In 1978, the 3rd Rencontres internationales du cinéma direct “Human looks at human”, created and launched by Jacques Willemont and his journal IMPACT, were held at the Centre Pompidou.

In 1979, the Bibliothèque publique d’information (Public information library) created Cinéma du réel, an international festivalfor ethnographic and sociological films, at the Centre Pompidou, with support from the C.N.R.S. (French national center for research) and the Comité du film ethnographique (Ethnographic film committee), in order to promote documentary cinema.

The event is organized by the Bibliothèque publique d’information  partnered by the association Les Amis du Cinéma du réel (Friends of the Cinéma du réel), created in 1984.

The festival mixes documentaries, essays and experimental films in selections that reflect a diversity of genres and different forms of cinematic approach to the world. It has become one of the rare festivals to highlight heritage films and look back at the different genres, but at the same time it also creates a dialogue between these and contemporary creation.

While discovering young talents, Cinéma du réel also keeps an eye on experienced filmmakers, screening both their most recent and earlier works. The festival has thus helped to give international visibility to many directors who are now familiar to the general public.