Sylvain George • Director
"I consider my audience to be extremely intelligent"
- Cineuropa interviewed Sylvain George, director of Qu'ils reposent en révolte, in the context of the Punto de Vista festival in Pamplona.
The prestigious Punto de Vista documentary film festival in Pamplona, north Spain, this year took on the form of an international seminar. It focused mostly on the work of Malay filmmaker Amir Muhammad and French filmmaker Sylvain George, two examples of how to approach political issues through cinema, to open a debate among the audience about the current forms of more experimental and militant film.
How did you decide to make films and why did you choose them as a medium for artistic and personal expression?
Sylvain George: I decided to make films when I was 18. I am very interested in how the actual cinematographic system: entering a dark room and, as this is a break with reality, entering a different space. Cinema is a very complex system that, contrary to philosophy, which is very abstract, plays at once with the intellect and emotions.
In what sociopolitical context did you decide to make films?
In 1996, under a socialist government that, from 1990 to 1993 had right-leaning policies then turned towards liberalism, largely forgetting local people. As for cinema, they were bourgeois films. I couldn't find a single film that took a strong artistic stand or contained a political component, as had always been in the history of cinema.
Your films have been influenced by the work of Walter Benjamin and by the philosophy of Jacques Rancière, who talks about the "audience's emancipation". How does one obtain an emancipated audience?
What is interesting about Rancière is that he is against the ideas that view the audience as being passive. He demonstrates that the mere fact of being a spectator is already an action in which a dialogue is establish with the film. As a filmmaker, I try not to make films that endoctrinate people. I consider my audience to be extremely intelligent, and only from this point of view can a real dialogue be established.
How did your cinematographic form, which mixes politics, poetry, and philosophy, emerge?
I have read a lot of philosophy and have been very interested in political sciences and theories. Cinema is not a unique form of expression, but rather one that speaks in many different continents and along the different lines that have crossed cinema's history: from mainstream cinema to the forms of essays and poetry. I try to make the film that I would like to see, the most beautiful, without, at the same time, seperating form and content.
How do you relate to more institutionalised French cinema?
I make films without any concession, because film is my space for freedom. I make the films that I want to make, but so that they can be seen by the largest amount of people possible in very different places - in cinemas, festivals, and institutions -despite them having underground or militant undertones. I know festivals, and I think I know the risks of institutionalisation, but I also think that it is important to participate in the institutional discourse. There is no reason not to do it, especially as institutions are financed by public money.
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