Chronicle of A Spring

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An update of the 1961 French documentary Chronique d'un été (Chronicle of a Summer), this work collects video clips collected on digital cameras and video phones filmed in the spring of 2007.  We approached both friends and strangers with questions about the what makes them happy and the way they live.

Contribute to the Project!

    By distributing our videos on the internet, the project encourages participation from users all over the globe. On Youtube.com, along with the short film/trailer, we created a YouTube group and uploaded much of our raw footage of the impromptu interviews. There, users can comment on our videos, post video responses, discuss the project, or upload their own interviews. We also have all our interviews posted on Jumpcut.com, which is a website that allows for easy editing by multiple users. Our interview files are public, so they are available for anyone who wants to edit together a chronicle for him/herself. It's a great interactive platform to display video, especially video recorded on portable electronic devices. At the time of this writing, ChronicleSpring has about 80 friends within the jumpcut community. By posting to both youtube and jumpcut, we tried to increase the visibility of our project--while making our role in the editing process as transparent as possible. We invite the audience to construct the artwork themselves.

  • If you would like to contribute an interview video to the project, here's how to do so. Use any portable video device you have (video cell phone, digital camera) to conduct an impromptu interview with a friend or stranger!  We focused on the question "Are you happy?", but feel free to ask any question you want.  The interviews can be short (a few seconds) or up to a few minutes long. 
  • If you would like to edit your own video from the interview clips on jumpcut:
    • Register at jumpcut.com and then follow this link to create your own movie, using the clips in the Chronicle Jumpcut Group.
    • Here's an example of a chronicle made with Jumpcut: watch.

Artist Statement

    As far as the modernization and reinterpretation of the original film, one of the first things we did was ask ourselves what made Chronicle so special. The reflexivity and mobility of the vignettes made the film seminal in the creation of Cinema Verite style.
     For reflexivity, we focused on the screening at the end. In the original, "They...screened rough-cut sequences from their work-in-progress to the ordinary men and women of various walks of life who are in it, whose everyday lives are what the film is about, and presided over a discussion of its strengths and weaknesses." (Rothman 69) Obviously, our film was shorter. It didn't lend itself to the same kind of long interviews; so we did the critique ourselves. After the credits, in an example of self-reflexive cinema, we comment on the veracity of our interviewees. We also designed a youtube group, so that the participants in the film (and/or strangers) could comment on individual interviews easily. Our hope was that doing this would create a forum into which people could post their video-reactions to the truthfulness of the uncut, unaltered interview. We tried to make every step of our process transparent and accessible.
     Regarding mobility, we tried to find a form that was analogous to the innovative lightweight equipment used by Rouch and Morin. This equipment enabled them to travel unfettered through the streets, accosting people with questions. "They [the characters] are interviewed on the street, at a café, or at home; appearing at the dinner table with filmmakers; traveling out of town to the beach; walking to work on the Paris streets," Campbell explains (177). In our version, we used small digital cameras. In good weather they proved very versatile, allowing us to interview subjects in stores, on the street, in class, in the dining hall and inside their rooms. As we discussed at the end of the film, the small, unassuming presence of the camera seems to be something to which people have become accustomed. We didn't get too many refusals to participate; yet people remained conscious of the performative nature of their participation.
     Jean Rouch, in an interview with James Blue, explained the trends he noticed in his subjects. "So to sum up - first a "hammy" artificial self-consciousness; then a reflection upon oneself and a revelation of a hidden aspect of oneself of which one was not aware perhaps; then the more or less conscious attempt to play out a role defined by this revelation and an attempt to resolve the problems of it on the pretext that this is only a film." Given the short length of our film, I think we succeeded in capturing the first two stages. As the next step, the youtube account is intended to foster deeper revelations and showcase attempts at resolutions, all on a uniquely modern and public forum.

A Note on Content

Chronique d'une ete aimed to create an authentic portrait of life in France in the summer of 1961. Using new technology (lightweight, handheld cameras, portable sound equipment) the directors ventured out onto the streets, interviewing friends, strangers and each other about life, war, art, consumerism, and the possibility of attaining happiness. The film's dedication to portraying genuine slices of human lives without dramatization or scripting make it a forerunner of cinema verite.

With our project, Chronicle of a Spring, we attempted something similar. Using digital cameras we interviewed a collection of acquaintances, friends and passers-by on the Providence streets. We began with the general question "Are you happy?" With some of our interviewees we attempted to create a fuller portrait of the causes behind their happiness or lack thereof. The responses ranged from a simple "ecstatic!" to in-depth explanations of future trips, the state of the world, philosophies of happiness and so on. The result, we hoped, would capture the various factors that make this moment in time (Spring 2007) and space (Brown) unique. In Chronicle of a Summer, many conversations center on the war in Algeria, racial relations, interpersonal relationships and working in France. We found parallels in ours, including one student's summing up the recent Virginia Tech tragedy, another who details the aftermath of a failed relationship, and an unhappy business man who advised us to "win the lottery" so we don't have to work an office job.

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