The cph:dox festival this past November presented a collection of these challenging, innovative works in its New Vision programme.
Films with an urgent need to be made seem to begin and end in the places where language dissolves. When words fail, the power of images can truly begin. Straightforward, easily sold narratives collapse, and form is refreshed and wrestled with until it communicates an authentic whiff of the real – with all its complexities.
cph:dox celebrated such non-mainstream films with its wonderful New Vision programme. It included work by well-known names-Herzog (“The Wild Blue Yonder”) and Claire Denis (“Towards Matilde”)-as well as “independent” filmmakers and artists such as Doug Aitken (the dazzling “Momen” part of the “3” programme of short films)-famous in art circles for his video installations but less known to documentary audiences.
The zone between art and documentary may never have provided such creative heat or been so vibrant, but it seems crude to try to define a term for work that deliberately sets out to transcend definition, work which so often includes the audience or viewer in its search for meaning and resolution.
Part of the appeal of films such as “Phantom Limb” by Jay Rosenblatt is their urgent need to find a suitable form to unbury emotions which have been silenced over time. The film is a rumination on grief, an evocation of the filmmaker’s own loss of his little brother and the family’s ongoing refusal, twenty years later, to mention him. Super 8 scenes from their childhood are intercut with written pieces of narrative.
“My little brother died when I was nine years old.”