Documentary Film Making

I was back in Montreal for a few days the other week. I stopped into a documentary screening at the POP Montreal Festival where I saw an amazing film by Marc Israel called A Balancing Act. During the Q&A period, Marc happened to mention that he had also created another film by the name of Nearer My God To Thee, which explores his struggle with mental illness, physical illness and loss. This piqued my interest and I asked Marc how I could get my hands on a copy.

Approximately one week later I opened my mailbox and to my surprise there was the film! Excitedly I opened the package and settled myself in for what promised to be an honest and open look inside the psyche and life experiences of the filmmaker. As I watched, I realized the amount of ego strength Marc must possess to open himself to his audience in such a direct and sincere way. Nearer My God To Thee was like witnessing the healing process of one man as he coped with the loss of a breakup, the loss of mental/inner stability and the loss of mobility and dexterity in his hands.

I marveled at how candid Marc was able to be, and how using a video camera to record one’s thoughts and life events in the moment, partially allowed for this candidness. It seemed that for Marc, the process of filming one’s life in the moment, editing the hours of video footage and creating a narrative, requiring both introspection and self-confrontation, allowed for the development of healing and change.

Indeed, some of the advantages of creating art are that it can be reviewed at a later date, and that artwork is flexible — it is changeable and new solutions can always to found. I am used to this process with fine art and craft materials, such as paint, clay and collage materials, where a piece of artwork or a series of pieces can be worked on and worked through so that what you started with is not what you end with. It seemed that Marc used the film making process in a similar fashion. He took snippets of his life experience, in the moment, and edited them together with a narration that seemed to mimic his inner dialogue. This transformed what could have been a personal video diary into a documentary; a way to communicate with the world he at times felt so shut out from.

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