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Véréna Paravel & J.P. Sniadecki, 2010
USA | Format: DCP | 80 minutes
Tucked between the Citifield baseball stadium and the Van Wyck overpass lie a ramshackle collection of auto-body repair shops and other small businesses, staffed by an extraordinarily multicultural cast of characters. But New York City has other plans: the area has been targeted for development, complete with apartments, malls, and parks, and this commercial shantytown may soon be a memory. Filmmakers Véréna Paravel and J.P. Sniadecki have created a revealing and tender portrait of Willets Point, Queens, that captures the many roads the American dream has taken. A Kino Lorber release.
Focus on the Sensory Ethnography Lab
In a mere eight years, the Sensory Ethnography Lab at Harvard University has gone from an unusually ambitious academic program to one of the most vital incubators of nonfiction and experimental cinema in the United States. Lucien Castaing-Taylor established the SEL in 2006 on the premise that documentary and art are not mutually exclusive and that the intensive fieldwork of anthropology could nourish both. In practice this means rejecting the laziest devices in the contemporary documentarian’s tool kit: reductive story arcs, infantilizing voiceovers and talking heads, manipulative music cues. It also reconnects documentary to the work of such pioneers as Robert Flaherty and Jean Rouch, and indeed to the medium’s eternal promise as an instrument for both capturing reality and heightening the senses. The films in this selection, including work produced at the SEL and work that inspired SEL makers, attest to the aspirations of sensory ethnography: to experience the world, and to transmit some of the magnitude and multiplicity of that experience. Presented in collaboration with the 2014 Whitney Biennial.