Lebanon has many university departments specializing in media arts and cinematography, but hardly any of these departments highlight the genre of documentary film-making. Most film students don't want to graduate with a documentary film project - they all want to do feature films.
In order to fill the gaps of expertise and awaken a greater interest in the various forms of documentary film-making, a workshop has been taking place in the last two days at the Beirut Theater during the Shams Festival. The workshop, entitled Hybrid Forms - New Trends in the Documentary Film, was organized in cooperation with the Goethe Institut and geared toward Lebanese film students.
Syrian film-maker Omar Amiralay and German film specialist Barbara Steinbauer-Groetsch highlighted the historical development and new trends in the documentary field. They also analyzed the different mixtures between feature films and German documentaries that have been screened during the workshop.
Lebanese documentaries were also a subject of discussion and working groups were developing their own ideas for creative documentary films. The three-day workshop will last until this Sunday.
During the workshops, a series of German documentaries were shown. These documentaries are all from relatively young film-makers whose common characteristic is that they tried to experiment with different media, different techniques and different ways of storytelling. The documentaries were all made during the late 1990s and show an abundant variety of documentary film-making, representing trends such as the personal documentary or the docu-soap.
For example, "Buenos Aires, My History," is the personal account of Argentinean film student German Kral, who went to Germany to study film. His documentary, made in 1999, was his graduation project. He goes back to Argentina to search for his father, who disappeared from Kral's life after his parents' divorce. He finds his father and forces his parents to meet and to remember not just the bad moments of their marriage, but also the happy instances of a forgotten love. The radicalism with which he pursues the story - and his parents - gives the documentary its power.
Hans Warns, "My 20th Century," is an experimental docu-drama. The story is about the sailor Hans Warns, who goes to sea at the age of 14 as a cabin boy with a camera in his luggage. Years later, he returns to Germany looking for a bride, but then continues to sail around the globe and to film the different places he goes to.
The backbone of this documentary is the black-and-white film strips shot by Warns. Other scenes are re-enacted and their visual nature is adapted to the old film material.
It also includes footage of popular films from the early 20th century, which are related to sailing. The different materials are made into a semi-documentary hybrid form, switching from silent film, fake documentary, found-footage film and documentary portrait.
Hans Warns' film "My 20th Century" will be screened on Saturday, March 20, 2004 at 5pm in the Beirut Theater. For further information, please contact the Shams Festival 01/366085