Creating a woven tapestry of displacement, 3 new documentaries we are showing this month address first hand accounts from around the world of the most intimate variety. With a profound focus on elements of family and psyche, we are given unique insights into the minds of the innovative and disparate filmmakers.
Acasa, My Home, which premieres January 15 in our virtual screening room, is an up close look at a family’s unconventional values experiencing an uprooting due to a form of gentrification. For 20 years the Enache family has lived largely undisturbed in a remote part of the Bucharest Delta in Romania. Living entirely off the land, in a makeshift house, we are allowed unfettered access to their lives, their connection with the nature they inhabit and the serene landscape. Ultimately the 9 children of the family are cut off from the world, uneducated, unprotected, but undeniably harmonious with their familial and natural existence. As they are removed from this setting and placed into civilization through social services, we watch the family unit all but crumble, and their notions of independence shift.
The role of the father looms large in Acasa, My Home as it is suggested that his past rejection of societal norms is the cause of the Enache families lifestyle. Leading up to the moment when they are forced to leave- as their home is converted into a section of a national park- the father of the family is the authoritative voice. Acasa, My Home never judges its characters but works to observe them with a calm and naturalistic lens. The result is an exercise in huge contrasts of environment. When living unfettered in the Bucharest Delta, the imagery is sweeping, sundrenched hues, vibrant greens, skin glistening in the water, overgrown grass and makeshift huts. It is idyllic but out of place and time. The life the 9 children were given is one they will never be able to return to and it exists for us as viewers as a sort of dream isolated in time. From the children’s perspective this hazy dream was invented by their father, and their understandable resentment of their father is highlighted once they realize the extent of what they have been sheltered from, and the state of existence they can never truly return to.
A father sheltering his family from larger truths is also central to Film About a Father Who (also opening in our virtual video store Jan 15), by experimental cinema-essayist Lynne Sachs. The film is an abstract portrait that weaves through time and relationships centered around the Sachs family, and its looming patriarch Ira Sachs. Without giving away too much, there are new siblings discovered throughout the film as Lynne Sachs probes the many relationships and secrets of her father’s complicated life. The rawness is palpable- this is a very personal film, but becomes more universal through the sheer poetry of its voice. Lynne Sachs aims to share a type of expressionistic home-movie, and uses footage that span the mediums of the time- 8mm, Super8, Hi-8, VHS,16mm and various forms of Digital Video are all incorporated. 35 years in the making, yet a concise and tightly woven piece, Film About A Father Who is an example of an artist working to build an understanding of her often indifferent father’s impact on her world. That is a potentially isolating task, but its artistry and poetry of language elevate what could’ve been a self-absorbed work in lesser hands.
Using the tactile medium of cinema to help tell a personal story is a trait shared by Just Don’t Think I’ll Scream (starts Jan 29 in our virtual video store) by filmmaker Frank Beauvais, which incorporates moments from over 400 films that Beauvais watched over a 4 month period of isolation in 2016. The outcome is something of a marvel- a personal essay, an ode to cinema, a found-footage behemoth, a playful takedown on societal norms through the eyes of a compulsive philosopher. Throughout the viewing experience one almost wonders how it all works so well. How do we get to know the central character- the filmmaker himself- without ever seeing him? How has he manipulated the chosen films that lay within with such precision that the transitions never seem abrupt? In fact motions in the film sync so well with the words it feels like the clips were created to suit the text rather than the other way around.
Our connection to the art that speaks to us helps us understand our world even better, and this film exemplifies that notion. At the same time, a dip so deeply into art as the filmmaker experiences becomes all consuming. Indeed, as a way of coping with a recent break-up and the death of his father, we get the sense the filmmaker has given himself over to cinema as a whole. We the viewer become the beneficiaries of this compulsive act, and the wild overshare of Just Don’t Think I’ll Scream is still, visually, a montage of movements taken out of context to suit a personal narrative. The effect is a feeling of visual and aural displacement. An experiment pulled off with precision, you’ll never see and hear a movie quite like it.
Throughout these three films there is a searing search for truthfulness viewed from the vantage point of upheaval. The search for a new home, a place of recognition, or deeper perspective on the past all rests within these pictures. What we thought was ours can be taken away from us, and then with effort and searching we reside somewhere new. Turning inward, a new foundation is built, wounded but sturdier from its newfound understandings.