Recently in the Master’s in Creative Documentary, Alan Bergalá, French filmmaker and critic, pioneer in the introduction of film education in the school education system, reminded us of the Lacanian difference between two concepts: “reality” and “what is real”. Reality is what we see, what is outside of us before our eyes, to be seen and photographed, to show friends after a trip to the other side of the world. “What is real”, on the other hand, is that which is hidden, that which cannot be revealed and only appears when we least expect it, or when we wait and are not looking for it. “What is real” is what emerges. We can provoke it, even prepare it, but what is real will appear whenever it wants to, and always in a place where the thinking subject can never find it. The construction of meaning is the greatest enemy of “what is real”, Bergalá said. Therefore, in the maelstrom of attributing meaning to everything, and in the eagerness of production and efficiency, quite often, we lose contact with something as intangible as what is real. It escapes us, before our eyes, without us having even seen it.
It is not surprising that great filmmakers of ‘what is real’, like Frederic Wiseman, last year’s honoris causa, someone who has portrayed the largest institutions in his country, the United States, confesses to the media that he does not watch current films or TV series. His only film reference is Chaplin. Or that Victor Kossakovsky, the Russian filmmaker who filmed in the antipodes, takes students to the museum and convinces them that without having read The Brothers Kalamazov or War and Peace, he would not have made even one of his films.
Culture, art, literature, or any artistic expression, is what prepares us for “what is real”, to look at the world in a different way, and finally to experience it in another way. Whatever we do from day to day offers us the tools so that when what is real emerges we are able to see it and use it with what we are doing. And so, to turn it into something unique and singular, something that nobody but us can do. Because “what is real” captures our gaze, our way of making something visible. And that does not depend on resources or the position we are going to obtain, but only on our conscience.
Film director and academic coordinator of the Master’s in Creative Documentary