Friday, April 27, 2007

All Access

One of the biggest issues in making a documentary is access. Do you have your subject for twenty minutes, one time only, or can you follow their day-in-day-out experience? Do you have a one-day event, or access to boxes and boxes of home movies?

Once we got settled in on Saturday we all went to see the short I Just Wanted To Be Somebody and the feature A Walk Into The Sea: Danny Williams And The Warhol Factory -- both documentaries depending on incredible access in one form or another.

I Just Wanted to Be Somebody works through the use of home movies, newsreel footage and television commercials to reveal Anita Bryant and to reconsider the effect of her 1977 campaign to a repeal Dade County's anti-discrimination ordinance. The challenge is obviously that no interviews were given -- so the story is told in footage repurposed from other uses.

A Walk Into The Sea uses a type of access that seems on the increase: family ties. Esther Robinson's film reveals her uncle Danny Williams, his relationship with Andy Warhol, and his work at The Factory. Here the story is told through interviews mixed with archival film, the two mixed to look at Williams mysterious disappearance and his forgotten role in the Warhol universe.

(For us, this brought up a question others have asked: if one makes "the family movie," is that like the semi-autobiographical first novel? As in maybe everyone has one in them, the challenge being making a great followup film.... I immediately thought of My Architect as a film that uses a family connection exceptionally well -- and I think the non-family followup Two Hands: The Leon Fleisher Story shows that this can be done.)

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