Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Lance Hammer: "Achieving Truth" | GreenCine

Lance Hammer: "Achieving Truth" | GreenCine

What I ultimately decided to do is make a film about very universal and fundamental existential concerns like grief, sorrow, hope. I designed a process that would recruit people that live in these places that we were gonna shoot, that would bring the specifics, either in more subtle ways like their physical comportment and choices of words - I think that's a more direct way, the actual things that are said - and hopefully the very complicated subtleties of place that deal with race, deal with the brutal history of this place would be communicated through people who have the authority to communicate that. That's not me. But I think, obviously when you do turn a camera on there you have to tackle the subject. And I'm white and the characters are black, so a lot of thought has to be given to how you pursue a process like that. Accuracy was very important to me. I relied upon the collaborative process with the actors and the people from the region to bring their own experience to the film as much as possible. ...

The actors never saw the script, so we would rehearse everything. Talk about it verbally, create the language, re-create the scene, if necessary, and then go and shoot it. So we were always rehearsing in advance of what we were shooting, and then the next day we'd shoot it, and then be rehearsing something else. The actors never knew what was gonna happen next. That was very important, that they had no idea where it was going. They had some forward vision; they would see what was gonna happen tomorrow, because they'd rehearsed it already today. But they really had no idea what was gonna happen, and that was very important, because that's the way life is, right? You don't know. It was important to keep the actors in that state. It'd be hard to do with professionals, because they'd have to read the script first to sign on to it, they'd have to know what their character was going to do because maybe they wouldn't want to put themselves in that position... Another argument for non-professionals.

...A lot of stuff doesn't work. Usually, when the actors try to act, that's because what I've written is not true, and so they have to try and do something that's artificial and not familiar to them. And those scenes didn't work, and they've been cut from the movie. ...

How do you prevent a film like Ballast to avoid presenting a touristic view on poverty or hardship?

I think the suffering part of it is about death, and it's a very simple primal thing and it's shared by everybody. A fear of death, and sympathy for those who experience death. I feel a very direct connection to that. It's not tourism; this is me, and the writing came from me, and I'm not touring. The site-specific conditions, in this case poverty - that comes from a desire to achieve accuracy of a place. I'm not interested in touring that either. I'm interested in, again, in a documentarian's approach to a place. This detachment that we have, and objectivity, and emotional impartiality, never using the camera as the point of view of one of the characters. I'm interested in being as emotionally removed from the subject as possible, which is a paradox because I'm supremely interested in the emotion of the characters. But in order to achieve that I have to have impartiality. The locations were found. What you see is not constructed. They're real - that's a way to protect yourself from being a tourist. So in a lot of ways this is a documentary in a sense. You travel through a place, you record. The photography of what's there is the truth. And you don't comment on it. It's just a context. That was my attempt. That's how I approached it. 


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