The document
The document

should be considered not just as neutral information but/and as evidence. In 1951 the recently rediscovered Suzanna Briet, that strange French librarian and theoretician of the documentary, published a manifesto on the nature of document and documentation, Qu'est-ce que la documentation, which starts with the assertion that "a document is evidence in support of a fact". The implication is that documentation should not be viewed as being concerned with texts, but rather with access to evidence. Briet asked whether the antelope could be considered and treated as a document. An antelope running wild on the plains of Africa should not be considered a document, she stated. But if it is captured, taken to a zoo and made an object of amazement and study, than it has been turned into a document.

In her study Briet did not discus the documentary status of the antelope as such, but she had a specific antelope in mind. The antelope was from Africa; it belonged to a newly discovered species; and it was brought to the Jardin des Plantes of the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle in Paris. In 1947, not long before Briet's book appeared, the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle did announce the discovery of a new African antelope - tragelaphus scriptus reidae, a subspecies of bushbuck. We should be reminded that the word "antelope" - according to learned sources - allegedly derives from the Ethiopian word for unicorn. Can we say than that the antelope in the Jardin des Plantes, or another one in the Budapest Zoo, is evidence of the existence of the unicorn?

The evidentiary status of documents, including documentary films, is elusive, as we all know. But this is not the direct concern of the organizers of the Verzio Documentary Film Festival; it should be the concern of the audience, for it is a question of reception. The festival makes documentary films available to the public, which are considered to be documents on the grounds of the air of authenticity that the films transmit. We want to show films that are able to convince the viewers that what they see is testimony; we want the authors of the films to succeed in persuading the viewer that their intention was to provide evidence, material proof, even when the object in the film resembles a unicorn.

Besides records of the present, the 2nd Verzio Festival presents historical records as part of the "Continuous Past" series. The theme of the historical retrospective is the memory of war, particularly that of World War II, the ever-present background to our present condition. The meaning of the contemporary documentaries becomes fully visible only in front of the background of this unhealed wound, which we are forced to live with, even when we are not quite aware of it. We are the second, third, fourth generations of the victims of a war which, despite all our efforts, we are unable to leave completely behind. The retrospective shows the consequences of the different attempts to escape, and the futility of those efforts. Thus the subjects of the films we see are partly ourselves, the audience. What we see are the documents of slightly different versions of our lives.

István Rév
Director, Open Society Archives