I have been acquainted with the magazine Bref: le magazine du court métrage (1) and have followed its articles on short films for many years now. Bref is the only French –and perhaps, the only magazine anywhere in the world– entirely dedicated to short films. Founded in 1989, it has just published its 105th edition. The magazine not only has articles and analyses on every genre of shorts, but also provides information about upcoming film festivals, special short film evenings, and news on the world of short films in general. Editions come with a DVD containing a selection of the films discussed in the magazine.
In November 2011 it published a beautiful special issue to celebrate its 100th edition. Published within it were about twenty conversations between filmmakers (of different generations), philosophers and scientists, discussing the diverse genres, concepts and techniques approached in short films, thus describing clearly the evolution of the moving picture during the last two decades since Bref’s inception. The editorial letter written by Jacques Kermabon (known as “Mr Bref”) reflecting on the style and spirit of the magazine (rather than choosing to brag about its achievements) inspired me to translate it into English so that more people could get to know of the magazine’s existence. (2) It is indeed an achievement to have kept this specialised short film magazine going for so many years.
With it’s enthralling editorial line –or should I say, its non-editorial line!– Bref was created to be a free spirited magazine, with no editorial committee, where authors publishing in other cinema magazines could here write articles on any short film and filmmaker of their choice, free to choose whatever style and whichever angle they wanted to express their thoughts on, whether it be on fiction, documentary, animation, experimental film, clip video art… Many future feature film directors were first profiled in Bref when at the stage of their first or second short film production. (3)
Bref is not only a movie magazine for filmmakers and film professionals, cinephiles and film students, but also a magazine for the general public, rich in revelations, in styles and in diversity, thus specializing in the multi-form character of the genre and more widely about the present and the future of cinema in general. Apart from its print issue, Bref’s activities spread to cinema theatres where they organise, in Paris, monthly evenings of short film screenings. Bref also has a web presence, www.brefmagazine.com, and the editorial team is working on publishing its film articles with the videos that they show within the framework of its existing web magazine: la Petite Lucarne.
Translating Jacque Kermabon’s 100th issue editorial letter was one thing, I still wanted answers to broader questions, like, who and why would someone stick to publishing a monthly (and then in time a bimonthly), about the short cinematographic genre? So much work and energy is involved in such a magazine, which is getting to be more voluminous as the years go by, demanding more energy, conviction and curiosity for research, communication and coordination. Bref is run by a very small team who does everything from A to Z themselves, such as, insuring the magazine’s distribution, sales, and promotion. One can imagine the difficulties encountered and how it would have been impossible to win the challenge of keeping a magazine like Bref alive with fascinating discoveries for its readers during these last twenty-plus years. Dedication, passion and commitment to do this work is without a doubt a necessary quality.
Therefore I arranged to meet with the Bref duo, Jacques Kermabon (chief editor) and Sylvie Delpech (assistant editor) in a Parisian cafe and asked them if they would tell us Bref’s story and their own story.
Jacques, how did you get to be involved in the Bref adventure?
Jacques Kermabon: Published by the L’Agence du court métrage, (4) Bref was established in 1989 by François Ode. I had met François at a ciné-club in a suburb of Paris when I was in high school, he and I were passionate about cinema, he was a teacher at that time. One day, a little more than twenty years ago, I had a call from François who asked me to work with him, for years he had actively fought to set up an agency to support short films and their filmmakers as there was nothing of the kind in France apart from film co-ops which had a different mission. When finally the CNC (the French National Film Commission) recognized the Agence du court métrage as a public utility and allotted a grant for its creation, François became the president and left his teaching position. As I was already writing in movie magazines, François said, “I would like to create a cinema review dedicated to short film; I really like the paper you wrote about Patrick Bokanowski on The Angel.” This is how I found myself working with the magazine, not by passion for short film but by passion for cinema. Unfortunately, François died prematurely in 1995, this is when I was asked to continue François’ work and became the chief editor, and I have continued his work in the same spirit.
What did you think about working for a magazine which specialized only in short films rather than feature films?
JK. I think it is interesting to remind ourselves that there had been a long struggle since the end of the fifties in France to do something to support and recognize the short film genre and this had not been really possible until the eighties when the Government of Francois Mitterrand came into power and Jack Lang, the then Minister of Culture, allotted money for incentives of this kind. So of course, I found it very exciting. It was innovative and different. As I said, I don’t draw a distinction between short or feature, they are both movies. To tell you the truth, I didn’t think this kind of magazine would last very long. But it has. I found and still find, that the freedom and the approach we have always had in writing about films we choose to and for the reason we want to, is possible exactly because it is a magazine about short films and that no-one else is doing this work, mainly because it is not mainstream. This approach touched the very heart of cinema and I wanted to learn and talk about it. The adventure of finding and meeting filmmakers who are in the stages of experimenting and establishing their personality through the short form was and is still, an exciting adventure for me. For me, it has always been the same whether to write about a short movie or to write about a feature film, it is all cinema to me. The thing I really liked from the beginning was to be committed to the magazine for all it carried and defended. I have never made a distinction between the way to approach a feature film or a short film in the way I write about these films. I always just write about films and the cinema.
What do you think the future Bref will be?
JK. I don’t think about it. We don’t have time to think about it! We are such a small team, Sylvie and I do almost everything, we have a lot to think about and get done. We are constantly on the go, always in the work, getting an issue ready, going to festivals, watching and discovering new films. I really don’t separate my everyday private life with my professional Bref life, it’s all one life and I find myself committed to them both in the same way. It’s an ongoing process. I was surprised to see we had made it to the one 100th issue though!
Sylvie, how did you get to know Bref magazine and then work for it?
Sylvie Delpech. As a teenager, when I discovered short films through the festivals, I became passionate about the genre when I saw that I could see lots and lots of different films and by so many diverse filmmakers. I can’t really say why I loved this format, maybe because I was part of the “zapping” generation. Maybe because of something I am still trying to find out about! So I was constantly looking out for when and where the next short film festival was, to see more new films and discover new filmmakers. I found out about Bref when I discovered that all the information I was after was in the magazine and to read about the films and the way they were written about, became as much a pleasure. It was exciting to follow the filmmakers which I had read about, to see and look out for their films. I never thought short films were different to feature films, I just liked the genre. So I decided I wanted to work for Bref, and then when I met Jacques and that it became possible for me to work for the magazine, this became a very important part of my life.
How is it working together? Do your opinions differ?
SD. Well yes, sometimes we do have different opinions about the films but it doesn’t really matter, I guess this is the ingredient we want in the magazine! It is as though we don’t have to speak to know what needs to be done for the magazine to be at its best for its readers. We are aware how much work we put into it but don’t really see the time we put into it. It is the same for me as it is for Jacques, Bref is part of my everyday life.
The 100th edition is the first special edition in the form it has. It has had a lot of success. It is a collector’s edition in a way.
JK. Yes. Sylvie and I had great pleasure in thinking up the conception and working with the filmmakers and writers who were all enthusiastic about contributing to the issue. It has given us the hope that we can publish a more luxurious magazine in the future, with finer paper and maybe with more articles and more experimentation in what we can create. We are aware that a paper edition is not sufficient today and we are thinking of ways to getting an online section of Bref organised before too long. We have come to the realisation that if we have now reached the 105th edition that there is a demand and that people are interested in the genre, so there is a need to find more ways for distribution. Our financial support has it that we have to do a lot by ourselves, be present and promote at the festivals, organise evenings and screenings, deliver to the points of sales and do whatever is needed to make the magazine circulate and be purchased. An online edition is necessary today even though we are strong believers and supporters of the print edition.
This is real dedication not only to Bref but to cinema. And in honour of the short film genre.
JK. Well we have come a long way since the fifties when shorts were never even heard of. Through the short film, we certainly see Bref as a means to talk about and share as much as we can about the 7th art. The short film genre is the way we have chosen to do this, we love and we are dedicated to it, but again, we never see it differently from the feature. Francois Ode’s original idea was to help filmmakers who had little or no financial help with an agency which would assist them in being the provider to festivals and to distributors and to create a place where they would not feel alone. His idea of creating a magazine, Bref, by the agency, in order to give out information and to create a link between the filmmakers and the professionals of course still exists, but the magazine has grown into its own entity with the development of the short genre with so many different cinematographic identities, essay, documentary, animation, clips, experimental… We respect that entity, it has given us new ideas and enables us to write about film and we hope we will continue to do so in as many ways as possible with our writers through Bref for yet a long time.
- For more on Bref see: http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bref,_le_magazine_du_court_m%C3%A9trage http://www.brefmagazine.com/pages/equipe.php http://calindex.eu/parutions.php?op=larevue&larevue=BREF&min=0 http://www.cinergie.be/webzine/jacques_kermabon_redac_chef_de_bref http://www.yellownow.be/livre_detail.php?ItemID=53
- Reprinted in this issue of Senses of Cinema, see: “The Desire and the Exception” by Jacques Kermabon
- Inclusive of: Chris Marker — Luc Moullet — Philippe Le Guay — Gunvor Nelson— Arnaud Des Pallières — Mati Diop — Vincent Macaigne— Gunvor Nelson— Naomi Kawase—François Dupeyron — Carole Arcega Agnès Varda — Patrick Bouchitey — Yann Piquer — Zbigniew Rybczynski —Caro+Jeunet — Thierry Knauff — Jaco Van Dormael — Jean-Louis Le Tacon — Artavazd Pelechian — Daisy Lamothe — Robert Cahen — Ann Gisel Glass — André Sylvain Labarthe — Roy Andersson — Claire Simon — Mikhail Kobakhizé — Arthur Omar — Dominique Cabrera — Pascale Ferran — Henri Colpi — Thierry Compain — Jan Svankmajer — Matthias Müller — Marcel Lozinski — Laurent Bénégui — Serge Elissalde — Jean-Daniel Pollet — Les Frères Quay — Bertrand Gore et Nathalie Mesuret — Michel Chion — François Ozon — Nathalie Richard — Michaël Gaumnitz — Claude Duty — Johan van der Keuken — Martin Arnold — Caroline Champetier — Olivier Smolders — Yervant Gianikian et Angela Ricci Lucchi — Jean-François Gallotte — Jochen Kuhn — Barry Purves — Serge Bromberg — Lardux Films — Peter Tscherkassky — Marguerite Duras — Jorge Furtado — Anne Benhaïem — Maurice Lemaître — Patrick Bokanowski — William Kentridg — Alain Guiraudie — Claude Pazienza — Michel Jaffrennou — Michel Gondry — Jean-Claude Guiguet — Pointligneplan — Philippe Poirier — Frédérique Devaux — Philippe Lifchitz — Valérie Mréjen — Dominique Gonzalez Foerster — Mario Ruspoli — Guy Maddin — Paul Driessen — Florence Miailhe — Priit Pärn — Akram Zaatari — Norman McLaren — Lech Kowalski — Jocelyne Desverchère — Gianni Toti — Jacques Mitsch — Florence Auffret — Justin Taurand — Hélène Châtelain — Klonaris/Thomadaki — Jean-Gabriel Périot — Nicolas Provost — Gisèle et Luc Meichler — Sergueï Dvortsevoy — Guido van der Werve — FJ Ossang — Toshio Matsumoto — Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster — Boris Lehman — Ben Russel — Marylène Negro — Gianluigi Toccafondo — Ben Rivers — Johanna Vaude — François Vogel
- France’s Short film Agency: http://www.agencecm.com/