”One of Sweden’s most important directors”
”En envis och oförvägen rebell.”
”En av vår tids unika svenska filmkonstnärer.”
”Den mest hyllade av svenska dokumentärfilmare sedan slutet av 60-talet.”
”Stefan Jarl är en av tidernas största dokumentärfilmare.”
”The greatest unknown documentary filmmaker currently at work.”
”Stefan Jarl var och är en centralfigur i svensk film.”
”Tribute to Stefan Jarl, Sweden documentary Master.”
”Stefan Jarl är sedan snart 50 år uthållig och temperamentsfull förgrundsgestalt i svensk film.”
”One of Europe´s leading documentary film makers.”
”Stefan Jarl är dokumentärfilmens Ingmar Bergman”
”Outstanding work in the documentary field.”
”One of the world´s most distinguished documentarists.”
”Stefan Jarl är och förblir den svenska filmens evige rebel.”
One of Swedens most important directors.
”Stefan Jarl zählt zu den wichtigsten Dok-Filmern Europas”
”Den svenska dokumentärfilmens nestor”
A life-long profane firebrand.”
”Stefan Jarl demonstrates with each passing year that he must be numbered among the world’s major documentarists.”
”1959 sökte jag upp den Oscarsbelönade filmregissören Arne Sucksdorff. Han skulle spela in en långfilm i mina hemtrakter. Jag fick vara med som springpojk. Sedan dess har jag arbetat med film.
I mina filmer försöker jag vara en representant för ”mannen på gatan”, ge röst till dem som ingen har.
Sucksdorff hade som motto att ”det gäller att hitta den rätta balansen mellan poesi och sanning”. Jag har under mer än 50 år gjort 40 filmer. Nu förstår jag att också jag strävat efter detta credo.”
Let’s begin at the beginning.
What is a documentary film? Exactly what characterizes a documentary? There are three criteria:
1. Julia Roberts is not in it.
2. If you enter a movie theatre and it is completely empty, then you can be sure that they are showing a documentary.
3. If there is one person in the audience and he or she isn’t laughing, you can be equally certain that it is a documentary.
Joking aside, one generally associates documentaries with cinéma vérité. Cinema vérité is defined as a movie that is both objective and accurate. What we see is the truth, filmed by the filmmaker in a certain sequence. The scenes flash before our eyes, objectively put together, as close to the actual sequence of events as possible. That is how filmmakers love to perceive the situation; they see the filmmaker as a so-called True Witness.
Nothing could be further from the truth. There is no such thing as an accurate and objective documentary. The filmmaker affects the situation when he or she enters a room with a camera. An immediate psychological transformation takes place. Someone objects to being filmed and someone else thinks, ”Why didn’t I wash my hair?” Another person is in the midst of planning his or her Hollywood career, just waiting to be discovered, and so forth. None of these things would have happened if the filmmaker and a camera had not been in the room at the time.
The intelligent spectator is aware of all this. Movie scenes are never shown in the order they were filmed. They are always rearranged to suit the filmmaker’s purpose. A filmmaker is a manipulator. He or she arranges the scenes in the manner thought best. That’s why the audience is there in the first place. An audience is meant to be manipulated. The mare manipulation the better. ”I don’t make objective and accurate documentaries, I make feature films,” says American Robert Wiseman, who has probably been more closely associated with cinema vérité than anyone else in modern times.
There is no difference between a documentary and a feature film. However, the nature of each is different. They both came into being so that filmmakers could express themselves. There is always a person behind the images on the silver screen, and the easier it is to discern that person the better.
The Swedish national television company rule book states that television documentaries must be objective and accurate. If they are not, the Swedish national television company will not broadcast them. I detest television and never watch it. I have never made a television film for one simple reason; I hate objectivity and truth. My movies are subjective; they express my truth. The world and how it is presented is directly related to how I experience it. Other people and their experiences have nothing to do with it. My perception consists of the things I see and what I consider important, not what other people see and think. Furthermore, I want to influence others using what I have seen.
What I have seen is important to see and what is more, my vision of what I have seen is more valid than the perceptions of others in this respect. To tell you the truth, I want everyone else to see things as I see them.
I make movies because I want to influence others.
The filmmaker who implies that he or she is making an objective and accurate movie, in other words the television filmmaker, is deceitful and two-faced. Such filmmakers want us to believe that they portray the only true image of reality. That is not true. They are, in fact, being untruthful. The truth is that they are playing the client’s game. They do as they are told and ding to objectivity and truth. The worst thing of all is that the orderer, the state-owned Swedish television company, in actuality the Swedish government, holds all the power. The objective and truthful filmmaker carries out the will of the powers that be.
Who wants to watch movies that express the values and hierarchies of the powers that be? My movies are not part of a world of false suppositions and agreements. They belong to the proud European tradition of rebellion; my movies represent another way of looking at and perceiving reality. They are on the side of the common man. Not only that, they profess to be the voice of ordinary people, the people whose voices we seldom hear. That’s why the man in the street is my protagonist.
A good documentary is only as good as the rapport between the people in front of the camera and the people behind it. Bad relationships make bad films. Every person has his or her own story that deserves to be made into a movie, but few movies touch on such matters.
In 1922, Flaherty’s movie Nanook opened in Sweden. It was a big success. More than seventy-five years later I was fortunate to have a similar experience with my film A Respectable Life. It became one of the most successful films in the history of Swedish documentaries. Like Nanook, it deals with ordinary people and that is exactly why it is so unique. After his success, Flaherty received many offers to make more Nanooktype films. Someone told him about an island called Aran in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. The people there were said to lead a harsh existence that was primarily dependent upon fishing. Flaherty went to the island to make a documentary about these poor but industrious people. When he got to the island, he realized that the things he had heard about the inhabitants were completely untrue. The people had put their narrow wooden boats on land and not used them for many years. Be had been told tales of a bygone era. What should he do now? Should he return home? Flaherty shed a tear and went for a walk. Be had come a long way and might as well make a movie after all. Although becoming leaky, the old boats were not yet completely rotted. Be managed to find a couple of old fishermen at the retirement home who hadn’t completely forgotten how to row the old boats. So, why not continue as planned? The old men out in the huge waves would make great footage! It would look as if they were endangering their lives to earn a living. Take it from me, it was a great documentary, full of action and breathtaking scenes. Eat your heart out, Arnold Schwarzenegger; Man of Aran has it all! There’s nothing that Flaherty hasn’t done. Be is the father of the creative documentary, and I carry on in the same tradition.
I make my movies for the silver screen using 35-millimeter film and Dolby Stereo Sound. In my native country of Sweden, 85 percent of the movies are American in origin. I am fully aware of this fact and I know that I have to compete against such films for my audience. I have to be just as adept at captivating audiences as the American filmmakers are. I have nothing against competition; I’ve seen the beginning of Jurassic Park forty times.
I cannot deny that competing with American movies is hard, especially if you are outside the sphere of the commercial filmmaking business and the giant television monopolies. It’s not easy to get production capital. You have to finance the movies you want to make with the’ money you can get your hands on, primarily from your audience. I call this my Robin Hood strategy. I take from the rich and give to the poor ones closest to my heart, namely me. My strategy works something like this: I court government agencies and similar bodies that control vast sums of money. I tell them that I want to make a movie about the activities of their government agency, showing their work in the best possible light. I offer my services to them as a commercial filmmaker’ and I convince them that r am the one who can portray their agency or similar body in an outstanding way. This is music to an agency director’s ears. Later, I use the money I get to make movies of my own. For example, if I receive funds from the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency I use them to make a movie criticizing the Environmental Protection Agency in Sweden. Making a good film is very important. Otherwise, a government agency might turn the matter over to the police and claim that I swindled them. They could even send me to jail. However, if you make an outstanding movie that a150 happens to win a prize at a renowned international film festival, the authorities tend not to bother you. Everybody loves a winner, don’t they? Robin Hood was not at all worried about being wanted by the government of his day, and neither am I.
This kind of strategy only works if you are your own producer, scriptwriter, director, distributor, and movie theatre owner. I am all these things. I have been involved in establishing a non-commercial distribution company called Film-Centrum and a commercial chain of movie theatres known as Folkets Bio in my country. For example, Misfits to Yuppies is playing at one of our movie theatres in Stockholm at the time of writing. It’s now in its third year. I received the European Academy Award for Misfits to Yuppies in 1993.
There are many more subtle problems in making documentaries today. . One is that no one wants to be considered a documentary filmmaker. Everyone wants to be thought of as a creator of feature films. Nowadays, filmmakers make documentaries while they are waiting for a chance to make their first feature film. Film schools start with documentaries as exercises before students move onto the real thing, namely feature films. The Swedish government subsidizes feature films at a rate ten times greater than the amount allocated for documentary film productions. Documentaries are rarely reviewed on opening night, and a documentary may never be reviewed at all. Books on the subject of film history almost never mention documentary films. People tend to think of them as second-class films akin to the lumpenproletariat of the art of film.
The idea that the documentary belongs in the gutter is common among the elite in society, and it can drive the most insensitive person crazy. Depicting reality is not fashionable. Perhaps it’s because we are so saturated with information nowadays that we are unable to absorb more reality. People are looking for relaxation, escapism, antireality and fiction. What happens to a society that is unwilling to see any longer?
In my opinion, it’s a blessing that documentaries are in the gutter. That’s where they belong; documentaries should be in places like dirty factories, retirement homes, Sarajevo, mining galleries, culverts, and hospital corridors. Documentaries should also be in the homes of the hungry and the unemployed, with vagrants and the outcasts, in the dark passages and neighbourhoods, on the park benches, in prisons, with the downtrodden and the oppressed, the abused, the unjustly rewarded, and with those whom we have deprived of everything and alongside people without a voice the unseen and the unheard. In short, documentaries should cover the backyard of society, the home of the guttersnipe.
This is the historical mission and fate of the documentary film. Such films cannot expect to captivate audiences at the finer movie theatres around town.
It is becoming harder for documentaries to survive at movie theatres. Television companies turn their backs on them more often than .not. The same calls for entertainment and diversion are echoing throughout Europe.
A fear of being earnest and of speaking in real earnest too. We must not allow the documentary film to disappear. If it does, how can we protect ourselves against prejudice, misconceptions, myths and disinformation?
Stefan Jarl received a Silver Medallion at the Telluride Film Festival in 1993 for his work as a European documentarian. His credits include Threat (IDA Award, 1987; L.A. Critics Award, 1992); Time Has No Name and Jåvna, Reindeer Herdsman in the år 2000, both IDA Award nominees; A Respectable Life (Silver Plaque), Chicago Film Festival; and Misfits to Yuppies (Felix Award, 1993).
Den sanna konsten känner inga regler och kräver absolut frihet.
Den sanna konsten solidariserar sig med det som aldrig blev sagt.
Den sanna konsten skyr de snusförnuftiga ideologiernas trashankar.
Den sanna konsten har alltid gjort de fattiga förmögna.
Den sanna konsten är aldrig förhandlingsbar.
Den sanna konsten har aldrig gått någons ärenden och alltid svikit sina välgörare.
Den sanna konsten talar alltid sanning.
Den sanna konsten har aldrig marscherat i takt.
Den sanna konsten har alltid gjort anspråk på allt eller inget.
Den sanna konsten befinner sig alltid i upprorets centrum.
Den sanna konsten skyr medlöperiets tusenfotingar.
Den sanna konsten ger den stumme röst och den svage muskler.
Den sanna konsten avstår aldrig från att lägga ribban högt.
Den sanna konsten hittar alltid sin publik.
Den sanna konsten är brottsligt lojal sitt uttryck.
Den sanna konsten kräver inga hängslen till yttrandefrihetens byxor.
Den sanna konsten vårdar sina vänner – men än mer sina fiender.
Den sanna filmkonsten kippar efter andan. Under trycket av marknadskrafternas lagar håller den på att förblöda. Konsumismen har brett sitt kvävande täcke över de egentliga upphovspersonerna och gett makten åt spekulativa producenter och marknadschefer. Den officiella institutionen på filmområdet, Svenska Filminstitutet, har reducerats till hantlangare åt det privata kapitalet trots att avsikten var den motsatta.
Den sanna filmkonsten har berövats sin ursprungliga och inneboende kraft, vilse som den är i stödsystemets djungel, klängande i konsulenternas lianer, spekulerande i efterhandsstödets storlek, avväpnad av monopolets enfald och industrins kassafixering, långt ifrån vad den skulle kunna vara om den slapp ut ur beroendets bur. Det kortsiktiga vinstintresset har krossat kinematografins förmåga att gestalta verklighetens djup till förmån för den stumma ytan och ögonblickets underhållning. Den sanna filmkonsten är inte lite löst prat, lika lite som litteratur eller teater.
1963 års Filmreform har havererat. Beslutet att överlämna makten åt de ekonomiska producenterna och reducera filmskaparna till betjänter är lika katastrofalt som det parodiska automatstödet som betjänar de redan kapitalstarka. Bristen på produktionskapital är en magnifik politisk fadäs, lika stor som accepterandet av biografmonopolets etablering.
Den sanna filmkonsten är den mest suveräna av alla konstarter, en syntes av alla hittills uppfunna uttrycksmedel, den enda konstart som totalt kan invadera våra sinnen och hejda hjärnans analyserande diktat, slunga oss in i framtidens kaos och tillåta oss att solidarisera oss med våra egna förutsättningar och villkor.
Vi måste rädda den sanna filmkonsten undan konsumismens kvicksand och dess slutgiltiga förstening i schablonernas snickerier. Det är vår plikt att förhindra att den sanna filmkonsten förtvinar i de gamla strukturernas fängelse. Vi måste återerövra kinematografin och överlämna den till dess egentliga ägare, fantasins uppfinnare.
Svenska Filminstitutet måste inför förstatligandet 2017, slutgiltigt och en gång för alla, kapa förtöjningarna till den kommersiella filmbranschen och driva verksamheten i sin egen rätt.
My influences are a mix of different heroes: when I grow up I read the great swedish author August Strindberg at a too early age! (And later on I replaced him with Pier Pasolini). I saw the films of the Italian Neo-Realists (de Sica ”The Bicyclethief’, the Fellini films), the New Wave from France during the 50’s (one of the best films ever made is Truffault’s film ”Le 400 coups”). But most of all I am mad about paintings. From the Renaicanse, Leonardo da Vinci, Lorenzo di Credi, Andrea del Sarto, and later on Rembrandt and the Impressionists: Renoir, Degas, Monet, Cezanne, and so on. (But also our swedish painters like Zorn, Liljefors.)
During my whole life music has been very important for me, all the Blues artists, jazz and rock, I’ve always been collecting records and is a frequent concert visitor.
When it comes to films first of all there is two directors that ment much to me on a personal level: the father of the swedish documentary, the Oscar-awarded Arne Sucksdorff, who was my teacher and Guru. The secoond one is also swedish: the fiction filmmaker Bo Widerberg. At an early age I lost my father: instead I made Sucksdorff first and then Widerberg my new father. 1 worked with them and learned from them. I’ve made films about them, now when they are dead. ”Beauty will save the world” is about Sucksddorff, ”Life at any cost” is about Widerberg.
But there are many more that has influenced my way of making films like: Fernando Solanas ”La hora de los homos”, Joris Ivens ”Le misere de Borinage”, Antonioni ”La Notte”, Santiago Alvarez ”Son of America” , Pontecorvo ”Battle of Alger”, Ylmar Gunez ”The Herd”, and Robert Flaherty ”Nanook”, ”Man of Aran”. And more: Herzog, the Taviani brothers, Angelopolos, Dryer, Stroheim, Kurosawa …..
I’m a child of the ”1968-revolution”. And I really think it was a revolution. I grew up without TV, only radio. We tried to understand the world from books and cinema. What happened during the sixties was that the Third World, the Feminist movement, USA as the World Police in Vietnam – all this exploded in our minds and formed our values. We really thought that a new world was possible- and was needed. We demonstrated, we marched and as a young filmmaker I started together with other people the Union among filmmakers, we started one distribution company for non-commercial film, Film Centrum, and one for our commercial films, Folkets Bio. We started a filmmagazine which I’m still responsible for and writes for.
I think that the human beeing is a political animal. Everything You do is in a context of other people and influence them. Everything is possible. I deeply respect people, I admire what people has made during our history- all this I’ve learned from working together with the people from -68, but also with the new· generation, the young people· who ciimb the
barricades of today.
All my films are films of resistance. They all start with the Individual -and try to say
something to the rest of the world! I know that this sounds stupid. But if You look into the
soul of the poor man in the street, you look into the soul of everyone, that’s what I think. You can understand everyone and everything, a drug addict, a farmer down south, a Sarni lapp up north, whore or saint, I don’t care, to me they are all the same. And they have a history to tell worth listening to.
A good documentary is a good relation between the director behind the camera and the
person in front of the camera. lfthe relation is good the film is good, if it is bad, the film is bad. Nothing else matters. This also means that when You end your film You don’t end your relation, you have to take responsability for the people in your films when the films are finished. This also means consequences. When ”Kenta” from my trilogy (I made films with him for more than 25 years) died last year, his last wish was to die in my house with my
family -and so he did.
But I have problems with one thing: people at the top. Did I ever understand one of them? I hope I’m not a part of their history.
My idea is that there is NO DIFFERENCE AT ALL between a fiction film and a documentary. Of course a documentary needs the authentic scenes , but when it comes to structure there is no difference. A fiction film is build by a script, actors, stage, set and so on. And a documentary is build by the authentic scenes as a base but also by fiction elements, like arranged scenes, music, intelligent sound work and so on.
For me, film is manipulation. Zola already said it: ”Art is a corner of the world seen by a subject”. Pasoloini said it more provocative: ”Even naturalism or realism is manipulation”! And I agree. The more manipulation, the better. IF You have an idea like this it is extremely important to make Yourself visible, You, the director, must tell the audience that you are there -to manipulate them! For 90 minutes. It’s always someone behind a film, a director, who wants to say something
Fredrick Wiseman, a filmmaker very much identified as the pure cinema verité traditionalist, says:” I’m not a documentarist, I’m a fiction filmmaker” and John Huston says it in another way: ”The only difference between a fiction film and a documentary is: when I make a fiction film I write the script first and then shoot, when I make a documentary I first shoot and then make the script”. Wise guys, both of them.
Film is first of all – montage. The montage is film. No other art has montage. Editing is the key. Eisenstein’s ”Potemkin” made it first. All we can do is to follow.
We live in a complex world, all the time media tell us lies, the global information always tends to make reality too simple, falsified, bound to interests, prejudiced. Film can show you how the world really is.
The task for the film director is to give voice to them who has no voice. Film as art has a mission: to make you see things you haven’t seen before, to make you feel and think things you haven’t felt or thought before. You have to put the world together again, to create it one more time. You can do that with montage, with editing. God was first, yes, but the filmdirector is second!
I take off my hat to Dziga Vertov (I just saw his ”Man with a Camera” again), Alvarez is outstanding, his film about Allende is one of the most moving documentary films made.
I very much identify with the Young kids, ”the new generation”. I’m very proud that two of my children· are part of this generation with a social and political conscience. ( One of them have just been to Palestine with the International Solidarity Movement for two months, and even made a half hour film about the Palestinian struggle for freedom.)
It’s tragic that the society look upon them as ”terrorists”. They are not. The people in power are the true terrorists, always ready to start new wars, use violence against the dissentients, prevent people’s need for wellfare.
And it is tragic to call them ”alternative” . I’m one of them, I don’t want to be ”alternative”, I want to be real. The kids of -68 was a European thing, the new movement of today is global, connected to the whole world. And that is very good. It gives me hope for the future.
Punks, yes, they are a part of it, a very small but necessary part. I guess if I was 13 I would be a punk …
The social role of the cinema is to change the world. I’m very naive, I really think that you can rescue the world with a camera!