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ISSN 1409-6900 | UDK 82+7     Blesok no. 74 | volume XIII | September-October, 2010



                     Peer-reviewed journal
Blesok no. 74September-October, 2010
Gallery Reviews

Staging Reality in Order to Discover the Historical Paradigm

Alternative Interpretation of the Past in Documentary Film

p. 1
Martin Palúch

Specific cases of Czech and Slovak documentaries dealing with the issue of subjective history are scarce in the common Czechoslovak cinematography. The number of films using a subjective viewpoint when interpreting history in both these national cinemas appeared as late as after the dissolution of the Czechoslovak federation in 1993. The change has been associated with the subject of coming to terms with the national past, the discovery of collective identity and the re-evaluation of the past in view of the repercussions of historical events on individual subjectivity. A distinctive feature of these films is a typical departure from the “great” linearly progressive histories as seen by positivist philosophy and a focus on the search for the truth about man – a truth presented through a subjective experience as a contact with history. When discussing alternative history, one implies its relation with the classical interpretations of great histories. That is to say, the alternative view on historical events develops from the variety of subjectively narrated stories. These narratives of the histories of individuals and of civic groups are intended to deliver an alternative representation of historical events. This representation has sometimes been founded on imprecise memories, emotional constructs, as well as on the impossibility to verify what has been said or the affiliation to certain groups (nationality, society). Peter Kerekes’ documentaries have originated from two sorts of archive materials which, for better orientation, might be divided into official and private archives. In most cases these are visual (postcards, photographs, silent videos) or audio-visual materials (archived comments) which, according to the principles of the documentary, come into conflict with the current statements of specific individuals – immediate participants in great histories. Their interpretation is not based on the small, fragmentary narratives. Hence we might call them subjective histories. The very conflict between subjective commentary and archive materials is typical of this “alternative” type of documentary cinematography.
    There have been other similar films in the region, but as part of other national cinemas. In Hungary, for instance, a typical representative of these sorts of films is director Peter Forgács; in Austria we might speak of a philosophical and experimental avant-garde in film, represented by Gustav Deutsch, Peter Tscherkassky, Martin Arnold and others who research into the relationship of the film medium toward the history of the image, view, or narration. All these tendencies in terminology are marked as found footage films since their

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