Documentary both reveals and hides stories

‘Documentaries always hide great stories’: this was the phrase that Mark Reid, Head of Education at the British Film Institute kept in his mind from my presentation in the Film Literacy day in La Ciotat, south of France a month ago. He added: “we usually think that documentaries tell stories, but you interestingly showed how many the hide…”.

A Melies studio photo decorated the programme.

A Melies studio photo decorated the programme.

In my presentation I deliberately deconstructed a short length documentary I did 3 years ago about a traveler child in the suburbs of Athens. The “truth” which was guiding me through my research and shooting period, was completely challenged and subverted a year after the film had finished. I had chosen the young girl as a character because she wanted to get out of the ghetto and had a wish to continue school. This girl, never made it: she gradually dropped out following the majority of her community. As it proved, two “directors” were not enough to help her not quit. Firstly, the school director, a unique teacher well known for her systematic efforts to bring and keep Roma kids in the school and second, me, a  film director who cared enough not only during shooting but also after. Truth as always, is bigger than documentaries.

The sister of my protagonist learning life in a muddy road.

The sister of my protagonist learning life in a muddy road.

The educational aspect

In a film literacy context, the presentation developed to show how the film itself gives us several chances to read it as a space for communication, information exchange, language development and form creation . Meaning that documentary can be very useful from a media education point of view, something rare, as, usually, fiction films are used for this purpose.