DISSENT ! ERIC BAUDELAIRE
SCREENING - DISCUSSION
“My work is definitely more on the side of asking questions than affirming possibilities of solutions, but then you can probably push that a little further and say that the act of asking questions can be the premisse of some form of possible decision on a course forward, and that is definitely the place I would consider myself in.”
When Eric Baudelaire sent his first letter to Maxim Gvinjia, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Abkhazia, he was sure it would come straight back with a notice saying “destination unknown”. Because Abkhazia does not exist, at least not according to the United Nations and the majority of the world's governments: it seceded from Georgia during a civil war in 1992-93, but its status remains in limbo, caught in a web of geopolitical interests, ethnic tensions and political unrest. However, the letter did actually arrive, marking the beginning of a long exchange which eventually shaped the fabric of Letters to Max: 74 letters sent over as many days, to which Max responded by recording his comments onto tape. The film became the chronicle of a close friendship, intertwined with the particular history of a stateless state, a place that is both real and imagined, a space in between realities. Just like in his previous film works, notably The Anabasis… (2011) and The Ugly One (2013), both made in collaboration with Masao Adachi, filmmaker and former member of the Japanese Red Army movement, Baudelaire’s new film is grounded in a process of interchange and mutual discovery, a process that leads to unknown destinations, picking up traces of contested histories and unresolved questions on the way. But in any given space of contestation and invention there is no discovery without a sense of confusion and no interchange without a degree of disagreement. So what forms of cinematic perception and interpretation can be constructed as result of this uncertain hovering between different perspectives and sensibilities? How to find a position between refusal and fraternity? How to define the “point of view” of what is inbetween? And what does this enigmatic notion of “point of view” still mean after all, after having done its duty both in the service of Bazinian humanism and of Brechtian distanciation, after having refered to both the gaze of the filmmaker and the blind spot of ideology, both to the position of the author and what it conceals; what can it possibly mean in today’s cinematic landscape, now that it is permeated with a tendency to either lurk in an adherence to “facts… nothing but the facts” or dwell in a borderless sphere of indefinite ambiguity?
Talk with Eric Baudelaire proceeded by a screening of Letters to Max (2014, 103’).