Workshop Films

A deeper investigation of the group films

There is a ongoing debate in the world of moving image education, when we watch a film which has been made as part of a project – in what capacity are we watching it ? Many people would argue that the video is a by-product of the educational approach being used. At best, it is perhaps made up of an element of this. The viewers of the video will most likely be made up of the participants themselves, their parents, the workshop leader or facilitator who lead the workshops, and even the agencies or partners who have supported the delivery of the project. Brought together in front of the screen as the film is shown at the end of the project they discover the factors that brought it in to being; the educational interplay, the vagaries of how it was realized, the ways it was filmed, the locations, the distribution of roles within the team, those that were absent or otherwise engaged during the duration of the project. As it’s all part of a learning process, the experience itself is more important than the result. Therefore the question is raised, what importance does the craft of the images, the emotions that they represent, and the cinema that they suggest serve ?


Joël Danet

Joël Danet (à droite) et Alain Bergala during « A nous le cinéma ! » meetings in 2018.

All that you need to be convinced that young people’s filmmaking is very much the opposite of this picture is to attend one of the Cinéma, Cent ans de Jeunesse’s screening days. The final element of the year long project, the screenings in the Cinémathèque promote each film twice; they are not just being screened on any screen, but the silver screen of one of the great bastions of cinematic culture. Such screenings fit in naturally with the Cinémathèque’s programming, dedicated as it is, to both the history and present of cinema. Firstly, it is a record of an experimental approach to the promotion and development of cinema, focused each year on a fundamental issue, which gives rise to a specific training approach, and the construction of a pool of references. Secondly, for those who see the films, their expectations of what they are about to see are like no other screening.

A few scattered memories: A young girl, alone in a playground, she turns her head one way and then the other, which makes her long hair fly up in the air. Out of shot voices cry out a name again and again, doubtless that of the girl in the frame. She seems fixed to the spot as if pinned down by these cries that come from all over. A simple game? A cry for help? An instance of bullying? With this simple exercise all that we see and know is that which is held in the frame. It’s up to us to decide what came before, what comes after, and what will be the climax of what we’ve seen. 
Another memory: Behind the glass wall of an indoor pool a boy watches his classmates swim or chat by the edge of the water. The start of the film shows the teacher bringing the group to the pool. One of the group, a girl who places herself so that she can see the boy, rests in the shadows, motionless and in deep thought in her own space. He doesn’t leave the others, but at the same time, he doesn’t go and join them. A witness, who waits, half seen, without any explanation, commanding the silence. 
Another window: A school window - reflecting the shadows of children, which the thickness of the window has split and dislocated. The face of another child appears on the window. An anxious expression betrays his secret, inner torment. Having come here by way of the school offices he happened to glance at a pile of documents, lying open and in eyeshot, where he accidently learned some sad news. One of his classmates is going to have to repeat a year. But his classmate doesn’t know it yet. As it is such a large secret, one which he can not reveal at any cost, it sets him apart from the others. Their conversations now sound different to him, whatever the topic, each conversation returns to the fact that their childhood is over.

Alone again: A young girl dreams of her wake, and wanders as a ghost from her parents to her friends who suffer in their mourning around a coffin placed in the centre of the family’s living room. Waking with a cry from the depths of her sleep she comes back to reality and affirms her choice to live. Intimate fears and happy times. A boy and girl meet on the terrace in front of an ice cream seller, where they had arranged to catch up. They both smile. We are at the end of the film: The two of them have been able to understand each other, to overcome misunderstandings and, despite the eager confidences of their friends, they’ve been able to keep the secret of their feelings for each other to themselves.

The majority of these films finish with an element of suspense. It is often said that young viewers don’t like open endings. Yet young filmmakers imagine them up with ease. We’re certainly ready to ask if it’s the filmmaker working with them who has suggested these open endings. How can we be sure ? Do they have to be ? The students group films draw their richness from their hybrid identity. It belongs to no one, being the fruit of collective endeavour. By holding back on its expectations the pedagogical approach of Cinema, Cent ans de Jeunesse, more refined and developed than ever, does not lead to any less deeply personal films. It seems that the precise style of the project is tailored to each topic, year by year, conditioned by its guiding principal. What ever the topic the Rules of the Game for each new year of the project invites the creation of cinema in light of the reality of situations and conditions.

The staging of the films situations are often defined by the rituals of the generations that make them: the swapping of clothes, thumb fights, games of hide and seek, and the endless noise of nocturnal chatter. Similarly, locations are shown according to the the way that the young characters use them.
From one film to the next, regardless of their place of origin, they sketch their own geography over locations reflecting childhood or adolescence, redefining the spaces in which they exist on screen. 
The classroom, defined by its desks in rows, is like a web of whispered secrets and stolen trophies. 
The street is the path that links home to school. 
The town square is a place for play, or first dates. 
Forests and industrial sites near homes are transformed in to dens – here a bunker nestled in a clearing, there a gangway over-spying warehouses. 
Where better than in these pictures to see brought to life the words of Pol Vendromme “the overwhelming inventory of the many worlds of childhood” [Le cinéma et l’enfance, 1955].

Or even better, to meet in these images ‘the objective cruelty of the world’ that André Bazin opposed in L’enfance sans mythe from1960 ? Especially at present, when these are the first concerns that register with their imaginations and lend them selves to being made and forever rendered on film.

Joël Danet
Vidéo Les Beaux Jours, France.