bardic film (film form) is a narrative film making practice, that is an open form, utilizing modes and techniques of narration from all forms and practices of film making, photography, print, literature, performance, drama, dance, puppetry, music, games, and oral traditions, in order to offer the widest scope for storytelling in the medium of the time-based moving image. Bardic Film does not exclude realist mimetic drama in its formulation of practice, but it is not limited or defined by the narrative conventions of realist fiction or narrative non-fiction from any culture or historical period.
Bardic Film runs counter to predominant approaches to practice and theory where the methodology is to codify a form of practice, mode or style of narrative, as in the case of, genre or national cinemas and also in concepts such as mainstream film, experimental film or classical film narration. The only element that is persistent within all of Bardic Film is that it recounts a story, a fabula: there is no limitation on the approach to narration, sjuzhet, and as story cannot be entirely separated from its telling so, Bardic Film offers no normative or standardized model for story or narration, but a developed and dynamic opportunity for stories to be told as formulated by their maker/s.
The use of the term bard for Bardic Film follows a number of impetuses. One is to carry forward the concept of a bard as a skilled storyteller who crafts and carries the stories of their experience and culture, a vernacular storyteller. And in this capacity the bard demonstrates two attributes: the ability to select and create a narrative that resonates with their audience and the ability to make use of a range of storytelling techniques and practices that engage an audience through a well told story. In the concept of a bard there might be an implication that a pre-industrial, pre-literary, non-professional storyteller is in some ways a primitive storyteller, and so Bardic Film indicates a primitive practice. However, this is not the case and what an inspection of the historical pre-industrial bardic forms of storytelling reveals, globally and historically is their diversity and sophistication, and most of all their importance and connection to the identity and beliefs of their societies and cultures. A bardic filmmaker will be a sophisticated storyteller in their choice, creation and in the telling of their tales and they will produce stories that stem from their culture and experience.
A second impetus in the use of bard is that it connects to histories and cultures before the establishment of the present cultural industries, the media production institutions, which from the 19th century to the present have regulated and validated cultural production, through notions of professionalism, commercialism and taste, with taste being the circulation of cultural and social norms, ethics and morality: what is acceptable. In this respect a pre-industrial bard was not seeking or obliged to produce work to meet a particular commercial or normative production standard, and a bard was not dependent on an institution for permission to produce or circulate their work. The bard travels from place to place telling their story and carrying with them the tools, the instruments they use for this work.
In relation to a claim to freedom and autonomy from cultural/commercial institutions within a contemporary environment for Bardic Film this is possible because film making technology and production is no longer highly specialized with access limited by cost, and the economies of production and distribution are no longer determined and dominated by the requirement to meet commercial standards for film distribution, television broadcast or festival competition. There are internet platforms for distribution and dissemination. One reason for Bardic Film being open to any type of narration is so that there is limited cost in production, any story can be told using any type of storytelling, there is no need to consider the issues that are relevant to commercial production standards, ‘professional quality’ which is a major controlling influence and normative filter on storytelling.
A third impetus for the use of bard is the recognition that story is essential to a diverse, dynamic and free society: with the definition of freedom being self-determination in terms of social legitimacy and cultural identity. In a limited and controlling society social beliefs and identity will be structured through a dogmatic system, a dominant ideology, religious or secular. And while in actuality these beliefs will not be static but changing, there will be an understanding that current beliefs are based on universal and unchanging principles, which in turn justify the enforcement of particular social structures, law and practices. What story does in these circumstances is, either to support the belief structure of the society: repeating and reformulating stories that confirm and enforce the dominant ideology, or what story can do is test and challenge any sense of static principals and beliefs because stories recount the actuality and diversity of lived experience.
Since the concept of a bard in relation to Bardic Film is as a non-institutional figure then as a practice their stories will be less likely to confirm to the dominant institutions and the normative narratives and representations of these institutions. If there is a contradiction in this it is because the bard is depicted as a singular figure, but at the same time they have to tell a story that resonates and engages their audience, this is possible because intrinsic to the notion of story is the recounting of events that is communicable to others. Story is intended to be open and accessible.
Bardic Function is a term used by John Fiske and John Hartley (1978) to set out the operation and authority of media institutions, utilizing the concept of the bard: a storyteller who functions as maker of meaning and figure of legitimacy on behalf of the ruler or king. Bardic Film inverts this idea on the basis that the concept of a static and unifying institution, the kingdom, the hegemonic nation state is no longer valid, if it ever was, and the structuring authority of the four estates have been eroded and diminished by the complexity and diversity of contemporary society, the five estates: there is a recognition that globalization, cultural hybridity, multiculturalism, social networking are the dominant impetuses of the 21st century, not racial, social or political hegemony.
In overview a filmic bard will gather and create stories which they understand as having relevance to their own experience, identity and culture and they will then narrate these stories using any method of narration they choose, to suit the means available to them, and to communicate to their audience.
Copyright: Eugene Doyen 2019