A beautiful and moving film, that succeeds in creating a coherent narrative out of disparate pieces. I enjoyed it thoroughly, even as I was conflicted about that enjoyment.

united states, 2016, dari, arabic, bosnian, english



There’s something horrible, and yet crucial, in the relationship that documentary filmmakers can have with their subject. Particularly for documentaries that attempt to shine a light on horrible situations in distant parts of the world. In my experience, these films are usually made by outsiders, who come from someplace completely untouched by whatever they’re documenting. They get to go home at the end of the shoot.

The director of this film, Kirsten Johnson is remarkably open about this, discussing it in her artists statement. Perhaps that’s why it’s what has stuck with me most about the film. This is a collection of moments from other documentaries that she has shot, paired with footage of her family. It’s a heady mix, and it makes for a fascinating look at the worlds she has known. Where I find myself conflicted, is that most of her documentaries, and therefore most of this footage, are about places destroyed by war. Places she has documented, and then left.

These images are so the rest of the world can see the tragedy. But then, to do what exactly? What am I supposed to do with the knowledge this film is giving me? Feel bad? Donate money? Quit my life, and attempt to fix... something? I’m captivated by these images. I want to know more about these things that I’m not a part of. But it’s a voyeuristic interest. The reality is, I’m extremely unlikely to do anything with the knowledge, other than feel bad as I sit on my couch, shoveling more chips in my mouth. I don’t have any easy answers here, I don’t know what to do. I’m beginning to ask myself a lot of questions, and I suppose that’s a starting point.