Family Therapies

Are you going for a summer holiday with your family (feeling a little bit anxious about it)? The Docalliancefilms portal has prepared a series of “home-therapeutic” films for the month of August especially for you...

Autobiography is a strong temptation for any author, including documentary filmmakers. It seems easy to just turn the camera at yourself, feeding its inquiring eye with your own traumas, obsessions and dreams, including your personal environment if possible. Both the author and spectator enter the author’s intimate space at their own risk. The author risks getting lost in the double role of the observer and the observed while the spectator risks getting bored. For such is the principle of art; to be able to express a very concrete message, it has to generalize the fundamental human experience to a certain degree. All of us have probably experienced a cathartic quarrel at the family table; however, hardly any quarrel we have witnessed has been able to evoke our own experience. There are traps already in the very motivation to make such a film. An autobiographical “family” film is usually made in the following way; at a certain life stage, the author suffers a trauma connected (in)directly with his or her own family (parents or partner); after a certain time period, he or she decides to get back to the traumatizing events on the pretence of shooting a film, to verbalize them and make a film about them, rather for the sake of one’s own therapy than for the sake of the spectators.
For the August film selection, we have chosen four films dealing with the family theme that skillfully sail through the traps mentioned above. Among the personal therapeutic films whose message, however, transcends the subjective experience to a more general one, are the films Night Talks and Zorki; there, the female protagonists/authors of the same age (Margareta Hruza and Zohar Wagner) get even with their parents, primarily mothers. With respect to the specific field the two authors are dealing with, it is hard to say which is better; to be an experienced filmmaker approaching the theme through one’s concept of the film language or to be an amateur filmmaker, subordinating form completely to the flow of personal engagement. Therefore both strengths (and weaknesses) of the two creative approaches can be functional as well confusing. There is nothing to do but recommend the spectators to definitely watch both films.
Peter Entell’s film Josh’s Trees also belongs among the films of the “therapeutic” genre, despite its attempts to “mask” it. In the end, however, the effort to create a witness account about a deceased father is obviously penetrated by the director’s personal desire to cope with the loss of his best friend.
In a refreshing contrast, Nedzad Begovic’s film Totally Personal creates an original space of an indefinite shape that can take up anything that’s going on in the author’s head. In this way, Begovic “takes advantage” of his family in a playful and entertaining way, without any effort to get even with anyone and anything (except, perhaps, for film history). However, he doesn’t avoid serious themes from the family past either, though presenting them in an original way. His account of the hunger in the occupied city of Sarajevo and the kind of shoes that were to stoke the stove with to make the soup boil are definitely worth your attention.


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