Regent’s film lecturer invited to the International Documentary Education Forum in China

Dr Ken Fero, lecturer in directing, recently visited China to explore the links for cultural exchanges for Regent’s students and promote the University’s film courses. 

Fero was invited by the Chinese Education Ministry to attend the “FACE TO FACE 2019” International Documentary Education Forum, which aims to promote international exchange and cooperation in documentary education. The forum invited global experts in documentary teaching, production and exhibition, who gathered at the Communication University of Zhejiang, Hangzhou. 

Academic exchanges and discussions were carried out around the new concept and mode of documentary education, documentary talent cultivation, and documentary creation, so as to provide multi-dimensional thinking and exploration for documentary education and creation. 

Presenting his paper ‘Immersive Documentary Education’, Fero outlined his research practice in this area. ‘New technologies have revolutionised media production. How can documentary education engage with the onset of digital “alter realities”?’ 

Ken Fero
Dr Ken Fero speaks at the International Documentary Forum in China

Fero suggested that there is a need for the removal of barriers and ingrained pedagogic approaches in teaching media production that may have sat comfortably in the 20th century but are outmoded today. 

The thought provoking filmmaker Werner Herzog declared 20 years ago in his Minnesota Declaration that Cinema Verité, widely renowned as the movement that birthed documentary, was in fact devoid of verité of truth. Herzog warned documentary reached a merely superficial truth, the truth of accountants. Whilst those who are familiar with the work of Claude Lanzmann, Frederick Wiseman or the Maysles brothers (Albert and David) may disagree with Herzog, he did raise this debate at a critical time, said Fero.

Herzog, in his documentary education manifesto, was aware he may have insulted many but he was, nevertheless, onto something. Fero stated that Herzog’s philosophical approach to documentary production and education sought an ecstasy of truth -one the filmmaker could distort, condense and intensify. Even today students find this concept intriguing, largely because of the fact that ‘20th century modes of teaching documentary have not fared well in the digital onslaught’.

The notion of immersive documentary education is one that must encompass the rapid technological development that we are living through; from virtual reality to augmented reality and artificial intelligence. It must also continue to deal with the core ethics of documentary centred around the human condition, added Fero.

‘Given the increasing prevalence of what is real and what is fake dominating the political, social and cultural spheres, students must be given the skill set to be able to dissect, critique and even challenge the emergent narrative where subjectivity becomes the prerogative of the state.’ 

Fero commented, ‘I have always ridiculed the notion of objectivity in filmmaking as a claimed position though I recognise the importance of an objective methodology to inform a subjective approach. That, at least, is a methodology of investigation that must remain. Herzog stated that “fact creates norms, and truth illumination”. In today’s world, we need to create pedagogics spaces where students learn how to illuminate and not just replicate.’

A link to the report on the conference can be found here.