Two questions for Ralph Eue
What is your personal connection to documentary and animated film?
I'd first like to confess that I was a bit slow on the uptake when it came to documentary. In my film education, documentaries were really low on my list of priorities. My ignorance and arrogance disappeared sometime in the 1980s. I had become acquainted with Marcel Ophüls in connection with a report for a magazine. Once, during a taxi ride he told me that his films were seemingly more intelligent than their director. He would have preferred the opposite to be the case, he said, but he didn't want to complain and at least he'd received an Oscar. At around the same time and probably a bit more open through this encounter and others - with Lanzmann's SHOAH, with the early films of Romuald Karmakar, with the later works of Richard Leacock and the in-between films of Raymond Depardon. Not forgetting those being made by Harun Farocki and Hartmut Bitomsky, Jürgen Böttcher and Volker Koepp. And of course Jean-Luc Godard. And many more.
I had a similarly revealing experience with animated film, during a debate between Norman McLaren (who was 71 at the time) and Jonas Mekas (63) at the Harvard film archive. Engraved in my memory are Mekas' views about the false opposition between animated and documentary film. He said something along these lines: Is poetry opposed to prose or to non-fiction? Of course not! When they are good, these are different forms of literature that exist in parallel to each other. Are songs opposed to symphonies? Of course not! These are different forms of music. The same goes for the cinema. How about life on a farm? Are cows opposed to sheep? Sheep produce wool, cows produce milk but they are not opposed to each other. They graze in the same field and sleep in the same stable.
– It is a good DOK Leipzig tradition to help revive such associations, whether they're between animals, people or films.
What are your priorities in the selection process?
It's actually difficult to describe the process in words but at some point you come across a film where all the answers are crystal clear: You watch and hear a film and you don't trust your eyes or your ears or other senses and all of a sudden you're certain that you're being inundated, that you're going under and that you don't want anything else at that point. And at the same time you're certain (or confident) that later, when you've resurfaced, you'll have emerged a different person. This has nothing to do with "liking", it's much more powerful, when a film convinces you that it has to be the way it is, even if you don't "like" it as such. When something like that happens to you - you're watching a film and it looks back at you in a disturbing way, it's a moment of illumination.