Thursday, June 14, 2007

Miss Gulag

I just got back from the North American premiere of a documentary entitled Miss Gulag.

After the screening the director and producers took questions from the audience. One asked how they got the idea for the film. The director replied that she found information about the pageant while searching the internet for an idea for a film project. Another asked how this prison compared to women's prisons in the U.S. The director replied that she'd never been to a prison in the U.S. The audience found this amusing. She said she didn't know how they compared. One of the producers added that this was a medium security camp for prisoners who had already served some time in another correctional facility. I share these Qs and As to illustrate the take home message from my filmgoing experience. I have no respect for people who purport to be experts yet have a facile knowledge of the material. And I think that's what bugs me about films, and perhaps explains why I left film school with only an MA. Filmmakers are not experts in the subject matter of their films. They're experts at making films. Conversely, an expert in a subject may not be capable of making a film, much less a decent film, about the subject matter because they are not experts at making films.

I will wait for another day to contradict myself entirely when I report on Frederick Wiseman's State Legislature.

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