“I like to be with people who are in the great movement of their story, to attach the camera to it, that it is in the action – and not hidden – that it takes a position. I don’t do passive art”. Joris Ivens.
Since Robert Flaherty, the founding father of “docufiction” with his legendary “Nanouk l’Esquimau” (1922), and Dziga Vertov, the father of documentary cinema “Ciné-Oeil” with his no less legendary film “L’oeil à la camera“ (1929), or even Jean Rouch, the inventor of Cinéma-Vérité, never has a documentary filmmaker traveled the world so much, camera in hand or on his shoulder, from Europe to Asia, in the Americas, Australia and Africa, to meet people from different peoples and bear witness to the reconstruction of the history of their country for a better life and a better world.
Then Joris Ivens met Marceline Loridan in 1963, still very young, at the preview of her film “A Valparaiso“, who would be her companion and collaborator until her last film, a kind of film-testament, “Une histoire de vent“, whose backdrop is made up of his own story, that of a man who has spent his life trying to “film the wind“.
A WITNESS CAMERA
From his short film “Rain“, he established an intimate relationship with his camera. He talks about it like this: “I never parted with my camera, in the office, in the laboratory, in the street, on the tram. I lived with my camera and in my sleep I kept it on my bedside table so that I could have it from my bedroom window if it was raining when I woke up”
After a tour in the USSR to project his films and give lectures, in 1933 he made one of his most important films, “Misère au Borinage“, which denounced the miserable living conditions of miners in the Borinage region of Switzerland. and their savage exploitation. This film was banned from public screening for several years.
Since that date, Joris Ivens has chosen his path: traveling the world, camera in hand or on his shoulder, to bear witness to the struggles of workers and the history of peoples who are fighting for their independence or for the construction of socialism. Thus his camera becomes a camera-witness of the most important events that the world has known at the time, from Spain under Francoism to China, from the resistance against the Japanese invasion to that of the Maoist revolution, passing through Indonesia, Central Europe during the construction of popular democracies, the Americas, Australia and Africa. No major event escaped the watchful eye of his camera witness.
Then, from 1957, he settled in France where he collaborated with Jacques Prévert to produce “La Seine à met Paris” which won the Palme d’Or for best short film at the Cannes Film Festival in 1958. But this establishment in France did not prevent him from continuing to travel the world to place his camera witness where he saw that it was useful to place it.
This “flying Dutchman”, as he was nicknamed by critics, very early on considered that the world of documentary cinema should be mainly built around encounter films. Each documentary film must be an opportunity to weave an encounter with a group of men and women in search of an ideal or in search of a better life. “Misère au Borinage“
The filming of the film “Misère au Borinage”, produced in collaboration with Henri Storck, was a turning point in his conception of documentary cinema. They had settled for months with these miners twisted by cold and hunger, sharing everything with them to better film their daily lives. They had a lot of empathy for these beings who are fighting for their emancipation and a more dignified life. He said of this: “I took the side of the working class. I think everyone in their life has a Borinage that makes them change. Before this film, I was involved in aesthetic research. And I understood that it was a dead end; the intellectual must have to do with life”.
Since then, Joris Ivens has adopted the conception of any documentary film as a film-encounter, a sharing of a common experience, whether in everyday life or in the creative process itself.
FILM THE WIND
Finally, he closes his career his filmography with a kind of film-testament, a kind of summary of his life and his career. And liking himself to define himself as someone who has always tried to film the invisible, the wind, he returned to China, the mythical and the unexpected, to shoot “A story of wind” in 1988, at 90, in collaboration with his wife Marceline Loridan-Ivens. It’s a lyrical film, in which he tells his own story, that of a man who really tried to film the wind, pushed by “the wind of History“. It was an ultimate challenge, a film between fiction and reality, full of life and legend, images, faces and quotes.
HIS MOST IMPORTANT FILMS
We Build (1930); Creosote (1931); Misery in the Borinage (1933); The Reichstag fire (1935); Land of Spain (1937); The 400 Million (1939); The Early Years (1949); The Song of the Rivers (1954); Italy is not a poor country (1960); Vietnam (1965); The 17th Parallel (1968); China (1973); How Yukong Moved Mountains (Series of 12 films co-directed with Marceline Loridan-Ivens – 1976); A Windy Story A Windy Story (co-directed with Marceline Loridan-Ivens – 1988)
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Cinema, my love! by Driss Chouika – JORIS IVENS THE MAN WHO SPENT HIS LIFE TRYING TO ”FILM THE WIND”