2001-09-26 | YAMAGATA Doc’s Kingdom—The Seminar
Robert Kramer Retrospective Special Feature

The “Doc’s Kingdom” seminar was first held last year in the little town of Serpa, found in the east of Portugal. Its name was taken from Robert Kramer’s Doc’s Kingdom (1987), which filmed the city of Lisbon, Portugal as its stage and his homeland and America as its theme to further a deeper exploration of himself. The purpose of the seminar was to delve into the meaning and necessity of documentary film, through exploring their context and conditions.

The methods used were quite simple, and with a finely balanced mix of veteran (Artavazd Pelechian, Eduardo Coutinho etc.) and younger (Pedro Costa, Sergey Dvortsevoy, Jia Zhangke, etc.) directors familiar to the YIDFF as guests, their films were screened and followed by a discussion among 2-3 of the filmmakers. Film school students and filmgoers also joined in. Amidst a relaxed atmosphere, the discussions ran over a three-day period, in tandem with group projects. “Create a dialogue,” a favorite phrase of Kramer’s, was the point of departure for the seminar. We have invited organizers of the seminar, Cinemateca Portuguesa and European Foundation Joris Ivens, and will hold our own “Doc’s Kingdom” seminar at this year’s Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival. So what is the theme this time, and who are the panelists? Actually, that is all still up in the air. The content will gradually take shape from the first day of the festival, October 3rd. We’ve decided against determining such issues prior to the event, and are attempting a bold experiment in allowing the informal discussions that might just take place on the bullet train, at the various festival venues, in the streets, at the Komian Club and everywhere else where people meet and exchange opinions, to promote the evolution of a theme for this seminar. The witnesses and creators of this unique and unprecedented seminar will be its participants. Also, we plan to bring the development of the seminar to you live each day until October 8th through the film festival’s Daily Bulletin. In what ways will the Yamagata Doc’s Kingdom seminar, exclusive to the Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival, develop in the days leading up to it? For now, at least, all signs indicate that this will be heavily influenced by the recent terrorist incidents in the US.

Finally, we’d like to present some words written by Kramer himself, taken from his website.

i’m well. i’m finishing a film. i like this film, but i am also sad, because i feel strongly how time is moving, the world changing fast, and i feel the little bit of space i tried to stand on disappearing under my feet. not just this film but a whole life. (and of course so many of “the ideas” that made it possible for us to be the people we wanted to be and tried to be, and do the things we did, etc.) i feel that my situation is precarious. certainly financially. and that many of the reasons why i came to Europe in the first place, because of a certain support for culture, no longer really exist: Europe resembling more and more the states in this respect. i am not so much complaining, but a kind of sadness. like the tone, the music of Walk the Walk, like a swift current taking you away, or washing the sand out from under your feet. i don’t really want to feel sad, or to worry: i want to give myself up to this current and let it take me where it will at the end of this life. anyway, that’s the feeling this morning. and of course there are many other things to tell you, which i will try to do this weekend: 'cause it’s time to get going out to the cutting room, wash and shave and dress and RER to the suburbs and...all that. much love to you with your wits about you and how are things looking for you?

(ONO Seiko, program coordinator of Robert Kramer’s Retrospective)