Film or cinematic essays - not to be confused with art-house cinema - is the film correlative to the long tradition of the literary essay. These films do not offer a dramatic narrative (like fictional films) or a representation of the historical world (like documentaries), but are a reflection on the medium. This programme constitutes the first presentation in Spain (and one of the first in Europe) of one of the least codified practices in the contemporary audiovisual field. The films selected make it possible to characterise the film essay and observe its evolution over the last decade by comparing works by filmmakers such as Jean-Luc Godard (Paris, 1930), the artist who has done the most to popularise this form, and Mariano Llinás (Buenos Aires, 1975); personal documentary makers like Ross McElwee (North Carolina, 1947) and Albertina Carri (Buenos Aires, 1973); avant-garde filmmakers such as Barbara Hammer (Hollywood, 1939) and Angela Melitopoulos (Munich, 1961); and video artists like Shelly Silver (New York, 1957), Sean Snyder (Virginia Beach, 1972) and Deborah Stratman (Washington, D.C., 1967).
According to Alain Bergala, a film essay is “a free film in the sense that is has to continuously invent its own form, which is only valid for it. The filme-essai emerges when someone tries - on their own and without any prior knowledge - to conceive of a subject which only becomes a subject when the film is made.” Thus, images in movement demonstrate that telling stories, as dictated by the industry, is not the only possible vocation. They can also generate the discussion of ideas and knowledge, which may have more value than what the demiurgic voice of traditional documentaries offers, provided they are embodied in the tentative poetic voice of experimental writing.
The existence of film essays is an intriguing and interesting idea, an old utopia already formulated in the 1940s by Hans Richter (Berlin, 1888 - Muralto, 1976) and Alexandre Astruc (Paris, 1923) and later glimpsed by André Bazin in some of the first films by the great film essayist Chris Marker. However, the genesis of the concept of the film essay and its undertaking have many other sources: the impulse from Godard and his process of distancing himself from conventional narrative film, contributions from auteur mavericks like Pier Paolo Pasolini (Bologna, 1922 - Rome, 1975) and Orson Welles (Kenosha 1915 - Hollywood, 1985), the influence of the lyric diary-films of avant-garde artist Jonas Mekas (Semeniškiai, 1922), the conversion of documentary making - especially in North America - into a performative mode in the first person and, finally, the growing interest among artists in the use of video as a medium to explore the world, resulting in the term video essay.