Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Jesse Lerner's Aesthetic and Cultural Hybrids | GreenCine

Jesse Lerner's Aesthetic and Cultural Hybrids | GreenCine

I think the collage aesthetic, with the rough edges still showing, encourages us as viewers to engage critically with the material we're watching, rather than simply letting the visual or narrative pleasures wash us away. It's a bit like what Brecht called the "alienation effect."

But when you're dealing with information that's culturally specific, or that is common knowledge in one context and much less so in another, how do you make sure everyone else is following along, regardless of their background? That's something I'm always struggling with. If I can provide the background information to those who need it, and use the opportunity to provide the other part of the audience with a laugh, then that's the best the solution.

Do the various accents of your speakers in The American Egypt reflect the home region of the person who actually said those words? Interesting touch.

Yes, that was what I was trying for. The Yucatecan Spanish is very distinctive. I don't know how to describe it, but I can imitate it (though perhaps not very convincingly). It's an accent that's disappearing slowly, mostly because of the mass media. So the Yucatecan voices I recorded there with people who spoke that way. And the same thing with the English-language parts, though of course it's highly speculative, as these are for the most part people who left no recordings of their voices.

For Mexican intellectuals in the aftermath of the Revolution, the Indian was the central problem. For centuries they had looked down on the Indian, but the Revolution had changed everything, and cast the Indian in the role of protagonists, as active agents of historical change. After the Revolution, the question remained: if Mexico was going to become a modern country, what role would the Indian play? The existing models of modernity were all Western nations. Could one imagine a country that was both Indian and modern? How might that be different from the modernity of Western Europe or the US?

I don't especially like the idea of your films being called "fake" documentaries, as all docs are fake in some ways. Yours get at the truth via a different route, that's all. Or maybe this "fake" thing bothers me more than it bothers you.

Well, I explore this sub-genre in much greater depth in my book (with Alexandra Juhasz) F is for Phony. While we argue that most "fake docs" are fiction films (with a script, actors, etc.) that present themselves as if they were documentaries, Ruins functions differently. On one hand, it's a documentary about fakes, so it's a fake documentary in the way that a baseball documentary is a documentary about baseball. And while most of the archival footage that I incorporated into the film is in fact that - archival - there were moments when I couldn't find the archival material I needed to make a certain point, and I ended up shooting certain sequences myself, hand-processing the footage to get a certain distressed look, and incorporating this original material disguised as archival images alongside real historical footage. It's a lot like the practice of the forger of archaeological artifacts, who has to add a patina of antiquity to the objects in order to pass them off as authentic. Again, with the sound, I ran certain original audio elements through filters in ProTools in order to get the hiss of an old optical track. It's at that point that I started to identify with Brigido Lara, the forger at the center of my film, and began to explore the parallels between forging and documentary filmmaking.


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