After watching events in Libya unfold on his television screen for weeks, Austrian filmmaker Fritz Ofner decided to go to Libya himself. The result of this trip is his documentary Libya Hurra, a document of a country undergoing rapid change. Ofner’s camera calmy observes every day life during a revolution. Fritz joined us for a screening of his extraordinary film and we took the opportunity to ask him some questions.
Can you tell us a little bit about the film?
Libya Hurra is not a straightforward journalistic documentary trying to give an objective account of events in Libya in 2011 – it’s a subjective experiment in trying to capture what Foucault called: “People rebel, this is a fact: and it is in this way that subjectivity comes into history and gives it its spirit.”
It was a very spontaneous decision. I heard on the radio that the Libyan rebels have entered Tripoli – I wanted to bear witness to this, booked a flight to Cairo, and a few days later I crossed the border into Libya.
What kind of research did you do beforehand?
I watched events unfolding on Al Jazeera and others channels from February 2011 onwards. In August 2011, it was my time to go.
Did you expect to become witness of a historic event?
I did not know what to expect, and nothing could have prepared me for the events that unfolded in front of my camera.
War films and war photography often have to negotiate a tricky terrain between aesthetics and depicting the truth. How did you resolve this issue?
Truth is the first victim of war. What is truth, anyway? Televised video-footage is heavily edited and therefore creating contexts of images which are highly manipulative. Through the use of unedited long-sequence shots I tried to achieve a certain truthfulness that lasts for the whole extend of the sequence.
What did you learn from the experience on a personal level?
It’s hot in the Libyan Desert in August. Cigarettes are your best companion in a war zone. Don’t pose with guns that rebels are trying to hand you.