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Canal RÉEL Yves de Peretti

2021 Canal RÉEL : a television for a cinema festival 

“Le réel : ce qui ne vient pas deux fois, ce qui ne revient pas” (The real : that which does not happen twice, that which does not return), wrote Serge Daney about a film by Robert Kramer. This is the essence of the documentary. In December 2020, when the artistic director of Cinéma du réel tells me that she is going to implement a television platform to broadcast the next festival online (in case the pandemic prevents it from opening to the public again), I decide to film. Broadcasting a film festival through a television channel : there is a fine paradox to explore. 

In the frozen Leviathan that is the Centre Pompidou in March 2021, I slip into the festival team and film the “off-screen” of a festival that usually brings documentary film lovers together, but is reduced to a television program that year. 

As I follow the day-to-day epic of “Canal RÉEL”, I capture the unusual atmosphere created by the imposed restrictions of the health crisis : the idle decor of the Centre Pompidou, the mandatory make-up session, the substitute TV sets, the furtive meetings that seem like secret reunions, the lonely jury in empty theaters…. I mingle with the guests and get escorted by the team as if they were carrying out underground activities, right down to the service galleries in the basement usually reserved for art storage and handling. 

In the second basement’s studio, turned into a steam room by the projectors’ heat, guests make themselves at home, technicians are busy. New tasks emerge: adapting the set to each shooting, dealing with impatient foreign filmmakers for their videoconferences, replacing close contacts or COVID patients at the drop of a hat… In the middle of the primary-colored cubes evoking the television of yesteryear and the jungle of flat screens and small DSLR cameras marking the era, the artistic director and the selection committee turn into presenters. Everything is unreal but also seems normal, and we talk about the territories covered by the films as if nothing had happened. There is the occasional outburst of laughter, and a few hastily-corrected blunders, but the schedule is more or less kept. Words are exchanged. Reality is reinvented. 

When you emerge from this underground cauldron, looking haggard, and return to the spaces usually occupied by the public, the strident sounds of a swarm of bees, from an installation made by guest of honor artist Pierre Creton, brutally bring you back to reality. In this month of March, ghosts are on the prowl in these deserted spaces. 

Yves de Peretti