Mikhail Durnenkov (RU) - Ignorance as a Research Method in Documentary Projects


The role of the playwright in the documentary projects is not obvious. Apparently, the playwright serves as editor of the documents, the one who devises the idea and theme of the project in its development. From my personal experience and involvement in various documentary projects, I believe that the playwight, in the process of putting together documentary projects, has to assume a different role from the one which he is usually familiar with.

Typically, the playwright is the creator of "stories", in fact of stories which can be rendered in many ways in the theater. It is precisely this multitute of variations which is the fundamental difference between “play” and “text”.  Among other things from the playwright is required an attitude to the idea expressed by him, but he is entitled to freely direct and develop the idea of the work. These criteria do not apply to the very principle and purpose of documentary theatre.

Let us consider this situation by the example of the "interview" method. Someone (the director, playwright, actor) records an interview. If the theatrical processing of this narrows down to reorgnization of the information, apparenty we have to do with journalism. After all, journalism is interested in an objective rendering of information. If, on the other hand, we are not interested in the information, then what’s the purpuse of the interview? It seems that the answer lays in the Character of the Carrier, its uniqueness, the characteristics which pertain to it only. The interview method offers a variety of techniques of how to remove this character inscribed in the carrier  and transfer it to the stage, as carefully as possible. Take the well-known “verbatim” method, which became widespread  after the invention of the recording techniques – voice recorder, video camera etc.

The raw material used by the playwright in this case is what is usually thrown out by the journalists in their work: pauses, repetitions, speech errors, and other such “marks” of character.

Can a character be presented on stage without distortion, without making visible the author’s relationship to it? No, it cannot be. How then to choose a theme of a documentary project?  Indeed the theme and the project, as a rule, also contain the author’s relationship to its subject.

The only viable approach in this case is if the authors do not suggest "what" will their project be about when beginning to collect interviews. This is the one effective method I would like to share at the conference.

   A documentary project is also the document of our attitude to it.