David France: “I don’t like when a director makes himself the star of the film”


From Kosovo 2.0

Kosovo 2.0 caught up with filmmaker David France yesterday afternoon. He directed “How to survive a plague” (2012), which tells the story of two activist groups fighting against the U.S. government and the medical establishment to improve the conditions of individuals affected by HIV and its scientific research. For that, he used only never-seen-before found footage from many of those who participated in the movement, during the 1980s and 90s. He is also in Dokufest as a jury member for the Human Rights program.

K2.0: First time here? What brought you?

My film “How to survive a plague” is part of the festival (screened last Tuesday). The film is part of the American Film Showcase, a selection that the U.S. State Department has brought here and to other countries in the world. I am also a jury member of the Human Rights Dox.

K2.0: Where else was this film screened as part of this program?

Before here only once in Kiev, Ukraine. I was also there lecturing as part of a master program, and it was intense.

K2.0: And how was the feedback of the Ukrainian audience?

It was very interesting. I showed it two weeks before their civil uprising. I’d like to believe that with the screening of this film I can take some credit for it! It was a very tense time. They were trying to think about themselves, about their relationship with history, the relationship among themselves and their context. I knew what they could possibly be thinking about back then.

K2.0: You are a jury member. What makes a good documentary in your opinion?

A good documentary tells the truth on multiple levels. The truth of what the story means to people, the truth of what the story means in context, a story that can also go beyond time, that tells a bigger story.

K2.0: Can you tell us what for you makes a bad documentary? That common practice that when you see it, makes you not to like it anymore…

A bad thing for me is when the filmmaker makes of himself a major character in the film. They make of themselves stars and protagonists of a story that, because of their presence, which might be unnecessary, can be distorted, and isolate you from getting to understand the context and the reality of the real protagonists of the story.

K2.0: To finish, a must-see film in your list being screened in Dokufest?

“Maidan,” directly from the Kiev of two weeks before the uprising, this year. The artist, unlike in many films about protests or social movements, doesn’t use many cameras or diverse footage. He uses a camera which is fixed, and installed in the square, and there are almost no edits. The result is a film of what ordinary life looks in the midst of chaos.

K2.0: Where are you and your film going next?

To Equatorial Guinea! I’ll be there for a week. I read that it is the sixth least visited country in the world, with only 6,000 visitors per year. I’m very excited about the feedback it will have there!