Interview with Jean-Claude Taki by Patrick Straumann Why did you decide to film « Sochi 255 » with a mobile phone ? I started filming with a mobile phone five years ago and have since then shot five short films using this medium. It is therefore the outcome of a long process. I had a little DV camera but I never used it. As far as I’m concerned, there is a difference between cameras and mobile phones. What is fundamental with the telephone is that it is not an instrument for picture taking. It is the first device not primarily destined for making pictures. A little camera’s sole function is to shoot pictures. With a camera we see the world differently, or at least what surrounds us: it’s perspective is there to extract a frame, a fragment of our surroundings. I don’t have the same sensation with the telephone, on the contrary I get 360 degree vision. I don’t concentrate on one particular image but remain open to what takes place around me. The meal scene at the end of « Sochi 255 », for example, is obviously filmed, it remains an image, but I didn’t go to Irina’s family’s to film, I wanted above all to be present : to be with them, to share the meal with this family. That is what moves me, the « being togetherness ». What seems to me primordial is that there is a meeting – either a meeting with individuals or my own meeting with what I see. It could seem paradoxical, but what is essential for me is to get rid of the very act of filming, and the mobile contributes to that. If I could, I’d take away every tool. Do you feel less invasive when you film with a mobile ? Yes, for two reasons. Firstly, filming with a mobile has become banal; I don’t claim to see the world differently. I’m acting on the same level as everyone else – who films their children, girlfriend etc – and the simplicity of it moves me. It’s also liberating because it rids me of that vanity which consists in defining an image of the world. I’m like everyone else, nobody pays any attention to what I’m doing. It’s as if I wasn’t there. That can sometimes be disturbing: interference is reduced and I gain another attitude. I myself adopt a different attitude. Do you consider that your approach as documentary ? I don’t believe that reality can be perceived. Reality is out of reach, all that one can capture is an interpretation of this reality. I feel comfortable with the films because I know that they are not acting as the truth. For me, a shot is already an image which I interpret in relation to my surroundings. It’s already fiction – as soon as there is a narrative, there is fiction. The telephone helps me in this respect: I am very conscious that what I record is a twisted vision of reality, I don’t try to stick to the clarity of my vision. Even from a technical point of view, the telephone’s image already interprets what is in front of me. And yet you don’t compromise reality. I think that what is most important is the idea of traces: rather than saying that I make pictures, I should say that I record traces. Traces can indicate a presence, but they also make present what is absent – traces work both ways. That is why I work a lot on themes like absence or disappearance. Filming traces lets me work on presence in the world through proof: presence of the subject and of myself at the same time. But I have to start from material that has its own existence, which is independent from my story or a written story. What moves me in cinema is that you can start with something very tangible and end up with something impalpable. By means of interpretation and fiction I can touch on something that goes beyond the anecdotal, the social, historical or psychological context. It lets me touch on the essence of what makes us, what is particular to the human being. I think that what I am primarily interested in is working on this blurred frontier which interacts between what is the nature of a truth outside all humanity and what is the nature of an interpretation peculiar to the human. If you can slip into this zone, you can touch on something fundamental. You never give the impression of wanting to capture an image or event. Your shots seem rather to be welcomed by the camera. I don’t wait for an event. I feel awkward with this classical system which consists in defining a dramatic art beforehand. I would tend rather to reverse the process: even far into a film I often don’t know what I am going to do. I’m not looking for something: for example, I know I’m going to Sochi, but I don’t know how it’s going to turn out. I’d say that I don’t want pictures beforehand. That’s been a great influence in my work as a filmmaker’s : my wish for pictures comes instantaneously, at the very moment I’m filming. I think that cinema would profit from not cutting itself off from what’s going on. Situations should be allowed to hatch and pictures to be born. The football game sequence is very interesting for that reason : it’s very airy, it seems to open up the film to another reality… I arrived in Sochi with a very dense story, full of dead people, and when I saw those young people, they were full of life… to begin with it threw me off course- I hadn’t come to film life after all- but after a while, I felt kind of exhilarated. This is also perhaps what I’m looking for in films: to be able to lift off from our reality and reach a state of weightlessness. The film starts with the opening of an iris, you often film through steamed up windowpanes, net curtains, etc. What is the rapport between those filtered or veiled shots and the general movement of the film? The iris opening at the beginning of the film was shot through a biscuit… It’s true I often film through something, perhaps to install doubt, so that one’s not sure about what one sees generally. Filters introduce doubt and the idea that one must be wary of the evidence of images; one needs to make an effort to avoid redundancy. I need to escape this naivety: that "what one sees is what one sees" . Filters allow me to access what’s essential. They’re like doors one needs to push open in order to meander through the different layers of the film.