Guest blogger Bart Weiss is artistic director of VideoFest.
As I watch work for the Videofest, I feel alone in my office, but with a window on everything that is out there. Every night, every disc, I sit here, hoping for images that remind me why I do it. Usually every night, I find a reason.
If you want to follow my journey I am tweeting each time I add a film. (Follow me @kinodeluxe)
But tonight was different.
I started with a film called Polack, by James Kenney. It was suggested by Jeremy Spracklen, the Videofest projectionist extrodinare. It starts as a meditation on the Polish Joke, with lots of good clips from film and TV. I wondered when we’ll see films about the Aggie joke or the blond joke. (I am sure they have been done.) But Polack takes a different direction: Kenney goes to Poland hoping to find kinship there. Instead, he finds extreme homophobia. Then the film really takes off.
Then I put in A Film Unfinished, (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Khut0kKn-c8) which also takes place in Poland, in a different era.
Yael Hersonski made this movie-about-a-movie, in this case, Ghetto, a film the Nazis created about the Warsaw Ghetto. The film was never finished, but Mr Hersonski found a copy of what remained: scenes of wealthy Warsaw Jews living a good life, oblivious to the horror surrounding them. Hersonski films survivors watching – and sometimes unable to watch – the unfinished work and commenting on it. He also includes excerpts from diaries written from many perspectives – most interestingly from the Jewish leader who had to work with the Nazi crew making the film. We hear how the leader knew what the propaganda meant but could not stop it. Hersonski also found a transcript from one of the cameramen on the Nazi project who talks about his experience. The film makes you wonder about documentation, what is real, and the impact of cinema in history. There have been many films that recontextualize Nazi footage, but this one turns things in a new direction, making us confront what we see and know.
With my head reeling from A Film Unfinished, I put in Camera Camera, a meditation on looking at a foreign culture – in this case Laos – through the lens of a camcorder. This is the first film camera man Malcom Murray has directed. The film observes observation, and includes occasional interview from tourists. It is about what we really see when we turn on that camera – I guess now the cellphone camera. What is our perspective? There is much written about this in scholarly journals, but this film lets us feel it, not think it.
It was an amazing night.
so now I will go and walk the dog and confront some reality