Davis Simanis Director Atelier & Workshop

“Reconstructing historical experience”

15.-19.4. lectures at the Media Factory auditorium at 9-16
6.5.-10.5. tutor appointments and lecture/sessions with all the students in Suomenlinna (times will be decided during the first week)

The course is open for all interested, also doctoral students. SIGN UP in oodi by 12th of April (2-6 credits depending on the modules)

Davis Simanis is a Latvian filmmaker and theorist. He has directed several poetic documentaries and experimental films, for example Valkyrie limited 2009, Sounds under the Sun 2010.

His work-in-progress Escaping Riga is a cinematic journey, a docu-fiction on two world-class 20th century geniuses, the British philosopher Sir Isaiah Berlin and the Russian film director Sergei Eisenstein who were born in the city of Riga around a hundred years ago. Blending small everyday episodes of the lives of the two personalities and narrated by the director, the film is a personal interpretation of their life stories in the time period from their first meeting at the beginning of the 20th century to their second and last meeting after two world wars in 1945.

Davis Simanis is also working on a doctoral theses on the themes of representing history in film.

Course discription

The lecture part of the course will deal with the creative ways of reflecting history in cinema and also, more theoretically, reflect the dilemma of representing historical experience in film. How depict the past, how to represent the vanished time?

Week 16 lectures at Aalto Media Factory
Week 19 workshop meetings/tutor appointments  and possible group sessions/ discussions in Suomenlinna.

The description of the course by Davis Simanis

Day 1 Theoretical module (lecture; classroom discussions):

Analytical and empirical problems of representing history in films. For and against historical interpretations in film: 20th centuries’ evaluative theories.  Development of the historiophoty as brand new methodology for analyzing historical films. Reconstruction of the past as device to expand film language and its instruments. Three types of history in films – history as drama, history as document, history as experiment. Compression of time, simplification of historical narrative. History in feature films: classification and alterations. The end of the history – youtube and vimeo.

Day 2

Ideological restraints while interpreting history. Individual (author) ideology, group ideology and national, ethnic ideology. The aims, methods, content and reaction: structuring  of ideological recreations of past. Propaganda films and remaking historical narrative in favor of political, social or national goals. Concept of public memory. Ideological approach in the movies of Sergei Eisenstein, Dziga Vertov, Leni Riefenstahl and others.

Day 3

The reconstruction of history in documentary films. Information and historical facts as truth and reality. A documentary director being a historian. Historical sources for the filmic narrative – memoirs, epistolary items, still pictures, archival footage, etc. Editing (information, emotion, timing, rhythm) solutions.  Alternative narrative techniques to capture historical document. Reenactments and their possible drawbacks. Mockumentary as a source of new historical narrative.  Animadoc advantages. Other practices of recreating the past in documentaries.

Day 4

Practical specifications and variations to reconstruct contrasting historical periods. Documentary as historical experiment. Narrative advantages and disadvantages from historical remodeling. Current change of narration and narrative techniques in historical documentaries. Modernism as an instrumental background for new practices in recreating the past. Subjectivity, stream of consciousness, abstraction. New ways of reconstructing historical narrative in films. Creative reenactment, radical stylization, formalism, eclectic editing, mutative camerawork, etc.

Practical module:

Pitching session for the workshop advanced episodes. Individual presentations of the idea, structure, style of cinematography, editing solutions. (I)

Part  5

Diffusion of documentary and feature film practices. Contemporary hybridism in historical reconstruction. Prototypical narrative in documentary films. Change of narrative schema.  Mise-en-scene of reality. Documentary characters as actors.  Editing transformations (narrator’s position, time perspective, continuity, diegetic or non-diegetic approach).

Practical module:

Pitching session for the workshop advanced episodes. Individual presentations of the idea, structure, style of cinematography, editing solutions. (II)

For more information, please contact professor Susanna Helke, susanna.helke@aalto.fi.