Interview with Pablo Marin in Spanish and English in Arta Revista


May, 2007

When did you first realized that yourself (your presence, your being) couldn’t really take distance from what you were doing? (When did you first realize that you couldn’t really be distant — either your presence or your being – from what you were doing?)

When I look back on my twenty years of filmmaking, I realize that no matter what subject, theme or idea that I am exploring, I somehow leave my fingerprint on the final work. Since I got my start in cinema with 16mm, I had many years of tactility. My skin touched, call it embraced, every frame of film, thus forcing me to examine the frozen moment of 1/24 of a second on a sometimes painfully regular basis. So, on a physical level, I had an intimacy with the filmmaking process that didn’t seem so very far from my prior experience with painting or sculpture.

I am a maker; therefore, I always feel connected to both the process and the final product I am attempting to create. I made “The Tarot”, my very first film, in 1983 at the age of 22 with my best friend starring in a live-action Super 8 animation of a young woman metamorphosizing into various possibilities of herself. The autobiographical aspects to this film were unfortunately too overt, which turned my initial foray into filmmaking into a kind of torturous self-examination of my future. My second film, “Still Life with Woman and Four Objects” (1986), also used a non-professional actress friend playing different fragments of my life, but in this case the exploration was far more elliptical, mysterious and, I believe, thought provoking. Within those few years, I’d seen the mind-blowing cinematic portrait movies of Jean-Luc Godard (“Vivre Sa Vie”) and Chantal Ackerman (“Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles”), and there was no going back.

How do you control that presence on frame, on voiceover? I mean, there are times when you restrain yourself from doing or saying something in front of the camera or you embrace it all the way? How this decisions (“improvisation vs. ideas”) affect the final aspect (structure) of your work? (How do you control the presence of a voiceover? I mean, there are times when you restrain yourself from doing or saying something in front of the camera or your embrace it all the way. How does the decision between improvisation and idea affect the final structure of your work?)

I love playing with words, seeing where the actual act of putting thoughts together will take my discursive approach to film collage. Most of my longer films grapple with the intricate relationship between personal experience and broader, political, historical or social realities. I believe that the aural texture of a filmmaker’s actual voice (versus the anonymous voice we usually hear in more traditional documentaries) brings a compelling and immediate connection between the maker and his or her audience. My voice can never be omniscient and this structural limitation allows me to exist in my films more like a character and an author at the same time. In my decade-long series of films entitled I AM NOT A WAR PHOTOGRAPHER, most of the work uses the trope of first person cinema as an invitation into my mind and an admission of vulnerability. I am absolutely convinced that keeping a diary from the first day I begin a film gives me access to the naïveté of my own ignorance. By returning to this writing, I often discover narrative epiphanies that become extraordinarily useful to the search for a cinematic structure. I am able to recollect a time in which I did not know so much, and this in turn becomes critical to my identification with my audience.

Why do you think there are still lots of people (even those related to film) that don’t feel very comfortable watching -thinking and understanding- works that go in categories as “essay film”, “personal documentary”? That whole argument against things that are “subjective” and “ambiguous”… (Why do you think there are still lots of people — even those connected to film – who don’t feel very comfortable watching and thinking about works in the category of a “film essay” or personal documentary? That whole argument against things that are subjective and ambiguous?)

Oh my goodness! You are really getting at the very crux of my position as a filmmaker with a foot in two very distinct, even opposing, filmmaking communities. I identify with both the experimental and the documentary approaches to working with sound and images, and yet I feel profoundly uncomfortable placing myself exclusively in one camp or another. Many experimental films are breathtakingly beautiful but they do not attempt to tackle the conceptual rigour that would take them to another plane of artistic thinking. Most conventional documentaries are completely subject-driven, never allowing for visual metaphor, aesthetic invention or, as you say, ambiguity (the moment when a viewer get a little more power of interpretation!). It’s as if the filmmaker never considered the fantastic possibilities for expression right there inside the lens of his or her camera. For all of these reasons, when I discovered the work of Dziga Vertov (the first to coin the phrase “camera as pen”), Chris Marker and Trinh T.Min-ha (a teacher in graduate school), I moved to a new strata of visual expression we all call the film-essay. Yes, there are those in the film avant-garde who will always resist using words. Yes, there are those in documentary who feel no urge to “get personal”, but for a few of us this is the territory where we thrive.

What have you learn (if anything) from getting yourself (your point of view, your family, your home and daily activities) in your work and in front of the camera? (What possibilities do you see (or have you found) in that ambiguity and subjectivity? What have you learned from getting yourself (your point of view, your family, your home, your daily life0 in front of the camera?)

For a while, my family had a running joke that I could never make a movie without showing – in some fragmented or hidden way – at least part of my body …often nude! Well, that isn’t completely true, but you’ll find me in Drawn and Quartered, The House of Science, Window Work, Which Way is East, States of UnBelonging and The Small Ones. So this dance between an aural and physical presence is most definitely compelling to me. It makes evident the intimacy that exists between the different aspects of my domestic, artistic and professional life. Now that I have children, they too have become involved. I suppose that this blurring of these distinct zones of existence was clearly inspired by the work of Stan Brakhage (the father, so to speak, of American avant-garde film). He never allowed himself to hide behind his work.

por Pablo Marín

Pablo pic

Pablo Marin in Buenos Aires, shooting film for Lynne's film "Wind in Our Hair"


Hacia territorios inciertos: Dos preguntas a Lynne Sachs

A mitad de camino entre la teoría y la práctica, la obra de la cineasta, profesora, curadora y escritora norteamericana Lynne Sachs se ubica en la encrucijada del cine documental, experimental y de ensayo autobiográfico al mismo tiempo que transciende cualquiera de estas categorías preestablecidas. Su estilo cinematográfico, al igual que su reflexión sobre su trabajo, pone al descubierto a una de las artistas audiovisuales más sorprendentemente atípicas de los Estados Unidos, siempre rigurosa y aleatoria en su renovación.

¿Cuándo te diste cuenta que tu obra iba a estar atravesada por tu presencia, tu vida, tu familia?

Al mirar atrás mis veinte años como cineasta me doy cuenta que, sin importar el tema o la idea que este explorando, dejo mi huella en la obra terminada. Desde mis comienzos cinematográficos en 16 milímetros tuve muchos años de tactibilidad. Mi piel tocó, digamos que abrazó, todos los fotogramas de mis películas, forzándome a examinar ese momento congelado de 1/24 de segundo en una regularidad diaria a veces dolorosa. De ahí que, en un nivel físico, tuve una intimidad con el proceso cinematográfico que no se diferenció realmente de mis experiencias previas en pintura y escultura.

Durante un tiempo, mi familia tenía una especie de burla, me decían que nunca iba a poder hacer una película sin mostrar –de manera fragmentada u oculta- a lo sumo parte de mi cuerpo… ¡generalmente desnudo! Bueno, eso no es completamente cierto, aunque me podés encontrar en al menos seis películas. De modo que esta danza entre una presencia espiritual y física es ciertamente irresistible. Hace evidente la intimidad que existe entre los diferentes aspectos de mi vida doméstica, artística y profesional. Y ahora que tengo hijas ellas también se han involucrado. Supongo que esta suerte de mezcla borrosa de zonas tan distintas fue claramente inspirada en la obra de Stan Brakhage (el padre, por así decirlo, del cine de vanguardia norteamericano). Él nunca se permitió esconderse detrás de lo que hacía.

¿Por qué pensás que todavía hay cierto rechazo hacia categorías como “ensayo cinematográfico” o “documental personal”, hacia las cosas que son subjetivas o ambiguas?

Bueno, esa es exactamente mi posición como cineasta, con los pies en dos comunidades cinematográficas bastante distintas, incluso opuestas. Me identifico al mismo tiempo con la aproximación experimental y la documental al trabajar con imágenes y sonidos, pero a la vez me siento muy incómoda ubicándome exclusivamente en una u otra. Muchas películas experimentales son extremadamente hermosas pero no se plantean incorporar un rigor conceptual que las transportaría a otro plano de conciencia artística. La mayoría de los documentales convencionales se apoyan por completo en el tema, sin permitirse lugar para metáforas visuales, invención estética o, como vos decís, ambigüedad (¡el momento en el que el espectador logra un mayor poder de interpretación!). Como si los o las cineastas nunca considerasen las fantásticas posibilidades de expresión que residen justo ahí en el lente de sus cámaras. Por todas estas razones, cuando descubrí la obra de Dziga Vertov, Chris Marker y Trinh T. Min-ha me transporté a un nuevo estadio de expresión visual llamado ensayo cinematográfico. Sí, están esas personas del cine de vanguardia que siempre se resistirán a usar la palabra. Y sí, están esas otras en el documental que no sienten ningún impulso por “volverse personales”, pero para algunas personas como yo este es el territorio donde crecemos con más fuerza.