A film festival is never a finished work, but a work in progress, an open shop, a kind of stop-frame that attempts to unite, in a brief encounter, the image of the world and the world of images, both in constant movement. Each festival, while following a direct historical trajectory (its own personal, human trajectory) is a self-contained event, both repeating and unrepeatable, capturing the evolution of thought and the more humble day to day work; a structure that melds bodies, spaces, viewpoints, acts, words; a party that, in a few days, expends the energies, resources and knowledge that have accumulated over a whole year.The 50th Festival dei Popoli, previously intended to act as an international shuttlecock (a point of arrival and departure for the world of documentary film), in actuality finds itself, despite the current world crisis and the financial deficit bound to affect the arts, virtue-hunting, seeking to make the best use of its resources and wit to realize an event worthy of its name. Last year’s program focused on three diachronic outlooks: looking backward at past films, reporting on the present, and creating workshops for the future. Ditto this year. Bit by bit, the Festival is shaping into a modern event (within its limited means), not only thinking of films as objects to be shown or subjects to reflect upon, but doing its all to foster the ideas and resources for films to come.
In the 2009 edition, the voice of “the past” is definitely the most relevant, primarily due to the fact that the Festival dei Popoli has both the honor and burden of measuring up to its fifty year-long renown as a unique institution on the world stage. Not only is it the first festival to focus exclusively on documentary film, it also houses a special Archive whose potential is perhaps still only known to a select few. The present writer is speaking as a “non-Florentine,” from the viewpoint of a “foreigner” who has long admired the legacy of this cultural institute. Fifty years of exploring humans in their various shapes and sizes (psychological, ethnic, social, political) provide good rest stops along the road. Recently, the question “How do we celebrate our fiftieth anniversary?” has run through our minds a lot, alongside another, much trickier one: “How can we avoid patting ourselves on the back? How do we avoid being banal?” I’m not sure this answer will satisfy everyone, but what we found most exciting, closest to the theoretical challenges we like to confront, was to look back on the years in which the Festival was formed, the films that time period produced, putting together classic documentaries, new “direct” cinema, experimental works, films that mix fact and fiction. The end of the ‘50s was a period of great creativity, innovation, hope and toil to unite theory and practice. Remembering that period is not just a pure and simple “The way we were”, but a means of claiming one’s roots, films for which the Festival was founded and from which it still gets all of its vital energy. We have chosen as many lesser known and forgotten films as cult movies to represent the period, and we hope they’ll excite audiences as much as they did us.official website article by Luciano Barisone