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Founded in 1959 by a group of humanities scholars, anthropologists, sociologists, ethnologists and experts in mass-media, the Festival dei Popoli has been working for almost fifty years to promote and study social documentary cinema. Chiefly, the association organizes one of the most important international documentary festivals in Italy. At the same time, the Festival dei Popoli is busy restoring and conserving its archives (including about 25,000 titles, from video to film reels) as well as organizing courses and workshops for aspiring directors and documentary filmmakers.

The documentary throws reality into your face. It does so with a sophisticated language that is the result of stylistic elaboration and aesthetic research. But it is still about reality, which is complex, ambiguous, contradictory, hence always difficult to understand. Reality is far from the simplifications to which the contemporary world would like us to get used, from the slogans used extensively in advertising, from sensational journalism and from rowdy politics – languages which increasingly look like each other. A slogan is easy to inculcate. It “sounds good”, like an aphorism, but unlike an aphorism it does not contain any ambiguity and it cannot be interpreted in different ways. It is easy to understand and to remember. It dulls thinking.
The documentary genre goes in a different direction. It does not provide any certainty, it does not let you relax on your armchair. It raises issues and questions, it arouses curiosity. Indeed, at the end of every screening, our spectators are invited to ask questions to the directors who attend the festival. Does it make sense to go to a documentary film festival to inevitably end up feeling more and more uncertain? To see your certainties as spectator, citizen and human being so worryingly shaken? If we can arouse such a sense of uncertainty in each of you – accompanied of course by the usual friendliness that characterizes our screenings and meetings with directors – then we can consider we have achieved our objective.
In hard times individuals are required to promote deep-rooted values for which it is worth committing oneself and fighting. I am proud to say that none of the films in the program of the 54th edition has mere entertainment as its aim. The minds of spectators as well as their sensory organs will be constantly stimulated, excited, provoked by stories that are never trivial and that have been rarely seen on screen. Spectators will get to know socio-political situations, cultural contexts, experiences and living conditions without geographical boundaries. Despite taking place far from each other around the world, all these stories have in common a sense of authenticity, as they are experienced in first person and captured on camera “on the spot”.
“Reality is more” is the key statement that summarizes all of this. We have to admit that we are also using a slogan, but – at least in our case – it is interactive and it is not meant to be taken as an axiom. On the contrary, our slogan should be customized by each of us. In short, it is a game in which you are all invited to take part.
Starting from this edition, the Festival launches a new initiative, Doc at Work. This was possible thanks to the support of the Region of Tuscany and of FST - Fondazione Sistema Toscana, which we would like to thank for believing in this project. The program, made of meetings, workshops, presentations of books and DVDs, debates with authors and guests of the Festival, is aimed at promoting a discussion and an exchange of views on the documentary as a language of the contemporary world. Doc at Work will also include an event dedicated to the industry (restricted to professionals) for the presentation of film projects currently under way (Pitching Forum) or about to be completed (Rough Cut Presentation) to an international group of commissioning editors, film buyers and professionals. The goal is to combine the traditional festival of the best contemporary documentaries with a new forum where to imagine, build and fund the cinema of the future.

Alberto Lastrucci
director of Festival dei Popoli