#11 European Classic Documentary Film Meetings 2021

Irlande, terre promise

Hélène Châtelain

198245 min

The Avignon Festival, 1982. Drawing on his experience in Northern Ireland, playwright Armand Gatti presented his play, Le Labyrinthe (The Maze) and his film, Nous étions tous des noms d’arbres (The Writing on the Wall), which is a  “documentary fiction” with the inhabitants of the town of Derry in Ulster. Hélène Chatelain’s film, Irlande, terre promise, strolls through Gatti’s film, its shooting and its context, at the height of the unequal war between the British police and security forces and the Republican rebellion. She shakes up the codes of a classical “making-of” to create a singular object that plays on the texture of heterogeneous images: black-and-white and colour video images, celluloid film excerpts, archive footage… An astonishingly modern visual and poetic assemblage.

  • The filmmaker : Writer, translator and editor of dissident Soviet literature, Hélène Châtelain (1935-2020) pioneered the use of video. In the 1970s, in the middle of a successful acting career in theatre, she seized upon the first cameras to make dissident and poetic films, at the intersection of the libertarian movement (Nestor Makhno, paysan d’Ukraine, 1995), Russia (Goulag, 2000) and theatre (Chant public devant deux chaises électriques, 2004). She has authored some twenty outstanding documentaries, all in video and marked by remarkably skilful use of commentary, which resonates with the warm voice that is unmistakably hers.

  • The restorer:
    Since 1975, Bibliothèque nationale de France has been a repository for the legal deposit of video material, for which it is now the reference institution in France. Launched in 2015 with the “SCUM Manifesto” (Carole Roussopoulos and Delphine Seyrig, 1976), its digital restoration branch is one of the world’s few structures specifically dedicated to video stored on magnetic tape.  With three to four works restored each year, the BnF has developed expertise in analysing, processing and eliminating basic defects specific to the original analogue videotape or those caused by aging – thus allowing this heritage to be rediscovered..
    Hélène Châtelain’s film was restored by Jean-Yves Le Gouill, Gérald Robin, Cédric Bergeat and David Guillaume, supervised by Danielle Maricar and Alain Carou, in coordination with the association, La Parole errante.

Production : Production les Voyelles
Restorer : BNF
Status : Restoration is complete
Availability date : This first restoration project for Hélène Chatelain’s video work will be followed by two other restorations scheduled for 2021–2022: Les gens de la moitié du chemin (1985) and Nestor Makhno, paysan d'Ukraine (1995)
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