The Cinétracts of May 68: the revolution in cinema
The Cinétracts are deliberately anonymous shorts, shot during the May 1968 protests in Paris. They were always filmed collectively, unsigned, and sometimes by well-known directors such as Jean-Luc Godard or Chris Marker. The Cinétracts are a part of the projects conceived by the program Etats Généraux du Cinéma, assembled after May 17, 1968. Each Cinétract is filmed in the banc-titre (animation stand) with no editing, using French and foreign photographs, generally on a single 16mm reel. They must (according to a text from that time) “challenge-propose-shock-inform-question-affirm-convince-think-scream-laugh-denounce-cultivate”. These shorts stopped being made in the months following the end of the events of May-June 1968. Le Rouge has a different status. Entitled Film-tract and numbered “1968”, it is signed by the artist Gérard Fromanger, with Jean-Luc Godard as the technician. It sprung from a poster project for Atelier Populaire of the École des Beaux Arts in Paris. The posters, containing political slogans, all anonymous and with as sober an aesthetic as possible, were ratified by an assembly that voted every day on which posters would be revealed the following day. Fromanger and Godard’s project was not accepted. Stunned by this rejection, they decided to make a film and, therefore, Fromanger, directs his project in front of the camera. During the May 1968 protests in Paris, students and artists came together to print up to 3000 posters per day, which were then affixed by volunteers on the walls of Paris and other large French cities. For a collaborative project, they would meet in ateliers to debate the slogans and the power of the words used, so that the results would be closer to reality and to the struggles. This “plastic revolution” also flourished in other areas, such as in music, cinema, philosophy and literature, which experimented with immense transformations, laying the foundations for original and boundary-breaking movements.
The Cinétracts were made according to the same philosophy: raw material, no editing, unsigned, silent. These films had a militant distribution, notably through the SLON Cooperative – Service de Lancement des Œuvres Nouvelles (department for the launching of new work) which later became Iskra (spark in Russian, referring to the 1917 Revolution). To date, 111 Cinétracts have been found and restored.