Moi, un Noir (1957) by Jean Rouch (narrative in French with Portugese subtitles), depicts the daily life of three young Nigerians working as casual labourers in Abidjan, Ivory Coast.
These men are immigrants from Niger who have travelled to this large city in order to become successful. The central character is Edward G. Robinson, who speaks to the audience in a voice-over narration, which gives the film its unique style. Throughout the film there is a sense that the young protagonists wish to be somewhere else, but are unable to get anywhere. (Turkestana)
The film’s melancholy tone derives from the first person narrative of the main character Edward G. Robinson, who with his friends adopt imaginary Hollywood personas to create fictionalised identities to cope with poverty and being so uprooted. We get great insight into Robinson’s life, desires and opinions – including his blindspots – with this technique, without Rouch needing to add his own narration or questions. Rouch said about Moi un Noir:
Fiction is the only way to penetrate reality – the means of sociology remain exterior ones. In Moi, un noir I wanted to show an African city – Treichville. I could have made a documentary full of figures and observations. That would have been deathly boring. So I told a story with characters, their adventures and their dreams. And I didn’t hesitate to introduce the dimensions of the imaginary, of the unreal – when a character dreams he’s boxing, he boxes … the whole problem is to maintain a certain sincerity towards the specatator, never to mask the fact that this is a film … once this sincerity is achieved, when nobody is deceiving anybody, what interests me it the introduction of an imaginary, of the unreal. I can then use the film to tell what cannot be told otherwise. (Telerama, no 872, Translated and quoted in Eaton p 8)
Eaton, Mick (1971). Anthropology – Reality – Cinema: the films of Jean Rouch. London: British Film Institute.
Jean Rouch Moi, un Noir (1957) Films de la Pleiade – Pierre Braunberger, Roger Fleytoux an CNRS.
Prison valley, an interactive documentary about the America prison system focusses on the supermax prison in the Colorado desert. It is a surprisingly narrative driven work, given it functions in an interactive environments, its structure seems somewhat inspired by gameplay. You are caught up with the highly professionally produced story-telling and the characters of the indidivudals who deal with the prison.
Although this project has plenty of rich interactive elements, it has no UGC, nor the ability of users to add content beyond a forum. It is driven by strong storytelling, great characters, and wonderful imagery enhanced sensitively with a great audio track. An expository voice over is slightly softened because the directors have put their own actions in the frame, however really the things that make this docoumentary so strong are its conventional elements.
So I love this documentary, but really, I love you conventionally.
[image: still from Prison Valley - as close as you can get to the supermax]
Tell a story but link to the historical and other factual elements, such as in War Horse. This seems increasingly to be an approach favoured in transmedia narrative, according to the Sandra Gaudenzi on the i-docs blog.
Another approach is to use transmedia and cross-media fiction techniques to deliver a doco, such as Operation Ajax. A great way to get a new generation into non-fiction content … while also, possibly excluding those stuck in heritage media? The price we pay for such a dynamic media culture, I guess: your technology more or less chooses your audience.
Now that no one has to convince anybody anymore that transmedia is here to stay, the important message is for me to keep being innovative – rather than trying to copy complex, and sometimes unnecessarily ambitious, strategies. As Michel Reilhac (Executive Director, Arte France Cinema – although it was announced that he will step down in the new year!) did emphasize: we are maybe coming out of the over enthusiasm for connectedness and multi-platformity. Now that convergence is not an utopia anymore, we’ll might have to use it for a purpose. Is transmedia compatible with a logic of “less is more”?
Mixing fact and fiction by a strategic use of cross-medium – yeah, but if the innovations don’t seem to have a reason, you’re being a technologist, not a media maker.
PressPausePlay (free legal bittorrent download) is an uplifting and informative documentary about freedom and digital creativity. Most of the examples are from the music ‘industry’. Rahrahs from the likes of Seth Godin are balanced by the dour tones of Andrew Keen.
Is the status of creativity and creatives changing? In this wide-ranging documentary, we are asked to reflect upon the creatives ‘industries’, and consider whether changing production methods means that we are entering a post-industrial creative era. Some love it, some hate it, and some, most interestingly, are equivocal. Among the more or less fully converted is Seth Godin:
It used to be you didn’t become an artist to be rich, you became an artist because you had an idea to share, you had an emotion to share, and that’s where we’re heading again, and we’re going to see more people do more art in more ways than ever before.
Yes, but how? And what are the financial practicalities? And is it really ‘art’? In an environment in which ‘Any kid can use a cracked version or buy a version of Reason or Logic or Ableton and in about five minutes do what took 6 months or years 20 years ago’, Moby wonders:
Everybody’s equally excited and afraid, noone really knows where their next paycheck is coming from, but they’re really excited at their ability to create work and communicate directly with an audience.
These people are technological determinists. Bill Drummond says: ‘The technology always comes first. Then the artist comes along (Jimi Hendrix) … And abuses it and changes it …. So in that sense technology is great. I’m not so sure it’s as simple as that, for in the use and abuse the technology gets changed, but anyway, that’s perhaps not the most important issue. Rather, it’s what digital does to the very concept of art and media. According to David Weinberger:
In the creative world, it used to be that we knew where to go to get art, where to get entertainment, and they were in boxes, sometimes the boxes were Tv boxes, sometimes they were building boxes or the front page of newspaper which is a nice little box. That’s fantastic but of course there’s a price to pay to that old way as well, which is that somebody else is making your decisions and they are also human beings, its’s a very limited necessarily range of tastes and opinions and ideas and traditionally unfortunately fairly typically its been representative of particular empowered groups… Typically white guys …
I’m not sure art is a good term to use with digital products. It seems to me tied to a means of production and a historical production period in which reproducability was difficult if not impossible. So when Seth Godin says something like:
Art has been round for a really long time, but its only in the last fifty years that there’s been an industry, eg the music indusy, the movie industry. That’s new.
I just wish he’d use a less loaded phrase, such as ‘creative products’. It would avoid a whole lot of problems. That aside, I love the way several interviewees historically contextualise our creative period.
PressPausePlay also interviews the founders of production company Shilo, Andre Stringer and Tracy Chandler:
The easiest way to understand Shilo is we’re a traditional production company for the most part, but we’ve come at it from a very untraditional sort of way. The traditional model says, there’s a director, there’s a post house, there’s an editorial company, there’s an advertising agency… And each of them has their own stake in what they’re making and there’s always this fight against it. By…harnessing all those things and saying like nowadays the guys who direct are sometimes the guys who design, the guys who direct are also sometiems the dudes who edit. That blended model really changes the whole landscape and it also sort says that anybody can do anything.
They must have worked out how to deal with egos very well … in industrial media, everyone likes to have their patch of expertese. Or is it more that that’s how we learned to function? It was safe, maybe even easy, maybe even necessary given the gear we had. But it didn’t give you much freedom unless you were at the top of the tree.
If a designer comes at directing something they might have a different approach than a traditional director might have and so comes out with a different product . It’s not just about whether something is better or worse, its about something can be different because people are coming at it from a different perspective.
What having the ability to do more of the work ourselves gives us is the abili to be more free, more visceral, more alchemic with the way that the components come together. A lot less of it has to be extremely pre-planned and mo of it can be entirely improvisational, very much of the moment…Most of it comes out of the grassroots, learn-it-yourself, do-it-yourself mentality
There’s no formal training for what’s going on in the professional world right now.
[This is one of two posts written about PressPausePlay. Here's the other. Still from PressPausePlay.]