We could have found many ways to celebrate our 100th Bref edition. We could have chosen to write about one or even many questions, some suitable issues that may have caught our attention in a page of history; we could have chosen to write on the subject around an existing controversy. We could have developed the subject on the various transformations brought about by digital technology or the internet; these inevitably would have all had their place here. We could have decided to dedicate articles on a selection of the best short films, to remind everyone that we had discovered the first movies of many well-known directors today, or even to compose an anthology or, in passing, to bring to mind our unusual and original way of working, stage memories, and emphasize the indisputable fact that we remain the only magazine in the world today dedicated to short films able to pride ourselves on such longevity.
To re-examine our history would have been the opportunity to measure the distance between the questions which had tormented the short film genre on the horizon of our first issues and the difficulties which are today confined to a field that spreads out into a multitude of directions. The production of images on a film-strip, in essence dedicated to the first part of programs in movie theaters in France, is no longer a dominant factor, even though more than 300 theaters in France are subscribed to the RADI (1), screening weekly for their audiences a short film before a feature.
It is not only the ways of exposure that have evolved but also the nature of the short film form, or let’s say its imagery, on the one hand, because cinema in general has changed, and on the other, because it is more directly in the field of the short film form that the variety of transformations are becoming more powerful. The difficulty of seizing what cinema has become is multiple in an infinitely unstable sector, indefatigably redefined, sometimes bringing forward certainties but mostly probing in the course of unearthing films which push back horizons, opening ways which have not yet been brought to light. Thus, every festival, every audience, re-configures the image of the short form according to their selection, and our editorial decisions have over the years been vigilant, aiming right from the beginning of the magazine not to be in the least way confined to any corporatist feeling, or in the defense of a cause or the rescue of an endangered species.
If the domain of short film production can cause alarm due to its specificities, its economic problems, its modes of exposure, it is also from this point of view that we can question the whole of cinema production itself, and in a sense it is sometimes clearer in this realm than what the feature film realm allows us to evaluate. The essay vein, the varied experimental genre, documentary explorations, infinite wealth in animation, the diverse creations with the moving image in the world of fine arts, video art, the amateur film world, the virtuosities of clip production where more flexibility lies than in any other film form, as it continues to develop, with mixing genres, reworking the lineaments of film expression and irrigating with more or less visibility cinematographic art since its origin.
To this polyphony there is a non-current trend: the mode of exposure of the short film genre does not obey the constraints of the weekly releases whose abundance, more or less, condition the content of the main movie magazines and revues. Our subject of interest, escaping the spiral of media coverage guided by the releases programmed by the industry, is what has allowed us to dedicate full pages to personalities only just vaguely mentioned by our colleagues in other movie magazines, enabling us to elaborate content which does not resemble any other.
The freedom we gave ourselves – unless this was imposed upon us – has a reverse effect; an existence away from media information distribution, marginality and a lack of comfort which you get with trendiness – even if we secretly dream of being placed in a privileged position – a marginality compensated by the attention and the desire to follow closely the successes of short films. There are many, and we are delighted when they coincide with our selection, which is guided by the discovery of our favourite short films. The roundtable which opens this edition of Bref represents the way we conceive a critical exercise.
Finally, out of all the ideas which we imagined when working on this 100th issue, we retained the principle of organizing conversations between filmmakers of different generations. The idea is not new. A few years ago, we had imagined a project involving conversations between Maurice Pialat and young filmmakers, many of whom had looked upon him as an inspiration. But the project never saw the light of day. It seemed to us that, generally speaking, experienced filmmakers rarely took into consideration the work of the young generation of filmmakers (and vice versa), that a relationship, a dialogue, a transmission between both would have been very profitable. Guided by this principle, we asked a young filmmaker (but not only) to suggest the filmmaker (but not only) with whom he would want to have a dialogue under the direction of one of Bref’s regular journalists. We decided also to widen the circle of our writers for this issue. We thought as this idea developed, that if we were to apply it systematically it would become monotonous and quite dull. Luckily, reality took over and we had to take into consideration the ideas, suggestions, and preferences of everyone else involved. This double movement between people of different orientations and being open-minded to exceptions and differences is in accordance with the dynamics which has always animated the spirit of our magazine.
If this 100th Bref rests essentially on unpublished conversations between filmmakers – we also come across an astrophysicist, a doctor, two philosophers – some people preferred to bring their participation to this issue in a different way and it is time to let you discover it with the hope, as it is also the case with good movies, that what we have accomplished exceeds what we had imagined just as much as what we believe to have realised.
This piece first appeared as the editorial letter by the editor-in-chief Jacques Kermabon to Bref magazine’s 100th edition, published in November/December, 2011. Translation from the French by Viviane Vagh.