Something’s rotten in the Kingdom of Sundance…
I have just learnt with dismay that the film Love and Diane, by Jennifer Dworkin, was not chosen by your festival’s selection committee.
I have worked for more than thirty years in the field of audiovisual production and have been head of the Documentary Programme Unit at ARTE France for the last fifteen years. In this capacity, I have been involved in the production of at least 150 feature-length documentary films, several of which have won awards at major international festivals.
Thanks to Jennifer Fox, I discovered the rough cut of Love and Diane at the beginning of the year, and I immediately decided to engage ARTE France as a partner in this independent production.
The work that Jennifer Dworkin has carried out over several years with Love and her family is unique in the field of anthropology. And even rarer is its exceptional cinematographic quality. The editing, moreover, has brilliantly highlighted the rigour and intelligence of the shooting.
In my opinion, this film is a masterpiece that will mark the history of documentary. It will be soon be recognized as a major classic.
I have no doubt that Love and Diane will return to you covered with awards and international recognition in which you will not have participated – to your own shame.
That your selection team should be so blinded that they do not give your jury the chance to discover the obvious by awarding it a major prize seems to be symptomatic of a very profound trouble of which it is my duty to warn you.
“I know of less than a dozen whose eyes I can trust even so much as my own,” wrote your compatriot James Agee in his famous introduction to Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, evoking the general misuse of the camera, “the central instrument of our time.”
Jennifer Dworkin is a person whose way of looking at the world will move and unsettle spectators all over the world for a long time to come.
Head of the Documentary Programme Unit, ARTE France
Love and Diane is the story of a young woman and her mother who want to establish a family again after long periods of drug-related problems. Director Jennifer Dworkin devoted ten years of her life to filming this black American family in Brooklyn, New York, struggling to get back on its feet.
Love is the daughter of Diane, a 42-year-old former cocaine addict. During her years of drug abuse, Diane was unable to care for her five children. Love, her two sisters and one brother (another brother committed suicide when he was 17) grew up with their grandmother, as well as in homes and institutions. Becoming a mother herself at 18, Love tries to break the vicious circle of drugs, abuse and poverty that she experienced in her childhood. Diane wants to get to know her teenage children again after her long absence in the world of drugs.
The film spans a two-year period starting with the birth of Love’s son, Donyaeh, whom she fears is HIV positive like herself and ends just after Donyaeh’s second birthday.
Love is accused of neglecting her baby, who is taken away from her by the social authorities and placed with a foster mother. Love struggles to get her child back, but to do so she has to accept therapy. She must come to terms with the anger she feels towards her mother and make an effort to be a responsible mother herself.
Love lives with her brothers, sisters and Diane in Diane’s apartment. Love and Diane’s verbal fights are an everyday occurrence. The camera keeps running during these conflicts when mother and daughter shout at each other, but also when they confide their regrets and pain.
Diane wants to start a new life and makes an effort to find a job and be a mother again to her children.
Black and white footage from childhood years interspersed with scenes of everyday life and struggle add another dimension. Diane’s voiceover narrates these sequences that interrupt the observational, direct style.
A long film, but a strong film indeed.
© EDN/ModernTimes (previously published in DOX Magazine).