A big chunk of the documentary experience is sneaking a peak at the ‘exotic’ in the broadest sense of the word. Even if its your neighbour dancing the hoolah in his backyard. From this follows the too often casually used description of documentary films being mirrors into society. You walk away with a better understanding of the ‘other’. But attending IDFA is not just for a moment imagining yourself in a hoolah-skirt.
A mirror is an inanimate object with a reflection of something that you can’t really reach. But a documentary film is not a reflection but a component of a reality. And this makes you part of the equation whether you like it or not. You are often not even just a witness, but more an accomplice. The crushed ticket in your pocket that you will find next week while looking for your keys, is proof. Especially when your ticket reads ‘Virginity’ in which Karina the Barbie struck a deal for which she has to expose herself more then she bargained for. The unapologetic director didn’t stop filming and you can’t stop watching (maybe this was exactly his intention). He paid the girl and you paid the ticket. So what are you buying and who? The absence of Carmen and her family at the festival, not wanting to take another risk of exploitation, proclaims you at least a suspect.
I hope you don’t take offence, dear reader, I don’t mean to stop you from watching documentaries. On the contrary. But let’s stop this neo-orientalist talk about mirrors and scents and glances into other worlds. Watching docs, makes you even more a part of the world then you might have been looking for. For instance when you walk out of your door, and see your neighbourhood’s Romanian musician surfing your waste, taking away your Sunday evening leftovers.