The Film Director as Archivist

The Film Director as Archivist, a doctoral project in the arts, investigates with the aid of existing archive material the relationship between factual and artistic representations of history. At the root of the study is the collection of archive film about Brussels held by Cinematek, the Royal Belgian Film Archive. I have used that archive material in my artistic research in a variety of ways.

One early challenge was to make a selection of archival  lm about Brussels from the Cinematek collection for the DVD Brussels, a city caught on  lm, a selection that illustrates Brussels’ past historically and aesthetically. As editor of the DVD I took on the role of archivist and in that sense remained faithful to the original material, from both a historical and an aesthetic point of view.

As a researcher and  lfilmmaker I also took on another challenge by making a  fictional  film about Brussels, with the same archival material as a starting point. The result is the found footage film Night Has Come, compiled like a mosaic from the main character’s memories. The archival material gives visual form to those memories. The way in which the memories are shaped in the fllm is a metaphor for the operation of human memory. The main character’s memory is far from straightforward. His recollections are subject to selectivity, distortion, fragmentation, repetition and forgetting.

A third challenge lay in the writing of the book Restitution. In it I tell the life story of Raymond Devaux, maker of a series of family films that I used in Night Has Come. In the book I investigate the relationship between historical  ction and history in the representation of historical sources. I also study the relationship between fact and  fiction by drawing upon non-existent sources, such as a manuscript by Raymond Devaux that I wrote myself, and on existing material that gains a new signi cance in a different context, such as my series of portraits Tipping Point, supposedly painted by Devaux.