Michael Chèze Productions
The art of filming real life
"I think it's inevitable that people will come to find the documentary a more compelling and more important kind of film than fiction... In a way, you're on a serendipitous journey, a journey which is more akin to life experience. When you see somebody on screen in a documentary, you're really engaged with that person going through real life experiences. So for that period of time, as you watch the film, you are, in effect, in the shoes of another individual. What a privilege to have that experience."
- Albert Maysles
With a background in fictional dramatic films, Michael Chèze finds himself more drawn, in recent years, to watching and making documentary films. A classic sense of beauty, candour and intimacy with the subject - these are qualities that emerge in his filming and give his work power. His editing choices and narrative sense enhance the lyricism of the images he captures, and give the viewer the sense of "being there."
Two short docmentaries which Michael made in 2009 - 2010 were filmed at Knysna's accaimed restaurant and bakery, île de päin (French for "island of bread"). île de päin co-owner and fourth generation artisan baker Markus Fãrbinger, formerly Dean of the Baking and Pastry Curriculum at the Culinary
Institute of America, is also a master pastry chef and chocolatier. I wanted to capture the beauty of artisan baking as a time-honoured art form. In the first film, early hours, Michael closely observes Markus and the other bakers working long before sunrise. The film has a painterly atmosphere, and there is a mood of almost monastic contemplation among the men. The action is unstaged, and Michael worked without a separate sound recordist, to be as unobtrusive as possible, and used available light only.
The second film, scenes from a café-bakery, like early hours, is unstaged and filmed using available light only. It captures the different rhythms of île de päin during the day: staff arrive and prepare to open the doors to the flow of guests and people queuing for breads and pastries; île de päin becomes a canvas of humanity; the bakery - visible to those seated in the restaurant - continues to be busy.
The film includes an absorbing scene in which the skilled artisan bakers stretch a strudel dough and fill it, in preparation for baking. Michael chose not to use voice-over in either of the films, as he wanted viewers to enter the world he was filming for themselves. He also chose not to rely on a musical soundtrack to create atmosphere, particularly in early hours where the sounds that occur naturally in the bakery have a beauty of their own.