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Cinéma du réel catalogue 2001

When referring to the Cinéma du réel festival, the shortened name Le Réel (in English, “reality”) is often used. The second half of the festival’s full name seems to have taken precedence as being most representative of the editorial line. The word “reality” has also been taken up by several other events, such as Visions du réel, Fictions du réel, Le Réel en scène, Du réel à l’image… One must, however, be careful not to forget the first word “cinema”.
The originality and force of the festival is precisely that it cannot be reduced to either one of its title words alone. The festival’s essence springs out their encounter, it is the product of their alchemy.
Whilst the word “reality” defines the scope of the subject, the word “cinema” strives to fix the form. “Cinema” may be a confusing word to use, as it makes no reference to the film media, financing or exploitation systems that all bear the hallmark of cinema. Some major works discovered by the Cinéma du réel were shot on video and funded by television, for television. In many countries, creative documentary has even become a specific television genre.
So why talk of cinema?
Certainly, because this word refers to an art-the art of composing with elements of vision and sound. And this eighth art-when it does not forget its claim to such status-tends to borrow words from the seventh art to express its aims.
Filmmakers who draw on reality are characterised by a firmly asserted world of imagination, a vision, a style and the ability to bring into play all the different materials that make up a work of art. When these filmmakers use processes as simple as shot/reverse shot in editing, they are creating an imaginary figure, whose origins are to be found in the encounter between cinema and reality. When terms referring to art or imagination are applied to the documentary film, this may rouse a certain apprehension. Yet they are precisely what distinguishes the genre.
If it needs to be constantly repeated that a documentary film cannot be reduced to its subject, the Cinéma du réel is fortunately there to encourage us.

Denis Freyd
Cinéma du réel catalogue 2001