Loading Doc: First Person Perspectives
February 12, 2016 by Todd Lillethun
Indiana native Molly Gandour made her directorial debut at this year’s Slamdance Film Festival with her intimate personal doc PEANUT GALLERY. After her sister Aimee died from leukemia in 1994, her family went through the rituals of mourning, but Gandour believed that they had never adequately dealt with the emotional fallout. The loss continued to reverberate in unexpected ways for years afterward, until finally, at age 26, she decided to confront the issue, and returned home for an extended visit armed with a camera. She says the camera allowed her and her parents to talk candidly and ask tough questions that they would have been unable to ask otherwise. She says, “When I first went home in 2010 I didn't know necessarily that I would make a film with all the footage. I made a point to prioritize the experience with parents over the mechanics of shooting — I think that comes through in the film. I couldn't even look at the footage for two years. I was too scared to see what was there. When I finally looked at it, and started to pull out sequences I liked, I needed my friends to come watch and tell me what they thought. That process — of showing snippets to friends — turned out to be the beginning of my healing process. I began to piece together my own story and gain a perspective on the footage.” Gandour’s previous producing credits include GASLAND (2010), the hit environmental doc that won the Sundance Grand Jury prize and an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary. PEANUT GALLERY is a fiscal sponsor project of IFP-New York.
Across the Line
Virtual reality charted new territory at this year’s Sundance Film Festival with 30 selections that advanced the technology as a compelling medium for storytelling. Among them is ACROSS THE LINE, a project that depicts the first person point of view of a woman who must face an anti-abortion protest in order to meet with her doctor at a health clinic. Using dramatic recreation, motion capture technology, and documentary footage shot at a protest outside a clinic in Illinois, the project is a three-way collaboration between Planned Parenthood, Milwaukee-based filmmaker Brad Lichtenstein, and LA-based Nonny de la Peña and her company Emblematic Group. Planned Parenthood has a history of supporting films and media projects that deal with reproductive rights, and they met Nonny at the festival in 2015. Planned Parenthood said they were interested in pushing virtual reality beyond its gaming applications and creating an immersive experience for storytelling and advocacy. In the dramatic recreation and doc-hybrid scenes, the actors drew upon their own personal experiences with abortion and engaged in a storytelling workshop in order to prepare for both the staged and real events.
Sidney Has No Horses
Cicero-based filmmaker Salvatore Consalvi is heading into post-production on his long gestating doc SIDNEY HAS NO HORSES. Named after its title character, an Oglala Lakota medicine man based at the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota, the film profiles the central role the spiritual leader plays in connecting ancient traditions to modern tribal life. Consalvi began production in 2010, and after shooting interviews for two years, he decided to embark on a 4-year ceremonial cycle in order to experience the Lakota spiritual traditions himself, partly for research, and partly as a gesture of thanks. During these vision quests, sweat lodges, and sundance rituals (yes, the real sundance), Consalvi endured hunger, thirst, and painful flesh offerings that were used to induce mystical experiences. “As a participant, I was able to understand the emotional side of the ceremonies for myself,” he says. Although his Kickstarter campaign earlier this year was unsuccessful, Consalvi is pushing forward with editing a rough cut before handing it over to collaborator Ed Pickart of Motion Post (editor of FORDSON: FAITH, FASTING, FOOTBALL) later this summer.
Todd Lillethun is a freelance producer and editor at Flicker Effects and student advisor at Northwestern University's MFA program for Documentary Media.