is important in documentary today is that place that these films are shown. I think that we’ve entered a phase that Herbert Marcuse called “a space of repressive tolerance” where it’s amazing what is being made and what is being shown, but also amazing what little impact it has on what things change or don’t change. I don’t know how documentary functions outside of the US and Western Europe. The context in which a film is made and the situation in which people see films is enormously important.

Dr. Christian Christensen: I’m speaking as a non-filmmaker, looking at these issues from my perspective as someone interested in the political economy of communications.

If I were to discuss the politics of documentary today it would be about the politics of what happens after the film is made – distribution and exhibition. Films such as
Sicko (2007), Fahrenheit 911 (2004) and An Inconvenient Truth have put documentary in more of a spotlight than it was prior to 9/11. This raises interesting questions about the kinds of documentaries that get released, shown and distributed at major movie theatres.

If you take my home town in Sweden of a 100,000 people as an example: We have three movie theatres. There’s one movie theatre—a multiplex—that has six screens. There is a second movie theatre with two screens that just closed its doors. That was the movie theatre that showed smaller films—it showed independent film and documentary films. And then we have the library, which also has a screening room where it shows documentary films and smaller films. So basically now we have a major movieplex and a small library, which is the only place to watch documentaries (though Sicko is being shown at the multiplex).

To me this raises the question: what do you have to do as a documentary filmmaker to get your film distributed and to get it shown to any significant degree? It has to do with policy at the government level. My understanding is that the new European Union system for funding film is that it follows a two-tier system. The majority of funding to films in the future will go to those that show significant signs of possible commercial success, followed by the rest. So the EU is placing its eggs in the basket of films like Chocolat (2000), a European film that would have commercial potential not only in Europe but globally—in other words, films that can make some money. This is a political question.

As is regulation of exhibition venues. How close do we have to get to a monopoly before we have any significant regulation of cross-ownership? In the United States there are two or three companies that control almost all the major screens in the country. Let’s take the case of Moore’s 911, which was produced for Miramax, which at that time was owned by Disney. So Michael Moore was basically working for Disney when he created the film. The pretense that Moore was stunned that Disney would want to censor his film is unbelievable! Michael Moore knows who he was working for – he was working for [Michael] Eisner and he was working for Disney. And of course when Disney came out and said they didn’t want to release the film, [Harvey and Bob] Weinstein decided to buy the film back from Disney and release it through Lion’s Gate. But of course Moore was playing a very clever game: “I thought I lived in America, how could this happen!” he was saying, while laughing all the way to the bank. This is the best PR his film could have ever gotten – being censored was the best thing that ever happened to Fahrenheit 911.

If you look at this case as an example of the politics of documentary film, what do you have? Disney is a major landholder in Florida, Jeb Bush was the governor of the state at that time, the film was attacking his brother, who is the president. Disney has enormous tax breaks for its landownership for Disney World and all its ventures in Florida. There is a direct economic-political relationship between Disney’s decision on releasing the film in the United States and its business interests. So just from a very strictly vulgar political economic perspective, that film has all sorts of interesting political connotations. I think you can take those kinds of things and look at them if you want to talk about the politics of documentary – all the way down to the smallest films. In other words, how does distribution and exhibition influence the ability of films to be political?

And then you can go to the question of language. How easy is it to have a film distributed if it is not in English? A lot of the films that we are seeing about the Iraq War, for example, such as Outfoxed (2004), are English language films. What is the tendency for films that are subtitled?

And one last point for thinking about the politics of documentary. Benjamin [Halligan] has said at one point that in Europe documentary film has replaced public service broadcasting. Public service broadcasting had a mission to educate, inform, and entertain. Two of these things have disappeared now: the information and education has basically gone away and now we’re left with entertainment. The question is: has documentary replaced the role that was once occupied by public service broadcasting?

But then you get into the question of whether you can even compare the two things – a television system that basically has universal service as compared to a form of communication that has to pass through complex channels of exhibition and distribution even to be seen. Is there any chance that a typical documentary will be seen by as many people as a BBC television program in the 1980s, a time when it only had two commercial competitors? So to even pose the question of whether documentary is replacing something that we’ve lost from newspapers or television, you then have to place the next question, which is: is it even fair to compare the two? Should it be the role of documentary film to fill this space? On the one hand, you’re asking a lot, and on the other hand you’re talking about having to go through very oligopolistic distribution and exhibition mechanisms that makes the kind of stuff that comes out at the end—for example, March of the Penguins (2005) and An Inconvenient Truth—hardly comparable to what be on public service broadcasting.

Diana Groó: Just some additional thoughts because there have been some very interesting things said here already. I’m thinking about the role and function of documentary in Central Europe and here in Hungary. What is the life of the documentary after it has been shot? Unfortunately, it’s really depressing because there are not really broadcasters or television channels who are very interested in showing documentaries. There are no movie theatres who would say, “Yes, this is a documentary film, and we would like to screen it and bring in an audience” – this doesn’t exist. The only places to watch documentaries are festivals. It is really sad.

I think there are historical reasons for this. If we focus on Central and Eastern Europe over the last 40 or 50 years. Documentary film had a real message – an underground message – to tell the real truth about these societies. These had to be underground; and strangely their secretiveness and their connection to the truth made them very attractive to audiences: people wanted to see them and learn about the true situation of their societies. Documentary was the space in which you could talk about social problems you otherwise would not be able to talk about.

Now everything is allowed. You are surrounded by an astonishing array of media choices, even if few of these broadcast material with deep messages. The main aim is to entertain people. Now people want to escape to the cinema to be entertained, not to think. Actually this is a sad time in this region. Documentary filmmakers are not in an easy situation. Even at this time of supposed openness, documentaries once again seem to be distributed through underground chains in an effort to get them to audiences.

I feel very sorry that yesterday I couldn’t be here because I saw in the program that there was a presentation about Leni Riefenstahl. This makes me think about director’s responsibilities: how we use and reflect on life in documentaries.

Leni Riefenstahl did an important job, but the way she did it and her ethics, she didn’t really realize what she was doing. She introduced fantastic and new technical forms – really, the whole idea of how to make a propaganda film. 10 years ago, when she was 95 and still alive, I watched a documentary about her, and I was really depressed and shocked the way she summarized her life and work. She was shown watching The Triumph of the Will (1935) in a screening room. The Nazis were marching and raising their arms to the skies, and Riefenstahl stopped on a frame of the film. After the Holocaust, after the ‘end of history,’ at a point when she had ample time to reflect on her work, at the age of 95, she looked at this frame and said, “Isn’t this beautiful.” It was beautiful as form; but she seemed to have no consciousness of what she participated in or any sense of her own responsibility.

I think that documentary filmmakers are trying to show reality, the world that we are surrounded by, and it is a big responsibility to show it in the ‘right’ way.

Christian Frei: I am filmmaker and this question of responsibility is something I struggle with everyday. Film is discovering and encountering other people’s lives. But it is also entertainment and you could question Michael Moore’s success and see it as a form of intelligent entertainment. I think we are living indeed in a golden age of documentary films worldwide. More and more people are attracted and interested in alternative moments. It’s really a worldwide phenomenon.

In Switzerland, where I live, we have around twenty feature-length documentaries in movie theatres every year. We have a subsidy system. I happen to be at the head of this body and we give money to documentary filmmakers. We are not trying to do what the EU is doing – only giving money to mainstream documentaries or filems. It doesn’t matter if it is only dealing with one issue, or if it’s just of interest for a few people or for a more mainstream audience.

Before Michael Moore, no one was interested in the Oscar for best documentary film. It was not an issue. They were interested in Best Makeup or Best Editing. Now people are interested in the Academy Award documentaries – who is being nominated and who wins. You have more and more people worldwide going to see documentaries at festivals or on DVDs. The problem now is really that it is less and less possible to have creative, feature-length documentaries – the ones that are not just reportage or journalism – on TV, in Europe at least. In the US, the situation is sometimes better, because you have documentary channels or the Sundance Channel. My film, The Giant Buddhas, was screened during primetime on Sundance, but on Swiss TV or Arte, only 11:30pm at night.

This might change with new technologies, since TV might become non-linear (it might just be possible to download movies straight from TV). But right now it is agenda-setting – what is in prime time and what is not. We shouldn’t have any illusions: the majority of people in the world are attracted by entertainment, which is why Michael Moore is so popular. This is not the main task of normal documentary. When I did War Photographer (2001), it was really a difficult film because it is about pictures of war. I didn’t expect this film to be shown around the world. It was theatrically released in eight countries and broadcast on TV in 52 others. It wasn’t successful in terms of the number of people who saw it in each context in which it was shown; I certainly didn’t get rich as I might of with a documentary about penguins. It was seen by a small number of people, but worldwide. It is never going to be a majority of people seeing these kinds of films.

I see documentary filmmaking as the best antidote to fundamentalism — the best way to fight the tendency towards becoming fundamental on all sides. Because you encounter other people, you feel with them, and that’s the best way to avoid xenophobia and to understand other people’s reasons.

What I like about the very best film festivals are when they create circumstances in which a Palestinian and Israeli filmmaker might be sitting on either side of me, as documentary filmmakers engaged at the same level of conversation, even though we may have totally different politics. But we all agree on a certain ethics of doing films and this is an important political element of documentary film today. The ‘propaganda’ of documentary filmmaking today aims to try to understand other people’s ways of living, thinking, conflicts and doubts.

Anna Ginestí Rosell: I’ll try to say something new. An important question is what we expect from documentaries. Do we expect them to tell the truth? That’s so difficult: what’s the truth? Does it exist? The documentaries that I’m interested in don’t want to tell the truth, but want to have a critical view of society and the world. This intention is, for me, highly political. I understand ‘political films’ as a very wide category. For me it’s a critical view of things.

It’s a little like Socrates: he defines himself as a midwife for thinking. This is the power of documentaries. If after seeing a documentary you can think and not just believe, it has had its impact. This is why, for me, Michael Moore’s films are not really political films, because they are for an audience that is already convinced of its message.

I would like to say something about YouTube. The main thing about the Internet is that the volume of material is so huge that it is very difficult to make assessments about what is good and bad online. You can find great things on YouTube. At the Autonomous University, I’m currently teaching about tourism in Spain (which has nothing to do with documentary, I know!), but I thought I’d check on YouTube to see what it says about it, and… it’s really great! There are some interesting critical videos that you can use and show to students.

If you want to be active in politics, you need a critical point of view—that’s the main thing I’d like to insist on.

Imre Szeman: Thank you very much to all of our panelists. What I’d like to do now is to invite people to comment and we can start a discussion. There are a lot of great ideas in circulation thus far.

Audience Member: I have a question I’d like to raise before things get too complicated: It’s about what I’d like to refer to as the ‘politics of life.’ I know only a little about video. I’m in anthropology and I just recently completed a course on videomaking. I’m interested in the benefits of combining my work with images, and so I’ve had to think about the politics of my practice to some degree.

What I want to ask is: what do we mean when we talk about ‘politics’? It seems that when it comes to documentary, politics is about protest, or the election of the President, or about war. I don’t think we should be reduced to understanding politics in this way. What I have in mind is a general sense of what is allowed and disallowed in each society; the process of deferral or censorship that inevitably happens should also be seen as politics.

Leo De Boer: I don’t quite know if this ties in with something going on in Holland right now. After Theo van Gogh, a Dutch filmmaker, was killed by an Islamic extremist, and in Denmark a cartoonist drew Allah with the head of a dog, there was a great deal of rebellion and protest in Islamic countries. This raises a wide question: what is politics? There is ‘politically correct’ and ‘politically incorrect,’ and now a certain fear of politics.
What is being discussed in Holland is whether or not filmmakers can still criticize Islam.

You mentioned the word “censorship.’ State-censored is fairly unknown in our context, even in Hungary. It’s not a reality any more. But what has emerged is a censorship of caution – one has to be cautious about how one deals with criticism towards certain groups in society. This creates ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’. I don’t have an answer for this: I’m just noting that ever since the death of Theo van Gogh, it exists. I don’t know if anyone else has similar experiences in their own situation.

The carelessness with which you could once make documentaries – you could take on any subject – seems to be gone. Theo van Gogh made the film Submission (2004) for Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who now lives in America. I think that very few people have seen it, since no network will show it, though it might be available on YouTube. It’s a provocative film.

You can criticize it for the way that it is done. It criticizes the role of women in Islam. What the filmmaker and scriptwriter [Ali] have done is to show women with the text of the Koran painted on their bodies and wearing veils made of see-through material. If you are Islamic it is very offensive.

Should these films be forbidden? What should be the attitude of the filmmaker be in such a situation? I’m curious as to how other people would see this.

Anna Schober (Institute for Contemporary History, University of Vienna): One thing that emerged that I wasn’t very happy with in the discussion was an opposition towards entertainment. We’re saying: some people just want to be entertained, while we want a deeper understanding of the world. I don’t think this is right.

How does this relate to politics? If you want to create a political space, you need others to react or respond to what you are saying. If you do a film like Theo van Gogh did, it is clear that it will be offensive to a certain group. This doesn’t mean that such films shouldn’t be done; this would be completely wrong. But you have to know if you do something like this that it will be offensive.

As you said: a filmmaker can act as a seducer, but he or she can also act as an aggressor or a divider. Political space is one in which a lot of people voice their opinions. We can’t start with the idea that some people are stupider than we are – they just have other views. We cannot control these views and these different views can sometimes be very explosive. We have to accept that no one can control these differences. When you enter the terrain of the political, you have to be ready for people to do something with what you did that you might not have ever expected them to do.

Christian Frei: When I finished my film, The Giant Buddhas, which is about the destruction of the giant Buddha sculptures in Afghanistan by the Taliban, I invited Taliban students to my editing room in Zurich to show them the film. It’s my normal gesture as a filmmaker– I always do this. The students agreed that their position was in the film. But I also had the feeling that at a certain level there was no communication.
They really hate the Western way of living. They could accept my gesture of making the film – they didn’t hate it like van Gogh. But I had to realize that they are not really interested in what we are still fighting for: pluralism, understanding other people’s opinions, and debating different ways of seeing the world. Their way of seeing the world is one way and that’s it. There is really a ‘clash of civilizations’ here – and that’s just the beginning.

This is the most important debate – more important than the debate over ‘entertainment.’ Perhaps you misinterpreted me: I’m not against entertainment at all. I love it! I love mainstream movies. The point is just that there are a small number of people who are also interested in films that offer a deeper explanation of things.

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