Research through film

Locument, founded by Romea Muryń and Francisco Lobo is a research studio based in Portugal that combines filmmaking with architecture and urban research. They use architecture and film as analytical, critical and subversive tools to emphasise contemporary issues and dissect their resolutions, seeing the importance of observing rapidly changing social conditions through the influential factors of technology, economy, politics and urban environment.

An anticipated debut project

For some time we were searching for an opportunity to develop a project that would join our professional backgrounds. Romea is an urban planner and architect, Francisco is a director and cinematographer. The perfect occasion emerged in a project for Izolyatsia in Ukraine. We conducted a documentary film focused on the Russo-Ukranian conflict in the city of Mariupol in 2015, still present one year after the Euromaidan revolution. The movie begins as a dialogue on a crucial issue of our time: envisioning the future of cities in places of ongoing conflict. We wanted to pose the question: did architecture and design play a role in the existing state of affairs? The project was selected to incorporate Ukraine’s pavilion at the 15th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia 2016 ´Reporting from the front´. It was then that we realised how interested we were in combining architecture with filmmaking to research and portray the different factors and circumstances that influence society.


Embracing the subjectivity of film

We thoroughly research our topics in preparation for our site visits and shooting dates, however, we have learned from experience to embrace the unexpected. In engaging with as many people as possible, we try to capture the amplest range of perspectives and build our narrative from the information we collect. We realise of course the impossibility of being objective while constructing a narrative, nevertheless, we always aim to convey sufficient information for the spectator to create their own conclusions, instead of imposing an opinion.


Location and narrative

As Locument is not our source of income, we don’t feel obliged to search for projects. Instead we have this rule to conduct at least one research project per year. When we find a topic we are interested in, we begin research and start looking for locations that reflect the subject we want to tackle. For us, finding the location where the project will take place is key, with the right location the narrative can unfold naturally, as it encompasses all the problems we want to reveal. Sometimes the process happens in reverse order, we may find a location that is particularly interesting and then start investigating what possible narratives we can encounter there.


Intense field work as a methodology

Only part of our work is done in the studio (pre and post production work). The most crucial part of the process is the field work, where we set out to filming locations and encounter real people and real scenarios. We try to extend this process as much as possible, only by embedding ourselves in the location we can gain the insight and trust of the people we meet. In our latest project, ‘Undomesticated’ - organised by MAXXI in collaboration with the Copenhagen Architecture Festival part of Future Architecture - centered around intentional communities, we ended up living for two months in southern Portugal with or in direct contact with these communities, as it was the only possible way to accurately and respectfully portray their way of life.


Film as an active medium

Throughout our time as a research studio we gained a clearer sense not only of the type subjects that interested us but also of the manner in which we wanted to approach them. We understood that our projects are deeply rooted in specific geolocations while at the same time resonate with global challenges. In terms of visual language and approach, despite having a research documentary as a base, we allow each project to develop its own parameters. Our first film, ´Centrallurgy´ relied heavily on animation combined with filmed and archival footage, in ´The Sky Commodified´ (as a part of MIT Architectural Design Workshop, co-directed with Maya Shopova) we started off with a very clear idea of the topics we wanted to explore, but allowed the circumstances we encountered to drive the narrative, and in ´re:arctic´ (co-directed with Pareid) we combined real footage with animation to create a speculative semi-fictional narrative. In the end we are always trying to research topics which contribute to the public discourse and influence social and theoretical debates, finding a way to not only passively observe, but to use film as a medium to give voice to the stories we encounter.


Fostering revelation

We want to continue finding topics that are globally relevant and developing them in particular contexts. At this stage, we are fascinated with finding specific locations where the topics we want to explore are taking place. We always find it essential to present a multitude of perspectives on a given topic, creating a web of information so that the spectator can create its own conclusions, rather than imposing a particular point of view. As a studio we are going in the direction of creating pieces that reveal to the spectator/audience circumstances that are often hidden from our sight, or perhaps just pass unnoticed. 




The Sky Commodified

Images courtesy of Locument

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