viernes, 9 de octubre de 2009

Princeton Documentary Festival

Thursday Oct 8 - Saturday Oct 10
Princeton University

The Subject of Documentary

The Other has by tradition been the assumed subject of documentary. From Robert Flaherty’s seminal Nanook of the North to current TV fare, documentary filmmakers have brought home to our screens the spectacle of the Other: the Other defined as someone fundamentally different from ourselves, as a representative of a given category--be it the Indian, the Worker, the Madman--observed from outside. It is only quite recently that filmmakers have begun to see themselves portrayed in their relationship to the Other. The alien may turn out to be uncannily familiar. And just as pretending that I know the Other can be a variety of arrogance, to take for granted who I am may also be a form of self-delusion. Predicated on the complexity of the self–that of their subjects or of themselves--the work of the filmmakers featured in this year’s program inevitably challenges cultural assumptions and political imperatives both at home and abroad.

The Other has different ways of rearing its head. Susana Barriga’s depiction of Cuban road workers in Patria, hauling rocks hopelessly, like Sisyphus, echoes her own failed attempts to reach out to her estranged father, a Cuban exile in London, in The Illusion. In Aquele querido mês de agosto, Miguel Gomes set out to find real people in the Arganil region of Portugal to cast as actors in a feature film. When the financing fell through, he decided to film a documentary instead, featuring those same people’s real lives. But fiction –the Other of documentary?- came back in through the rear door. In Intimidades de Shakespeare y Víctor Hugo, Yulene Olaizola undertook a portrait of her eccentric grandmother, who operates a run-down hostel on the corner of Shakespeare and Victor Hugo streets in Mexico. But the project took an unexpected turn. In Juizo, Maria Augusta Ramos describes the workings of a juvenile court in Rio, but the legal impossibility of filming minors led her to replace the young offenders with other kids from similar backgrounds. Vivi Tellas is not a filmmaker but a theater director. In a sense, theater may be seen as the ultimate “Other” of documentary, which makes her “documentary theater” somewhat of a paradoxical proposition.

El otro, el mismo. The title is borrowed from a collection of poems by Jorge Luis Borges, whose meditation on the metaphysics of identity will hopefully illuminate the proceedings.

Andrés Di Tella
Artistic Director

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