Claude Santiago

filmmaker - music documentaries etc.

my cool memories

In the excitement following '68, I got my first taste of militant cinema at Jean-Paul Sartre's home during the shooting of a discussion between the philosopher and a few young revolutionaries. Unforgettable…

At 23, I left France to spend a decade living in the US, Canada and Mexico. Sleepless nights in Greenwich Village, psychedelic trips to the Sierra, tree planting in the Great North (and other traveling jobs), video jockey, artistic director of an avant-garde club in San Francisco, etc. I am close to the restless American video-art scene, which I later introduce to Paris's mythic Bains Douches, Palace and Modern Art Museum.

Back in France, inspired by my American experience, I contributed to the first years of France's premium pay channel Canal+. I directed Picnic TV a cultural magazine dedicated to the pioneers of television and video creations, and computer graphics. I also directed short subjects for the program Megamix, broadcast on Arte.

Since then, I've gone on to directing documentaries and experimental films – and sometimes experimental documentaries, as my work often aims at shattering the borders between genres and blurring codes. My partners in crime include graphic artists, painters and poets.


Most likely because music documentaries – as all films concerned with music – are often considered a minor genre, there seems to be greater tolerance for a less conventional style. This has enabled me to experiment with stylistic avenues that are generally avoided or banned, such as shooting a film entirely in close-ups, without ever using a long shot for reference. I've been able to explore "trance cinematography," adapted to trance music, which beckons you to leave meaning behind and give in to dizzying images and sounds.

Whether through an intimate portrait or a revisited performance, my documentaries are an open invitation to discover a style of music or a musician, but most of all they speak of our humanity, culture, history and politics.

African-American cultures hold a special place in my work because I see in them all at once joy and suffering, phenomenal artistic expertise and the untamable breath of freedom.

The characters in my films tell their own stories; we are far from a didactic documentary style. There is no narration. The editing alone creates the narrative score.

Editing is to me that magical moment around 3 a.m. when a jumble of rushes becomes 1 minute and 15 seconds of joy: 7 or 8 shots that, placed end to end, tell a story. I delight in this perilous exercise where meaning comes in 1/25th of a second and where, as with love and music, tempo is everything.