Pamplona (Spain), 22-27 February 

Retrospective: Raymond Depardon


Raymond Depardon

Raymond Depardon was born in Villefranche sur Saône (Rhône) on the 6th of July 1942. At the age of 17, he joined Paris' Dalmas agency and not long after, in November 1966, founded the Gamma agency with Hubert Henrotte, Hugues Vassal, Léonard de Raemy and Gilles Caron. He joined Magnum in 1979.

Despite starting out more photographer than filmmaker, Depardon has ended up more filmmaker than photographer. Depardon took hold of a film camera from a very early stage. After filming reports in Venezuela, Biafra and Chad, his first significant documentary was a short on the funeral of the young Jan Pallach in Prague in 1969 shortly after the Soviet invasion. Related from the very outset with cinema-verité or the documentary work of Richard Leacock and D.A. Pennebaker, Depardon’s approach from his earliest works was camera film, not in least emphatic, reluctant to interpret the acts of its protagonists, observant, patient, a self-conscious approach to film which includes a narrator speaking in first person.

His first full-length documentary on the 1974 election campaign of Valéry Giscard d’Estaing was censored and could not be screened until 28 years later. It reached cult status in French cinema, however, and marked the first step in what could be called Depardon’s fascination with “the secret, everyday life of France’s social and political institutions”. Like Frederick Wiseman in the US, Depardon has dedicated some of his best films to revealing the day-to-day of hospitals (Urgences), police stations (Faits divers) and law courts (Delits flagrants), realms in which life becomes an unfathomable enigma.

Traveller, photographer, writer, war reporter, journalist... In 1985, Depardon entered the world of film fiction. Simultaneously, Depardon opened himself up to the film essay, including commentaries in first person and opening the way to reflection and fluctuations of the memory. Afriques: Comment ça va avec la douleur is, in this sense, a major work. His latest documentary, 10e Chambre, Instants D'audiences was presented at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival.

Raymond Depardon is a key figure in the history of non-fiction. Creator of a thousand images and, at the same time, an untiring enquirer into the surface of appearance, Depardon has constructed a filmography of enormous dimensions. The Depardon Continent, the extensive, unimaginable geography of a traveller, a loner, a filmmaker.