Category Archives: documentary

RIP Agnès Varda (1928 – 2019)

Agnès Varda was a Belgian-born French film director.

Her films were popular among critics and directors, giving her the status of a cult director.

This is perhaps not the best of times to rid the world of a minor misconception regarding the work of Varda, but it is what I must do after researching her oeuvre following her death.

Agnès Varda made one film about the Black Panther Party, just one. That film was Black Panthers (1968), a color film which can be viewed in its entirety at[1].

Another film from that same year is called Huey! and is directed by a certain Sally Pugh. It can be seen in full on YouTube [below] and has nothing to do with Varda, although the general subject matter as well as some scenes overlap.

The Killing of America (1982) by Sheldon Renan

L’Aventure hippie brings The Killing of America

“… a new breed of killer appeared …”

Above is the Charles Whitman episode, in 1966 he was the first instance of the “senseless killings” sniper variety.

Youtube has the whole film in parts at [1]

Here is another interesting episode, the case of Mark Essex:


“… three black snipers set fire to this hotel in dowtown New Orleans …”

The Killing of America (1982) is an American documentary film tracing the origins of gratuitous violence in the United States. Directed by Sheldon Renan and narrated by Chuck Riley, the film was written by Leonard Schrader and his wife Chieko Schrader, with music by W. Michael Lewis and Mark Lindsay.

It featured notorious multiple killers such as Tony Kiritsis, Ted Bundy, Mark Essex, David Berkowitz, Kenneth Bianchi, Mark Essex, Jim Jones, Charles Manson, Herbert Mullin and Charles Whitman.

Any similarity to any person, event, or institution is intentional and anything but coincidential

In search of intentional and unintentional similarities in fiction


Addio Zio Tom (Goodbye, Uncle Tom) (1971) by Gualtiero Jacopetti and Franco Prosperi

“All events, characters and institutions in this motion picture are historically documented and any similarity to any person, black or white, or to any actual events, or institutions is intentional and anything but coincidential.” –from the credits to Goodbye Uncle Tom, see fictionalization and fiction disclaimer.

Thus opens or closes Goodbye Uncle Tom of which a clip is listed above and it provides an excellent introduction to the tenuous relation between fiction and reality.

Addio zio Tom (1971) – Gualtiero Jacopetti, Franco Prosperi
Image sourced here. [Dec 2005]

Two more quotes provide further food for thought:

“It’s no wonder that truth is stranger than fiction.” Fiction has to make sense – Mark Twain
“The mind of man can imagine nothing which has not really existed.” —Edgar Allan Poe, 1840

If we represent the relationship between fiction and reality on a sliding scale we find on the left hand side: fiction which makes no claim to reality. This kind of fiction is nowadays always preceded by the fiction disclaimer:

“Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental.”

The above is sometimes preceded by “The characters in this film are fictitious,”.

This kind of fiction is helped by Poe’s quote in its theoretical approach. If done well, this kind of fiction is called the fantastique, that area of literary theory which provides us with an unresolved hesitation as to our position on the reality/fictitiousness scale. Another growth of this kind of fiction is the roman à clef a novel and by extension any sort of fiction describing real-life events behind a façade of fiction. The reasons an author might choose the roman à clef format include satire and the opportunity to write about controversial topics and/or reporting inside information on scandals without giving rise to charges of libel.

On the right hand side of the scale we find fiction that does make claim to reality. This kind of fiction is nowadays usually preceded by the claim based on true events:

This kind of fiction is helped by Twain’s quote in its theoretical approach. Real stories are often so unbelievable that we need to make the claim that they are based on actual events.

As a narrator of fiction, one is always aided by this claim to capture the audience’s interest. This is true in the case of a joke (tell it as if it has happened to you), in the case of novels (Robinson Crusoe was soi-disant based on actual events) and film (Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) was supposedly about Ed Gein)

A whole range of concepts falls into this category, listed under the heading fictionalization: faction, based on a true story, false document, nonfiction novel, true crime (genre), histories (history of the novel), stranger than fiction and mockumentary.

The funny thing about the right hand position on the fiction/reality scale is that the act of narrating alters reality by default. I always illustrate this point by going back to your youth. You had a brother or sister and you fought with him over something. You went to your mother or father or any other judge-figure, who gave you both the opportunity to tell the story. You both came up of course with a different version.

Which brings me to the Heisenberg uncertainty principle and the observer effect. If the act of perception alters reality, the act of telling a story alters reality. That is why I dislike films such as Schindler’s List because in this case, “real” documentary material is available. Maybe this is also the case for Goodbye Uncle Tom, but boy, I sure would like to see that film.

World Cinema Classic #70

In search of nonspace and unthought thoughts.

Sans Soleil

Sans Soleil

In search of nonspace and unthought thoughts.

I’ve been mulling over French director Chris Marker‘s Sans Soleil for four days now. The key scene for me was the shooting of the giraffe, which gave its origins away as far as genre-theoretics are concerned.

The key phrase was perhaps the “salute to all unposted letters,” but is safe to say that the film is brilliantly written throughout.

I saw the film at MuHKA on last Saturday, introduced by a Belgian scholar (who?). He stated that the film was unclassifiable, because the “film essay is not a genre but a small category”. However, in my opinion, the film fits the mondo film category, and functions as a highbrow counterpart to Mondo Cane. The film also begs a viewing of the masterwork Blood of the Beasts. But Sans Soleil is a different film altogether. It is a philosophical film that raises questions of medium specificity, multimedia, memory and authenticity.

I have a feeling that Sans Soleil can be invoked to clarify Gilles Deleuze‘s any-space-whatever (see B. C. Holmes – “The Deleuzian Memory of Sans Soleil” [1]), but to prove that would need some more studying of Gilles Deleuze on film.

A History of Derision, wikified

A History of Derision

A History of Derision

A History of Derision by way of Illusory Confections who wrote on its subject[1]:

“Be still my beating heart, this is practically everything I adore in one tidy 240 page bundle! But it isn’t referenced anywhere online and I couldn’t even find mention of it on the Atlas Press site. So I zipped an email to Atlas inquiring about it, and, sadly, its nonexistence was confirmed. Apparently it was a planned project that fell to the sidelines and “[1]

the website is the accurate source of what is available, the catalogue part bibliography and part fiction, if you like…

Here it is again in a wikified version,

A History of Derision is an aborted project by Arkhive, an Atlas Press imprint.

It builds on André Breton’s Anthology of Black Humour, but is more a history of French avant-garde.

French Romantics: Sade, Lassailly, Rabbe, Forneret, Nodier, Fourier

Bouzingos: Borel and O’Neddy

Hydropathes: Goudeau, Cros, Haraucourt, Lafargue, Richepin, Tailhade, Rollinat, Monselet, Sapeck, Allais.

Hirsutes and the Chat Noir: Salis, Moréas, Lorrain, Verlaine, Sarcey, Haraucourt.

Arts Incohérents: : Lévy, Rivière, Allais.

Zutistes: Allais, Cros, Nouveau, Rimbaud, Ajalbert, Haraucourt, Verlaine.

La Nouvelle Rive Gauche : Trézenick, D’Aurevilly, Verlaine.

Lutèce: Rall, Rimbaud, Corbière, Caze, Rachilde, Floupette (Vicaire and Beauclair).

Symbolists : de Gourmont, Jarry, Tailhade, Huysmans, Pawlowski.

Ecole de Paris : Apollinaire, Jacob, Salmon, Albert-Birot, Cami.

Dada : Aragon, Picabia, Ribemont-Dessaignes, Satie, Arp, Rigaut.

Surrealism : Desnos, Prévert, Péret, Topor, Magritte, Scutenaire, Daumal, Gilbert-Lecomte.

Situationists : Arnaud and Jorn, Dotremont, Mariën.

Daily Bul & Co: Bury, Béalu, Colinet.

Encyclopédie des FARCES et ATTRAPES et des  MYSTIFICATIONS

Farcistes: Encyclopédie des farces et attrapes et des mystifications, François Caradec, Noël Arnaud.[2]


Tokyo Nobody, a parable of abandonment

Tokyo Nobody (2000) – Masataka Nakano

[FR] [DE] [UK]

Masataka Nakano is a Japanese photographer, best-known for his Tokyo Nobody anthology, a series of photos of Tokyo, devoid of its 10 to 15 million inhabitants; mostly shot on the New Year holiday when all city dwellers go to visit relatives out in the country and Tokyo becomes a ghost town.

Via Trevor Brown (1).

See also: abandonment

Statues also die


Les Statues meurent aussi

Les Statues meurent aussi (Eng: Statues also Die) is a short subject documentary film by Chris Marker and Alain Resnais released in 1953 and financed by the anticolonial organisation Présence africaine. Its theme was that Western civilization is responsible for the decline of black art due to cultural appropriation. The film was seen at the Cannes Film Festival, it won the Prix Jean Vigo in 1954 but was banned shortly afterwards for more than 10 years by the French censor.

World cinema classics #21


Blood of the Beasts (1949) – Georges Franju (If embedded play does not work click here.)

My series “world cinema classics” is usually dedicated to fictional feature films. This film is short, and documentary, but nevertheless, the poetic qualities of the French language original give an air of uncanny fictionality which made me consider it for the series. An excellent film if hard on the stomach.

Previous “World Cinema Classics

The Act of Seeing with One’s Own Eyes

The Act of Seeing with One’s Own Eyes is a 1971 American film by experimental filmmaker Stan Brakhage. The film focuses on the relations between documentary and fantasy in what may be called a limit experience. The film consists of a series of autopsies in a Pittsburgh morgue and have been described as hard to watch.

Only recommended for very strong stomachs. Here on Youtube:, click on for parts two and three.