Brachet's web-based documentary takes off

PARIS — An unusual and original approach to documentary filmmaking is paying off for Gaul’s Alexandre Brachet.

He is the “e-producer” behind “Gaza Sderot, Life in Spite of Everything,” a Web-based documentary that won the Prix Europa award last year in Berlin and will screen at the SXSW Interactive Festival, which runs March 13-17 as part of South by Southwest 2009.

Over 10 weeks, two teams recorded two-minute slices of life from the p.o.v. of seven Israelis and seven Palestinians living in Gaza and across the Israeli border in Sderot, just before December’s conflict. The panel of locals includes a hairstylist, a comedian, a fisherman and a farmer.

The shorts aired daily on a dedicated portal hosted by Franco-German cultural channel Arte’s website. The split-screen format featured participants from both areas working, socializing or talking about a variety of issues, making it easy for viewers to toggle between the paired interviews, comment online and share links.

Viewers could watch it in French, English, Hebrew, Arabic and German.

The $276,400-Web venture was co-produced by Arte; Tel-Aviv-based shingles Alma Films and Trabelsi Prods.; Palestinian TV and news agency, Ramattan Studios; Paris-based shingle Bo Travail!; and Brachet’s Web production company Upian.com.

Arte and Gaul’s government-backed film and TV funder Centre National de la Cinematographie each put in $115,000.

“Our goal was not to make a political statement but rather to document how people live in Israel and Palestine,” says exec producer Serge Gordey.

Brachet adds, “While traditional media outlets tend to go for a sensationalized approach, the Web format can bring a refreshing perspective on a complex issue, engage the viewers, and draw young audiences’ interest in documentaries.”

At Berlin, Brachet showed a selection of the shorts, which he compiled live from the screening room via his laptop. He will do the same at SXSW, but the 40-minute cut will be different.

A 52-minute version aired Feb. 7 on Arte and it is selling it internationally with the website. The package will allow nets to adapt the website into the language of their choice and use it on their own portals to promote and complement the doc.

Gordey says the idea of making the 52-minute doc came from talks at Amsterdam’s documentary film fest in November with buyers who expressed concerns about buying the website alone.

The package has pre-sold to VPRO TV in Holland, SvT in Sweden, Channel 8 in Israel and Radio Canada. Arte is in negotiations with NHK in Japan, YLE in Finland and Channel 2 in Israel.

Brachet and Gordey are considering using the format for other docs about people living in divided countries such as those in North and South Korea, or Cubans living in Miami and Havana.

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