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Dealing With Reality

08.02.2009 - Hala Galal, Matthijs Wouter Knol, Michèle Ohayon, Anders Ostergaard

Sifting the world through your camera and hopefully bringing out representations of reality, including emotional, physical and factual reality, requires exceptional filmmaking skills. An innate curiosity combined with the resolve to seek the reality beneath the surface is sometimes not sufficient when depicting capricious situations and events.

Documentary filmmakers often shoot under hardship conditions and relying on unpredictable elements, they must put together a convincing argument in the form of a compelling narrative. As filmmaker Michèle Ohayon said in an interview on her documentary, Steal a Pencil for Me,“in my best scenarios, I wish that this will happen or that will happen, but I know that something entirely different may happen, too.“ For a non-fiction filmmaker, working in a visual medium means constantly translating “reality“ into good cinema.

So what does a filmmaker do in a situation where the script becomes inadequate in the face of reality, which turns out to lead the shooting process and sweeps all the characters in a completely unexpected direction? Panellist Anders Østergaard narrates his experience while shooting Burma VJ – Reporting from a Closed Country, when real-life events meddled in ways that hindered him from treating his material as originally planned. It is equally challenging to make a film that presents no pre-packaged opinion on the status of Egyptian women today, as filmmaker, scriptwriter and producer Hala Galal has achieved in her film Women’s Chit Chat, which deals with generations of feminists in Egypt.

These high-profile experts delve into the reality that documentary filmmakers deal with, discussing also how to go about making films under extreme circumstances, where the film moves beyond any sense of reality?


Hala Galal

Filmmaker, scriptwriter and producer, she is a member of the Egyptian Documentary Filmmakers Association. Among others, she has written and directed PEOPLE'S AFFAIRS, WOMEN CHITCHAT. Co-founder of the production company, Semat, she is on the company’s board and is head of project.

Matthijs Wouter Knol

photo of Matthijs Wouter Knol
Matthijs Wouter Knol has been the director of the European Film Market since 2014. Originally from the Netherlands, he previously worked as a creative producer of a dozen internationally acclaimed and award-winning documentary films. He then worked for IDFA, where he was responsible for its co-production and sales markets, and set up the IDFAcademy including its Summer School. From 2008 to 2014, he was Programme Manager of Berlinale Talents, and a co-founder of the Berlinale Residency.

Michèle Ohayon

Award-winning director, writer and producer, she made the critically acclaimed films PRESSURE, IT WAS A WONDERFUL LIFE, COLORS STRAIGHT UP and STEAL A PENCIL FOR ME. She has written numerous screenplays developed by major studios. In 2008 she was involved in the production on a new documentary entitled Y.G.F.Y.

Anders Ostergaard

Writer and director of a number of award-winning documentary films such as BURMA VJ: REPORTING FROM A CLOSED COUNTRY, GASOLIN' and TINTIN ET MOI. Østergaard‘s SÅ KORT OG MÆRKELIGT LIVET ER was selected for the opening gala at CPH International Film Festival in 2008.