Flavorpill Network Issue #346
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I Am Not a War Photographer: Films of Lynne Sachs
I AM NOT A WAR PHOTOGRAPHER
Fri 1.26 – Sun 1.28 (7:30pm)
where: Anthology Film Archives (32 2nd Ave, 212.505.5181)
A reverie of war-torn terrains floats silently across an editing screen, accompanied by long-distance [...]
Flavorpill Network Issue #346
When did you first realize that you couldn’t really be distant — either your presence or your being – from what you were doing?
I’ve never been much of a documentary watcher. When I go to see films, I prefer a personal narrative amidst the social commentary. I feel that quite often, documentaries lose site of the individual in their search for overarching truth. However, I was fortunate enough to have my earlier prejudice corrected after I saw a unique view into humanity by Lynne Sachs at her presentation, “I am Not a War Photographer.”
The two-and-a-half year correspondence between two friends, one based in New York and the other in Israel, makes up the bulk of Lynne Sachs’ (Investigation of a Flame, NYUFF 2002) personal documentary States of UnBelonging. Exchanging letters, emails and phone calls, Sachs and her Israeli friend Nir Zats work together to uncover and record the story of Revital Ohayon, an Israeli filmmaker and mother senselessly killed in a terrorist attack in the West Bank. With nothing much to go on but a newspaper clipping and a name, Sachs and her friend reveal the story of Ohayon’s life through footage from her own films, television news reports, and finally the amazing discovery of a home video of Ohayon’s children in preschool, just before she was killed.
Of all the literary formats, the essay, perhaps, seems the least suited to cinematic adaptation; with its intensely personal nature and often rambling paragraphs, it appears to elude the sort of tight structural discipline demanded of a coherent piece of film. All of which makes Lynne Sachs’ achievement all the more impressive: Here is a cine-essay, maintaining all the benefits of the original format while adhering to the demands of the visual. At the heart of the film is Sachs’ two-year exchange of letters and pictures with her Israeli friend Nir Zats, an exchange that begins when Revital Ohayon, an Israeli filmmaker and mother, is killed in a terrorist attack on her kibbutz near the West Bank.
This haunting film is at once a documentary, a highly personal film essay, and a poetic meditation on the human consequences of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.
Sachs has created a challenging, invigorating film-essay that could rank with the multi-layered ruminations of Chris Marker.
I wake up in a daze. I glance over at my alarm clock, which is blurry. I put my glasses on and the time 9:32 AM comes into focus. I rub my eyes in disbelief.
As far as I know, you have always been teaching in the field of movie in the university. Which courses do you mainly teach? That has brought a lot of convenience to your creative work.
In her new film, Investigation of a Flame, experimental filmmaker Lynne Sachs returns to May 1968, as the U.S. under Lyndon Johnson grew increasingly embroiled in Vietnam, and sentiment about the war was decidedly split. The film opens with a volatile mix of footage showing Johnson addressing the nation, shots of American troops carrying injured soldiers, and home-movie footage of teenage boys.