Karina and Scott have both weighed in on The Lumiere Manifesto, statement of aesthetic principles for web video.  Like Karina, the statement, authored by Andreas Haugstrup Pedersen and Brittany Shoot, reminded me of the Dogme 95 Manifesto in its emphasis on aesthetic restraint in adhering to the formal features that would have been available to the Lumieres when that train was rolling into the station at Ciotat: no zoom, no edits, no effects, no audio, a fixed camera, and a 60-second time limit.

While many of the videos anthologized on the site do have an odd beauty about them, it’s not entirely clear to me what purpose the manifesto serves.  Pedersen and Shoot clearly embrace a documentary impulse for web video, seeing it as potentially capturing an everydayness that might otherwise go ignored:

We believe instead that everyday video brings together a collective consciousness and experience through which we all come to view a universal existence and see “light” in the world, even through personal darkness. Film lacking context and artistic modification in any way beyond perspective, technology, and equipment is essential in an era of unrestrained, theatrical Internet TV. We do not believe filmmaker’s geographical or psychological location to be an advantage any more than any other tool we can all employ. We believe in universal, important beauty and those who can attempt to replicate what their eyes and minds encounter. Inasmuch, Lumiere films require no explanation and are accessible to any audience with patience and an acceptance of the world we share.

The desire to use web video as a means of gaining access to the “everyday” is an enticing one (especially, for me, in the vague echo of Benjamin’s concept of an “optical unconscious”), but like Karina, I found the manifesto to be humorless and lacking in the whimsy that characterizes so many of the early Lumiere films and of early practices of moviegoing in general.  Perhaps my biggest qualm about the manifesto is that while it adapts the Lumiere camera’s technical and aesthetic limits, it doesn’t–and can’t–adapt the exhibition practices of the original films, the sense of wonder and excitement of seeing moving, projected images for the first time in a darkened room with a group of strangers.


  1. Erik Said,

    October 9, 2007 @ 4:19 pm

    I agree with you here. My initial reaction to this is “why bother?” There is that DVD (what’s it called?) where several well known directors use the same type of camera the Lumieres used to make 60-second works, which is pretty fascinating in parts. But as far as web video, it has its own limitations already, which can be manipulated in various ways. Dogme 95 was a reaction to slick, big-budget Hollywood films, a kind of back-to-basics democratic movement (in theory). I don’t think web video really needs that.

  2. Chuck Said,

    October 9, 2007 @ 4:30 pm

    The movie you’re thinking of is called Lumiere and Company, and for the most part, the movies are pretty unmemorable. The only one I vividly remember is Spike Lee’s because he films his son playing for 60 seconds, which reminded me vaguely of the Lumiere film in which a father and mother are feeding their child.

    But, yeah, I still find this to be a really odd reaction against/to web video.

  3. Reinstalling a gaze of freedom | brittany shoot Said,

    January 9, 2008 @ 7:59 pm

    […] of our writing to Dogme 95 would also be less redundant if they weren’t made over and over and if I hadn’t made that observation in August, before we even published the manifesto. But […]

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