Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Cinemawesomeness 101: Rural Life

Throughout last semester I had the opportunity to watch several short documentaries, all of which were made and have been preserved for their cultural significance despite the fact that they will never make money or be seen by many. About a month ago I watched the last one on the list (you can watch it too by clicking the link) and, though it's completely different in form from the others, I thought it nicely (though abstractly) reinforced the feeling. These films are all very human in content and form. Neither the maker nor the subject is able to hide, leaving the audience with a real understanding of their subject.

1. The Mark of the Maker (Kennard and McGowan, 1991)
A couple builds a hand paper mill (the first since 1929) on a farm and starts a successful business out of an otherwise obsolete craft.
2. Whitesburg Epic (Richardson, 1971)
A camera crew from Appalshop interviews people on the street in the small town of Whitesburg, KY, asking their feelings on Kent State, Vietnam and growing up in a small town. Not nearly as one-sided as you might think.
3. The Chairmaker (DiClemente, 1975)
80-year-old Dewey has lived his whole life in the woods of Kentucky, making chairs by hand to sell at small town markets. He has very little interaction with other people. An animal running past the house is the event of the day. Watching this felt like spying, like peeking in on something private and rare, a life so foreign and different from the world we're used to seeing.
Multiple film gauges, various video and digital formats, several audio tracks, audio CD, book and website components--a pretentious undertaking and quite the challenge to preserve. Still, I was captivated by the images and, even more so, the poetry in this feature length experimental film. I include it because of how personal it is and how affected I was by the life on screen.
There's no way for you to watch most of these, but I feel the need to tell you that they're out there. I can't stress enough how important I think filmmaking like this is. My favorite set of films like this are also Kentucky based and amateur. I did a project on the filmmaker last semester and will put it up here soon.

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