Film research between fiction and documentary, Back on a film experience around youth and love in a working class district

These photographs are taken from the film research The court of whispers, directed by Gregory Cohen. The film is a result of PhD Thesis entitled “Film research between fiction and documentary, Back on a film experience around youth and love in a working class district ”, defended in 2019 at the University of Evry Paris-Saclay (France).

Starting from a filmic research on young people and love in a working-class neighborhood, this thesis, between social sciences and cinema, research and creation, raises a question of society – how young people deal with the social norms imposed by their groups of belonging? – and a question of cinema – how does the detour through fiction and improvisation allow us to investigate social realities and to imagine other ways of working with the surveyed?

It is based on a multi-year ethnographic survey in a working-class and immigration district of Paris suburbs (Les Mureaux – Yvelines), as well as on film workshops and the shooting of a film (The court of whispers) between fiction and documentary with young inhabitants aged 15 to 20 years old.

In this space, where acquaintanceship is highly developed and each ensures his reputation, young people have difficulty showing their feelings and are often forced to play a social role. We wanted to study the specificity of this theatrical self-presentation, which is both a constraint – the injunction to adopt an attitude specific to the morality of the neighborhood – and a mode of survival and resistance, since it also allows to escape the eyes of others and more broadly the social norms that weigh on these young people.

The film is an opportunity to create a privileged space of speech that allows reflexivity. It becomes a way of co-constructing research with the filmed and to release dominant representations of young people from working-class neighborhoods.

The writing goes back to the social issues and cinema issues that have led this research. It reflects the thought in the film, both sociological and cinematographic. He goes back on his conditions of fabrication, his choices of realization, his theoretical inspirations, the “moments of cinematographic life” that emerged in this research.

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04   The Court Of Whispers   Grégory Cohen
03   The Court Of Whispers   Grégory Cohen
02   The Court Of Whispers   Grégory Cohen
01   The Court Of Whispers   Grégory Cohen

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  • Before I became a film major, I was very heavily into social science, I had done a lot of sociology, anthropology, and I was playing in what I call social psychology, which is sort of an offshoot of anthropology/sociology – looking at a culture as a living organism, why it does what it does.

    George Lucas

  • Watching a documentary with people hacking their way through some polar wasteland is merely a visual. Actually trying to deal with cold that can literally kill you is quite a different thing.

    Henry Rollins

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    For any picture, ask yourself what question or questions it might be answering. Since the picture could answer many, questions, we can decide what question we are interested in.

    Howard Becker

  • We never really know what’s around the corner when we’re filming – what turn a story will take, what a character will do or say to surprise us, how the events in the world will impact our story.

    Barbara Kopple

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    If it’s far away, it’s news, but if it’s close at home, it’s sociology.

    James Reston

  • So it is my firm belief, that if you want nowadays, to have a clear and distinct communication of your concepts, you have to use synthetic images, no longer words.

    Vilém Flusser

  • If you want to tell the untold stories, if you want to give voice to the voiceless, you’ve got to find a language. Which goes for film as well as prose, for documentary as well as autobiography. Use the wrong language, and you’re dumb and blind.

    Salman Rushdie

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    Visual culture is now the study of how to understand change in a world too enormous to see but vital to imagine.

    Nicholas Mirzoeff

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    Sometimes one picture is equal to 30 pages of discourse, just as there are things images are completely incapable of communicating.

    William S. Burroughs

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    Every photograph promises more than it delivers and delivers more than it intended.

    Steve Harp

  • I believe that we face incredible obstacles in our attempts to see the world. Everything in our nature tries to deny the world around us; to refabricate it in our own image; to reinvent it for our own benefit. And so, it becomes something of a challenge, a task, to recover (or at least attempt to recover) the real world despite all the impediments to that end.

    Errol Morris

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    One advantage of photography is that it’s visual and can transcend language.

    Lisa Kristine

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    Reality changes; in order to represent it, modes of representation must change.

    Bertolt Brecht

  • Give us adequate images. We lack adequate images. Our civilization does not have adequate images. And I think a civilization is doomed or is going to die out like dinosaurs if it doesn’t develop an adequate language for adequate images.

    Werner Herzog

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    There are dignified stupidities, and there are heroic stupidities, and there is such a thing as stupid stupidities, and that would be a stupid stupidity not to have a camera on board.

    Werner Herzog

  • Photographers learn to interpret photographs in that technical way because they want to understand and use that ‘language’ themselves (just as musicians learn a more technical musical language than the layman needs). Social scientists who want to work with visual materials will have to learn to approach them in this more studious and time-consuming way

    Howard Becker

  • You try your hardest to give people their space, but at moments you know you’re capturing their image in ways they may or may not be okay with. It’s that rocking back and forth between respect and betrayal that I feel like is at the heart of the film.

    Kirsten Johnson

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    The task for sociology is to come to the help of the individual. We have to be in service of freedom. It is something we have lost sight of.

    Zygmunt Bauman

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    The function of sociology, as of every science, is to reveal that which is hidden.

    Pierre Bourdieu

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