Friday, July 11, 2008

Day 21: Arrested Moment

Stills from Still Life with Ho Chi Minh, Kevin T. Allen, 2008

View Still Life with Ho Chi Minh

Meet my documentarian friend Kevin T. Allen. He has a new film, Still Life with Ho Chi Minh. Kevin invited me preview the project this week and I found myself transported- swept into the pages of old photo albums and passing through the memories of an intimate life story. The film's pace embodies the steady, yet flickering flood of reflections that have pooled at the end of a long and deeply dedicated life. Kevin made the choice to not use subtitles in the film. Mr. Bay's Vietnamese has a cadence to it that doesn't need translation. Kevin instead lets this national and personal story be, unfold and exist outside of verbal/analytical understanding. His choice makes something more than "understanding" possible. It reminded me of a passage I had just read about the documentary filmmaker Hito Steyerl.

'If the one certainty about documentary film is the very uncertainty of its claim to truth, she suggests, then “this uncertainty is not some shameful lack, which has to be hidden, but instead constitutes the core quality of contemporary documentary modes as such.” The refashioning of the video essay today—including its renewed commitment to historical and political consciousness—can only begin with uncertainty as its very basis.'
- TJ Demos on Hito Steyerl. From Traveling Images, ArtForum, Summer 2008

There is a moment towards the end of Kevin's film where Mr. Bay stands briefly before the camera, then turns away. This one arrested moment stands out of the flow. For me, this pause and subtle break opens the personal tale outward beyond itself, though critically, makes it no less certain.

This is Kevin's second film with footage from his trip to Vietnam. You can experience and read more about his other creative work, including my favorite film, Kieu, on his website.

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