The Tree

The Tree began with a long passion of mine for ‘pseudo-documentaries’ (often described contemporaneously, as ‘mockumentaries’ or ‘docufiction’) - that’s to say documentaries about fictitious subjects, or work presented as documented fact, as serious work, regardless of the veracity of the subject matter. Although comedies have tended to dominate the majority of modern works within the form, the idea itself has a long and varied history. Starting with Moana by Robert Flaherty in 1926, a scripted but serious attempt to cinematically portray an ethnocultural group. Further explorations of the idea went on to range from sociopolitical propaganda; Las Hurdes: Tierra sin Pan by Luis Buñuel in 1933,  to the surreal experimental works of Peter Greenaway from the 1960’s onwards; Intervals in 1969 & Windows in 1975 (particular favourites of mine) with a multitude of other ideas in between.

From this passion for pseudo-documentaries I began to think of ways in which I could play with the documentary format, how could I produce a documentary in the loosest possible sense; a documentary that strayed as far as possible in form and/or content from one’s typical idea of a documentary?

The conclusion I came to after many a session of notebook scribbling was that I was going to film a micro-documentary. A film that form-wise was as short as possible whilst still being factual enough to class it as a documentary-work. If my film were to be a minute or so in length (for argument's sake), I needed to find a subject that could be explored in such a timeframe, without leaving a feeling of undesired brevity - that’s to say, I needed to find a subject that I could satisfyingly document within the framework of my chosen form. The limitation was an exciting challenge - it allowed me to push even further into the idea of documentary and the justification behind classing a film as a documentary work. Does the severity or gravitas of a subject have any sway as to whether a film is documental or not? Would a film that documented, without narration, the movement of dry, fallen, leaves across a stretch of pavement on an autumnal afternoon be as much as a documentary as a film that documented, without narration, the daily routine of crack cocaine addicts in a latin-american slum? Or in simplified terms, should a film in which reality is documented, require some sort of emotional weight to be classed as a documentary? My conclusion was an immediate and resounding “No”. The subject was going to be simple and mundane, it was going to be without emotional weight, it was going to be entirely confined within the bubble of its own context, it was going to be about the orange tree that was dropping its fruit in my garden.

Music is "Trees Against the Sky" by Moondog, from the album "Moondog" 1956.
© Moondog Records. 

© 2019 Henry Tyson - All Rights Reserved