Volume 19, Issue 6 / June 2015


The documentary takes center stage this issue, with four pieces directly related to this most malleable of genres. Leah Anderst (first-time writer for Offscreen, welcome Leah) covers a festival dedicated to the documentary, the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s annual BAMcinema Fest (June 17-28). Anderst looks at seven films that are grouped together around the theme of media history, and films that take on what she defines as “highly challenging topics”. The next three pieces center on films that pose a challenge to conventional notions of the documentary. Ramin S. Khanjani analyzes the Iranian director Parviz Kimiavi’s diptych films The Garden of the Stones (1976) and The Old man and His Garden of Stones (2004), two films that feature the same subject —a shepherd named Darvish Khan— and treat his intriguing life choices (“Darvish Khan..abruptly decides to set up a garden of withered trees festooned by blocks of stone of varying size, and devotes the rest of his life to the expansion and protection of this arcane collection”) using a cross-over hybrid style of fiction and documentary. Totaro analyzes Rodney Ascher’s wildly unique meditation on filmic obsession, the über-exegesis of The Shining text, Room 237. Stephen Rife contrasts the more popular The Act of Killing (Joshua Oppenheimer) with its lesser known “antidote”, the Argentine documentary The Peddler (Eduardo de la Serna, Lucas Marcheggiano, and Adriana Yurcovich). Oppenheimer’s better known film gives space to former Indonesian gangsters, notably Anwar Congo, responsible for anti-communist death purges in 1965-66 to re-enact the historical killings in their preferred cinematic style. Conversely, The Peddler (El Ambulanté) follows the efforts of itinerant filmmaker Daniel Burmeister to scrape together no budget films in remote Argentine villages. Daniel Garrett’s closing contribution is not a documentary, but a fictionalized account of real life figure, Allen Ginsberg, which goes beyond the singular bio-pic to look at other cinematic treatments of homosexual love, pain and passion, many of the subjects also real life figures, artists, poets, writers, Kings. (Donato Totaro, ed.)

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