I first explored the cinematic elements of black image and narrative voice in the film Belleville Baby. The project had emerged from my growing skepticism towards the commonly accepted documentary stance in which the filmmaker – i.e. myself –exploits socially vulnerable people in the name of artistic expression.

        Belleville Baby had a protagonist who didn't want to appear on film, so my choices were practical as well as aesthetic. I worked intuitively and it wasn't until afterward that I encountered theories about the black image. I was inspired by French essay film, particularly Marguerite Duras' Les Mains Negatives (1979).

         Belleville Baby is a story about longing, told through flashbacks. It is a somewhat autobiographical poetic documentary. It is also a work of fiction, the dialogue having been written and recorded with an actor. The visual language includes abstraction; reflecting dreams, memories and realities, those of the protagonists, the spectators, and even of the film itself – a street in Marseille, a tree, a child, a black screen.

I wanted to address memory but was uncomfortable with making a film based on my own life. I wanted to work ethically but use the story of someone who wasn't interested in being involved. I wanted to work with intimacy but preserve anonymity. From this set of paradoxes emerged the idea of working with sound as the structural narrative element and creating partially abstract images that related indirectly to the story. I attempted to develop a cinematic language in which the story was somehow personal but not narcissistic. I sought to create a series of archetypical images that might be representative of anyone’s memories and desires, not merely my own.

          The aesthetics of Belleville Baby reflected absence, largely refraining from obviously representational imagery. As the work progressed, I discovered a sense of the cinematic in the spaces in between things – the gaps between the image and sound, between the screen and the spectator, between expression and perception, between the spoken and the invisible.

Belleville Baby premiered at the Berlin Film Festival in 2013.