Thursday, November 12, 2015

Random thoughts on Missing People (2015) DOC NYC 2015

The award winning MISSING PEOPLE tells the story of Martina Batan, the director of a NYC art gallery. She is an obsessive collector of the work of late outsider artist Roy Ferdinand and is haunted by the murder of her 14 year old brother in 1978.  As Batan meets Ferdinand's family she tries to make sense of why she has recently changed her priorities...

I am finding it very hard to explain what this film is about. In it's way its more like a finely crafted complex novel then a straight forward documentary. There are layers here and as we go on things reveal themselves more and more and you want to go back to see how what you know at the end affects what you see at the beginning.

In a weird way this film is possibly the first time I've ever seen a documentary where I get the sense that the film was really shaped by the director. I know all documentaries are shaped by the director who takes what he sees as the story, but here watching the film, largely completely blind on my part, I got the sense that David Shapiro truly took the material and shaped Batan's struggle into something compelling. This is not a knock on the film, rather I think it's an explanation for why the film seems to be as dense and novel like. Shapiro has connected up threads of Batan's life in interesting ways making connections to Ferdinand's life and the people around her that make the film vibrate as if charged with electricity.

The film is, as far as my experience goes, one of a kind. I've never seen a film that has had me react quite the way this one has- with lots of solitary contemplation, if for no other reason that I see some of my manias in our subject. Beyond that I really don't know what to say. To be honest I'm going to need one,   perhaps two more times through to really get a sense of what I really think about it, just like a great novel. I do like it a great deal, but beyond that I really don't know, I don't know how to explain my feelings because even now, several days after seeing it, I'm still contemplating it. This is a film that one has to sit with and think about....

Highly recommended to anyone who wants a film that's a meal and not a quick snack.

MISSING PEOPLE screens Sunday and Next Wednesday at DOC NYC.  For more information and tickets go here

(Look for a further review when I get my footing about the film.)

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