Wednesday, August 27, 2008

documentary's affects

Re: Durakovo: Village of Fools, which screened at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival (see SFF synopsis), for which filmmaker Nino Kirtadze won the 2008 Sundance Directing Award in the World Cinema - Documentary category (i had the pleasure of introducing Kirtadze for her film's intro and q & a, and we had a chance to chat a bit about her experience in some screening down time. fascinating). But so i never imagined that my brief review of this or any documentary could create the kind of engaging international exchange as mine has generated (see comments section at the "review" link). In a very general sense, this is simply a (continuing) lesson for me regarding potential readerships for (my) published web texts.

i'm always a little shocked to learn that i have an audience beyond my particular circle of friends, family, and academics. And i am especially delighted to hear from readers beyond that circle, readers who comment, agree, disagree, and in some way perhaps take issue with my comments, coming as they are from my limited perspective. More specifically, though, i'm happy that we're talking about this documentary because i am currently planning a course in documentary filmmaking; i find this recent exchange incredibly telling regarding the always already complicated nature and fluidity of documentary films, the various ways of reading them. i mean, as a rhetorician, it's all the usual suspects -- purpose, audience, context . . . and but then, in a more cultural studies-oriented rhetorical triangle pentad matrix, questions about production and circulation, uptake, and, especially in terms of the international market, questions about translation and experience, allegiances, current affairs, and the various affects that many documentary films work through/over, (re)activate, and provoke.

i am grateful to Vladimir and Marika for engaging with me in this conversation. i encourage you to see the film and join us. below are a few clips, serializing bits of the film. YouTube user, "DAXUREvsPUTIN," who appears to be Georgian, posted several, under the heading "Why Democracy -- Russia's Village of Fools"; i will post the first 2 (with brief comments) .

clip #1. i love seeing Morozov swimming (one lap) and enjoying zucchini (cucumbers?) and the whole morning ritual, all presumable just before we meet Oleg. i find Oleg's arrival and the story that evolves around it it especially moving. as a filmmaker, i can't imagine how honored Kirtadze must have felt for being able to capture that footage. she and i discussed it. it was not planned; she was simply there at the time, the documentarian's good fortune. also, if i recall correctly, Kirtadze said that Oleg later left the village. In my attempts to confirm this memory, i searched for information on Oleg and found at least 3 different livejournal pages from what appear to be his account. i get the following message:


This journal has been suspended.

clip #2. Here, i am especially interested in the attempt at establishing of authority through images -- Morozov proudly shares pictures of himself and his colleagues on the Board of Trustees. We witness/hear a phone call in which a member of Parliament proudly reminds Morozov of the very same pictures. In many ways beyond but including studies in the use of visual rhetoric toward establishing and maintaing authority, the scenes are priceless, if unnerving. Later in this clip, toward the end of the featured meeting, Morozov instructs the people on the kinds of questions they should be asking, given his authority (i.e., "have i understood this correctly?" which obviously leads to a "yes" or "no" answer from the authority figure and then possibly a corrective lecture -- watch until the end for just such a lecture on hierarchical authority vs. democracy). After Morozov offers his corrective advice on the nature of acceptable inquiry, he "invites" more questions. an unbearably tense silence follows until

Mikhail Fedorovich, i'd like to know
what you think - do we really need
western-style democracy in Russia?

(takes a drink of tea,
swirls it around in his mouth,
and, pensively - frustrated? -
rubs his hand over and down his lower face)
Let me speak seriously of my vision of the world . . .

See for yourself the description of his vision; i can't say it any more clearly than Morozov does. but so, . . . tension, anyone? oboy.

This post began as a comment on comments, but i'm certain that i have nothing definitive to say. i'm still talking with Vladimir and Marika, and, for now, i wanted to share this with my more familiar audience, just in case they/you hadn't been aware that we were back on the subject.

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