07 Currents_Experimental Documentaries

Cedric Arnold, Yantra: The Sacred Ink (detail), experimental documentary

Experimental documentaries: These are art films or videos that, like traditional documentary films, are grounded in reality, but the images are manipulated, or perhaps the sound is distorted. In manipulation through storytelling, found footage, and hybridization of imagery, the experimental doc becomes more like arta technologically advanced version of creative nonfiction writing.

Disturbdance, Guli Silberstein, 3:25 min.

In footage that appears to be taken from a news report and slowed down, a young woman faces two soldiers with guns. The voices are replaced by lyrical piano music that evokes feelings of fear and sadness. There is action in the distance behind them: A protest? A checkpoint? Guli Silberstein was born in Israel and now lives in England. He provides no concrete information about what country this is, but — in the way we know such things in dreams — we can intuit that the seemingly unconcerned soldiers are Israeli and the desperate woman is Palestinian, or sympathetic to the Palestinians. We know for sure that violence and the threat of violence are common here, something to negotiate rather than automatically run from.

Reconstructing Reality, Alice Wong, 11:19 min.

How many lies can a life contain? Netherlands-based artist Alice Wong’s father died when she was a toddler, but the ever-changing story of the circumstances of his death left her wondering, year after year, what really happened. When she got old enough, she researched public records and then strung together a kind of narrative truth, utilizing footage from Disney and Harry Potter movies, The Matrix (1999), The Godfather (1972), and other familiar film sources. Wong’s reality turns out to be as strange as fiction — and more brutal than she could have imagined. All she has are more questions. Has truth set her free or simply retraumatized her family?

Yantra: The Sacred Ink, Cedric Arnold, 9:50 min.

In Thailand, some people believe that tattoos can be talismans, the ink on a body imbued with prayers. Cedric Arnold was born in the UK and now lives in Thailand. He uses no words to transport viewers to the Wai Khru (Master Day) ceremony where people pay homage to their tattoo artists. The black-and-white footage seems to glow with an inner radiance as we witness devotees falling into ecstatic, tortured, and even violent trances. At first it seems exotic, potentially frightening in its intensity. But at some point during this short film we join them. We are not possessed by the animal spirits of their tattoos, but we are among them all the same. — Jennifer Levin


▼ Currents Experimental Documentary Screening

▼ 6 p.m. Thursdays, June 13 and 20

▼ El Museo Cultural de Santa Fe, 555 Camino de la Familia