Sunday, March 20, 2016

Eldorado XXI (2016) NDNF 2016

This is a portrait of La Rinconada in the Peruvian Andes, the highest-elevation permanent human settlement in the world. Told in long takes with voice over narration this film is going to enthrall a certain audience while the rest of us are going to be falling asleep.

I doubt that Eldorado XXI is going to get many play dates. Its cinematic aesthetic of pointing a camera and letting life happen is a tough one to endure.

This is not because the images are terrible, they are in fact quite beautiful, rather it’s that director Salome Lamas insists on holding the shot for way too long. How long is too long? Consider that most of the first 60 minutes consists of a single 50 minute shot of men walking in and out of a mine. We simply watch for an hour as men go in and out of the mine. Occasionally we get some voice over talk about life but mostly its men walking to and fro, the camera staring straight ahead not moving. After that the film settles down and we get an exploration of life within the small town, but at the same time the camera simply sits and records events. While the shots are not held for 50 minutes they still can go on too long.

Beautiful to look at film is very much a documentary of the sort where the director picks their shot and then lets the camera record.It harkens back to the days  when Andy Warhol would film someone sleeping for 8 hours or the Empire State Building for a day. Eldorado XXI is much more a film to be screened in an museum rather than in a movie theater. This is a film whose audience is going to be small simply because it is way outside the box of contemporary documentary filmmaking. Life happens before us and if you are a big fan of that you are going to love this film (and a recent film that is going to play in Europe of 10 hours of paint drying -seriously). If you don't you're either going to fall asleep (I struggled mightily to stay awake during the film) or you're going to gnaw your leg off if you just don't get up and walk out.

If you like this sort of thing go for it. If you don't either don't go or if you must bring a pillow. (Personally this is a film to have on a wall playing silently as a moving picture.)

Far be it for me to judge but this film was grossly mis-programmed at New Directors. This film belongs more at the New York Film Festival’s experimental side bar or more to likely at the upcoming Art of the Real series where the documentary film is pushed to its limits. Here the film is very likely to engender lots of walk outs and snoring.

The film plays March 22 and 23. For tickets and more information go here.

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