Class #8 – Archives & Shorts

This week we will talk about using archives, and some great films that have relied entirely on the archive.

A couple great films that rely heavily on the archive:

Let the Fire Burn  (2013) by Jason Osder

“In the astonishingly gripping LET THE FIRE BURN, director Jason Osder has crafted that rarest of cinematic objects: a found-footage film that unfurls with the tension of a great thriller. On May 13, 1985, a longtime feud between the city of Philadelphia and controversial radical urban group MOVE came to a deadly climax. By order of local authorities, police dropped military-grade explosives onto a MOVE-occupied rowhouse. TV cameras captured the conflagration that quickly escalated—and resulted in the tragic deaths of eleven people (including five children) and the destruction of 61 homes. It was only later discovered that authorities decided to “…let the fire burn.” Using only archival news coverage and interviews, first-time filmmaker Osder has brought to life one of the most tumultuous and largely forgotten clashes between government and citizens in modern American history.”

Century of the Self (2002) by Adam Curtis

“This series is about how those in power have used Freud’s theories to try and control the dangerous crowd in an age of mass democracy.”

Capturing the Friedmans (2003) by Andrew Jarecki

“Documentary on the Friedmans, a seemingly typical, upper-middleclass Jewish family whose world is instantly transformed when the father and his youngest son are arrested and charged with shocking and horrible crimes.”

Sunrise Over Tiananmen Square (1998) by Shui-Bo Wang (30 min)

Shui-Bo Wang’s feature documentary is a visual autobiography of an artist who grew up in China during the historic upheavals of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. A rich collage of original artwork and family and archival photographs presents a personal perspective on the turbulent Cultural Revolution and the years that followed. For Shui-Bo Wang and others of his generation, Tiananmen Square was the central symbol of the new China — a society to be based on equality and cooperation. This animated documentary artfully traces Shui-Bo’s roots and his own life journey as he struggles to sort through ideology and arrive at truth.


We’ll also watch a series of short documentaries to think about ways that short form documentaries are different than features, and some of the freedom you can explore formally in short docs.

A Girl Named Kai by Kai Ling Xue

Through a stirring poetic mix of video and sound, Kai appeals to her traditional Taiwanese parents for acceptance in spite of her untraditional take on life and love.

Cha Fang (The Questioning) (2013) by ZHU Rikun

Lift (2001) by Marc Isaacs

Byun by Ben Wu and David Usui,
of Lost & Found Films

Ilha das Flores (Island of Flowers) (1989) Jorge Furtado

Ryan (2005) by Chris Landreth

Two Hands: Leon Fleisher (2007) by Thomas Duperre

Two Hands: The Leon Fleisher Story was nominated for an Oscar in 2007. It gives us an insight into the life of the eponymous American piano prodigy and conductor, who started studying the piano at the age of four but whose life disintegrated after a hand injury.


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