The independent documentary film -

the next hundred years


For the first time in Europe, this congress will invite filmmakers, their backers and sponsors to debate issues relating to trends, limitations and opportunities for documentary films in the age of mass media. Three days before the start of the International Munich Film Festival 1999, representatives of the documentary film scene in Europe and overseas will meet in the Literaturhaus, Munich. The congress will be held in English and German, with simultaneous translation. Translation facilities for either French or Spanish will also be available.

Documentary films are caught up in a tremendous, world-wide renaissance. There are more documentary filmmakers than ever before, and the public’s appetite for documentary images grows daily. Documentary films are at last popular again. The opportunities and disadvantages of this trend will be discussed in the congress. The requirement to consider programme structures, ratings and the television market has far-reaching effects on the development of the documentary film genre, so much so that some filmmakers ask themselves “Renaissance? we have a renaissance?” or even “Oh no, you mean there are drawbacks to this, too?”

The Munich congress will therefore celebrate the documentary film genre and, at the same time, take a close look at the reality of documentary creativity. This congress is not about mounting an opposition to current trends. The point is simply to turn the world of documentary films upside down for three days - because without creative people, there would be no television and cinema programmes. What are the interests being pursued by independent film writers, independent producers, camera people, sound technicians and film editors? What are their aims in the international cinema and television market, what plans and strategies have they developed? What part does their work play in discussions and calculations? And what does the word “independent” mean?

The European Documentary Film Congress in Munich aims to

    - be a forum for the creative minds  in documentary filmmaking to exchange opinions and experiences;

    - find ways of strengthening the  vitality, diversity and independence of the documentary film genre by  involving backers, sponsors and representatives from the arts and media worlds;

    - emphasise subjects like ”the  international market”, “alternative forms of distribution”, “copyright  and licenses” and “technical innovation”.

To this end, the congress programme will have an international flavour which will allow for a broad spectrum of non-fictional film forms: cinematic feature films, current affairs programmes, docudramas, wildlife programmes, avant-garde short films, etc.

The most important questions in the future will be: who will make the decisions about production and marketing of films (programmes)? Who will finance the films and to what extent? What will happen to the rights? How receptive will television broadcasters be to unconventional films and unconventional subject matter, length and opinions? Does freedom of opinion still exist in television? How can the documentary film genre shake off old prejudices which condemn it as boring, didactic and elitist?


“You must show how a rose smells” - the words used by Robert Flaherty (1884-1951), the great filmwriter, when teaching his students the art of documentary filmmaking, is still the standard to be attained by the documentary film genre today.

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