In the field of the documentary, which is what this festival is all about, a trend which some have called ‘autobiographical’ or even ‘self-absorbed’ has been developing of late. It consists of films which address the lives of their authors or their closest relatives. They feature everyday circumstances or the dramatic events of existence, death, illness, decrepitude, which deserve to be exorcised, we could say, by that great artifact which makes fast as it ousts that is cinema. This trend lodges us in the sphere of ordinary lives, far from the familiar, epic heroism found, for instance, in America, America (Elia Kazan, 1963). Epic is that which deserves to be related, but young documentary filmmakers have discovered that the difficulty and art of living, in any life, is worthy of being told.
But America, America can be seen as a documentary, as a reconstruction, both faithful and fanciful, of the life of the author's uncle. That leads us to other great fiction filmmakers who have also turned on themselves, who have deemed that their life experience deserves to be published. Very few have been brave enough to try out this mirror-cinema; only the cases of Fellini and Godard spring to mind. But what is interesting about these examples is that while they approach the autobiographical documentary, because they too lack heroic greatness, they distance themselves from such films through their authors’ highly unique personalities and their downright mastery of cinematographic expression.
Due to this twofold antithetical relationship with the documentary, we thought it might be worthwhile holding a talk about Federico Fellini, who took this introspection further than anyone else in his films. His is an enthralling case, because the filmmaker portrayed himself at different levels; first through lookalikes, playing a kind of hide-and-seek with himself (Moraldo, Marcello, Guido Anselmi, Snàporaz, Pippo Battistella; in I vitelloni, La dolce vita, 8 ½, La città delle donne, Ginger e Fred) and then actually appearing in person (Block-notes di un regista, I clowns, Roma, Intervista). Reflecting on this set of unparalleled films can shed a new, perhaps more revealing, light on this world of the first-person documentary which poses questions for the festival.
Paulino Viota (Santander, 1948) is the author of the feature films Contactos (1970), a work restored by Filmoteca Española in 2010 and which is part of the Collection of the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía; Duración (1970), also in the museum collection; Con uñas y dientes (1977-78); and Cuerpo a cuerpo (1982). His complete works, which include a number of short films made between 1966 and 1974, have been published by Intermedio DVD. From the early eighties onwards, Viota has devoted himself to studying and teaching filmmaking. He was a professor at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra de Barcelona, at CECC-Centre d’Estudis Cinematogràfics de Catalunya, Elías Querejeta Zine Eskola (Barcelona) and at Filmoteca de Cantabria. He has given conferences in the leading cultural and film institutions of Spain.