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Documentary time as haunted time and the vital role of the soundtrack in conveying this experience of time

Project: PhD-project

  • Grootaers, Elias (PhD student)
  • Braeckman, Dirk (Promotor HoGent)
  • Biltereyst, Daniël, Universiteit Gent, Belgium (Promotor University)
My research focuses on documentary time as haunted time, the idea that the present is always impure and out of joint. It addresses documentary film as a projection screen on which past, present and future mingle and jostle each other, and the lived experience of this haunted time. Important in my work is the exploration of the vital role of the soundtrack in conveying this experience. Throughout my artistic practice I have always thought of the relationship between documentary film and (the experience of) time as being highly complex. I have always sensed documentary time to be a time inhabited by ghosts and have always been intrigued by "the non-contemporaneity with itself of the living present" (Derrida, 2006: xviii). Two of my previous films, Cinema Central (2005) and Lignes. En quête d’une mémoire (2006), not only explore the way the past sustains in the present, but even more how the past hijacks the present and because of that brings the present to a standstill (or at least protracts, temporises and slows down the present). These films are not only concerned with the interlacing of past, present and future, but also with the connection between personal and political time. My latest documentary Not Waving, But Drowning (2009) focuses on the experience of Indian refugees during their arrest and detention by the harbour police in Zeebrugge, Belgium. Within the tense, haunted context of the harbour and the seaside, and together with them, we slowly lose all sense of time and place. Without investigating their past or their future, the human trafficking organisations or the Belgian legislation, the film transgresses into the timelessness (a powerless and impotent non-time and the continuous recurrence of standstill) in which our society imprisons people without papers. In my research I wish to explore this idea of haunted time throughout the philosophies of time of Walter Benjamin and Jacques Derrida. I want to discover the ways in which these philosophers can help me in creating a theoretical framework for a non-linear documentary time and how one can engage in the imperative "to speak of the ghost, indeed to the ghost and with it (...)" (Derrida, 2006: xviii). At the moment I am working on a documentary film on the ambiguous time of the immigrant. Bibliography Derrida, J. (2006) Specters of Marx. New York / London: Routledge
StatusIn execution