Thanks for the notice. I hadn't heard of this film ... and it's not out here
yet, but I'll keep an eye out for it. I haven't been able to find anything
about Philibert that mentions Malick or his works, but I did find a little
interview in which he uses the words "thin" and "line" in the same sentence.
Reading the mini-interview definitely made me more interested in Philibert
and seeing his movie. He sounds like the kind of director I wish there were
---From Kathimerini, Greek English language newspaper
French Director Learns from Executives, Patients, Clerks
Nicolas Philibert tribute under way at the 5th Thessaloniki Documentary
By Margarita Pournara
March 4, 2003
Modest and discreet, French filmmaker Nicolas Philibert chooses his words
carefully. A tribute to his work is currently being screened during the
fifth Documentary Festival in Thessaloniki: Images of the 21st Century,
which opened last Friday and runs to Sunday.
Philibert was recently awarded the Cesar Prize at the annual French film
awards for his latest documentary "Etre et Avoir" (To Be and To Have). His
fundamental belief, as seen through his work for the past 25 years, is to
enter the world of the others, to get to know them and to learn from them,
something which he appears to have applied in his own life. The "others" can
be pretty much anybody, people ranging from company directors and athletes
to museum clerks and mental asylum patients. What is important is not the
characters themselves, but their coexistence.
You have stated that you are more interested in telling a story than in
producing the traditional documentary of an educational nature.
For a documentary to acquire cinematic value, its creator must give it a
more human character by overcoming the strict limitations posed by the very
theme of the documentary. Most of the reports and documentaries that we see
on television are often trapped within those educative limitations, and I am
sure that most of the time the viewers wish to know more about a certain
subject. When the producer has predetermined the frame and the result of his
work, and merely uses the camera to add to the concept which he has already
shaped, then the documentary loses all cinematic value. When I decide to
work on something, I never do any research beforehand, to avoid any
prejudices that may influence my judgment. I believe that one must be open
to all stimuli, because that is the essence of cinema.
How difficult is it to eventually tell a story through your work?
In my work, I deal with people's personalities which might make us cry or
laugh. Nothing in my documentaries is predetermined and watching them is
like watching a movie, one never knows what will happen next. Besides, films
have their own power. Take my last work, for example, "Etre et Avoir," which
is set in a one-teacher small elementary school in rural France. I don't
focus on the difficulties of teaching under these circumstances, but on
childhood itself. Whereas watching a child trying to read and write may seem
commonplace to us, for the child itself this is a small miracle. And that
miracle applies to all humanity; children of any nation will experience the
same uncertainty and stress when they pick up the pencil and attempt to
write their first syllable. It is not easy being a child and that by itself
is a story, a fairy tale, my story.
You film constantly, with your subjects ranging from the Louvre without its
visitors to a mental clinic or even a zoo.
I am not so much interested in the location itself, as in the small
communities that live in it. The aim of my work is to show how we can all
coexist by surpassing our codes of behavior, our differences, how we can see
other people's desires and uniqueness - and therefore cooperate with each
other. You know, it's not an easy thing to do. Other people are always a
nuisance because they take us out of our security and expose us to all sorts
of emotional dangers; they put us through hardships and make us drop our
defenses. I did a documentary on a mental clinic, the reason being that I
wanted to get acquainted with the world of madness which scares us because
the line between what we consider normality and what we call paranoia is
very thin. I gradually managed to get close to these people and my
prejudices were eliminated because I saw their personalities. Each one of us
is a hero and the star of his own life. Cinema can draw on small events in
our daily routine, like the one I mentioned before, a child learning to
write and to withstand the critical look of its classmates.
The five films directed by Philibert chosen for screenings during the fifth
Thessaloniki Documentary Festival are "La Ville Louvre" (Louvre City, 1990),
"Le Pays des Sourds" (In the Land of the Deaf, 1993), "La Moindre des
Choses" (Every Little Thing, 1997), "Un Animal, des Animaux" (Animal,
Animals, 1996), and "Etre et Avoir" (To Be and To Have, 2002).