You All Are Captains
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Posted: Tue Oct 18 2011
Is it reality being captured or drama staged for the camera? Truth or fiction, or both? Ever since Abbas Kiarostami turned the story of an obsessive cinephile into a deconstruction of what constitutes documentary filmmaking, among other things, with Close-Up (1990), the notion of the meta-vrit movie has become its own art-house subgenre, notably over the last five years; if the movie somehow manages to reflect on its own making, all the better.
Familiarity hasn't bred contempt, but it has contributed to the idea that there's only so much to be milked from these excursions---a notion this intertextual work from Oliver Laxe does little to dispel. A Spanish immigrant raised in France, Laxe plays---wait for it---a filmmaker named Oliver Laxe, working in Tangier, Morocco, to train disadvantaged kids how to use a camera. We're treated to beautiful black-and-white shots of them running around being natural kids, and sequences of them doing endless takes engaging in "real" street life. Soon it becomes apparent that, instead of teaching these North African youth, he's exploiting them for his own work-in-progress; you may insert your own European colonial metaphor here. By the time the titular statement is spoken, however, you feel that any concept of cinema as a liberating force has been overtaken by endless fun-house exercises over reality versus representation. We've been here before; you may now yell "Cut!," print it and call the concept a wrap.
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Author: David Fear