In the beginning, my career was not directed towards the 7th Art of cinema, but towards one of the first, painting, the number of which I do not really know. One day however, I realised that being all alone in a workshop with no company, other than of brushes and the strong smell of turpentine, was making me increasingly bored. Moreover, the potential for public exposure of my work was basically limited to posh intellectuals, bootlicking individuals, old ladies addicted to free food and art students. Students who, like me, were doomed to join the unemployment queues or scrubbing floors in a café in London. I had to make a change of direction.
Overnight, I decided to turn the brush into a camera and the canvas into an editing room. I decided to make documentaries. To save money on actors… my first plan was to record bugs, wildlife, to spend my life traveling around the world in search of the perfect shot of an emperor penguin or a crocodile catching a wildebeest.
But I had zero knowledge of documentaries. Little by little, I got to know a different kind of documentary: Flaherty’s “Nanouk”, Dziga Vertov’s “The Man with a Camera”, Orson Welles’ “Fake”, Chris Marker and the Rubenesque Michael Moore, among many others. I began to realise something that was obvious to many: documentary film is about more than just monkeys. I began to get a taste of this wonderful job that lets you be both detective and painter, combine rhythm and colour with sociology, literature and photography. I started directing my own little films, learning the various jobs in the trade and then followed shorts, commercials, music videos … and this is how I spent my last ten years.
Occasionally, I grab a brush and make a drawing. I like it, but it doesn’t compare with the excitement of recording an interview and seeing how the interviewee makes a striking or witty or sincere statement. It doesn’t compare with being in the editing room, putting a sequence together and seeing that it works. When I’m there I find hard to understand why everyone does not do this for a living. I’m lucky, as they are physicians, fishermen, architects, farmers and all kinds of people … who I can interview.