In 2015 Ivan Cerecina, University of Sydney PhD candidate in the Department of Film Studies, applied for and received Power’s residency that took him to Paris to research French short filmmaking in the 1940s and 1950s. This three months residency gave him an invaluable opportunity to spend time doing archival research on his topic, accessing a series of film and film literature archives in and around Paris, including those belonging to the Cinémathèque Française, the Centre Nationale de la Cinématographie and the Forum des Images. There, Ivan viewed a number of films that were vital to his research and that were unavailable anywhere else in the world. ‘Though these collections are increasingly being digitised, some of the films relevant to my thesis exist only on celluloid; this meant that I watched these latter films on a viewing table, with each reel mounted by a supervising archivist,’ says Ivan.
Whilst in Paris, Ivan was also able to access larger public archives of published texts and a small private collections belonging to film production companies that were producing films just after the Second World War. ‘These latter collections were especially interesting in that they revealed some of the processes involved in the production of some of the major post-war European documentary films from the likes of Chris Marker, Alain Resnais and Agnès Varda.’
The foundational, site-specific research gave Ivan much richer and clearer picture of France’s post-war short filmmaking landscape, and persuaded him to place a larger focus on institutional histories in his thesis. “This was partly the product of extensive archival work, particularly at the Cinémathèque Française and the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, where I accessed numerous publications from the specialist cinema press of the period. Equally important was my access to more ephemeral documents in smaller, private archives such as those of the film production companies Argos Films and Les films du jeudi. Here, I read production notes, correspondences, script drafts and several other primary documents that give considerable insight into what the process of short filmmaking was like at the time, all the way from pre-production through to distribution. “
This knowledge of the typically hidden processes of production and distribution put Ivan into a unique position to produce a truly original thesis on what is an otherwise under-discussed period of French cinema history. He is now in a position to incorporate an aesthetic analysis of these films into a much broader consideration of the particular historical realities of French post-war filmmaking, which will make for a richer and more valuable contribution to the field. What is more, as he continues his thesis in Australia he can now count on resources from archives and production companies such as Argos Films and Les Films du Jeudi, with whom he has stayed in contact.
His research has also been enriched through meeting of a number of fascinating and talented artists and musicians from all around the world staying at the Cité des Arts. These encounters gave him the chance not only to talk about his work with others who have a passion for the arts, but also to gain some perspective on contemporary artistic practice. ‘Such is the environment of the Cité des Arts that these kinds of fruitful and intellectually stimulating encounters with other artists are practically unavoidable. As is often the case, being engaged with a whole world of artistic practice well outside of my own personal area of interest has been an important and worthwhile part of my development.’