Julia Overton: identity and authenticity, the role of the director in documentary

_MG_0459Julia Overton is a member of the FIFO jury for a second year. A role close to her heart. She is a producer but also a manager and responsible for investments at the national agency Screen Australia, this passionate Festival supporter answers our questions as follows:

This is the second time that you are taking part in FIFO, what difference can you see between these two years?

This year, there are no French films, the selection is leaning more towards New Caledonia. The issue of identity and authenticity seems very important at this year’s FIFO. I think that the question currently surrounding the origin of the directors is crucial. The scope of the documentary can be completely different depending on whether it is filmed by a native or a foreigner. Which should be favoured? In my opinion, an outsider’s perspective is not completely accurate. Some directors locate themselves in the region, to be as close as possible to their report material, I think that is a good idea. You cannot go there and come back, it is necessary to go there and stay, or then very simply be a native of the region.

Do you favour local authors?

First of all, I look at all the films. The story is the most important and only then am I interested in the directors. Then, if I am hesitating between two films, then yes, I would tend to favour the one from the local one. Just like I would rather choose a young director over someone who is already experienced and has been awarded. I am all for the innovative nature of films. You know, in the jury, we have our own selection criteria, some look at the technical aspect, others lean towards the aesthetics and the film’s message. We have discussions, differences in opinion but overall we agree.

Out of the films that you have already seen, have any struck you?

One film caught my eye: Naissance d’une Nation. This documentary narrates, through the eyes of students and political figures, a painful part of the history of New Caledonia. Beyond the form and substance, what also interests me about this film is the profile of its director: Ben Salama, a French journalist of Algerian origin. His perspective, also marked by a history of colonisation and decolonisation, adds value to the images. Even if that may seem in contradiction to what I explained to you earlier, it shows that the role and perspective of the director are fundamental to the film’s message.

Does FIFO have any resonance in Australia?

The population is very unaware of it. You know, beyond our country, we consider the rest of the world very little! It is a shame. But, luckily, for the first time this year, the FIFO films will be integrated into the Australian and New Zealand French Film Festival programmes next March, and also at Doc Week in Adelaide in Australia.