[FOUNTAIN]Inhumanity, hope captured by art films

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[FOUNTAIN]Inhumanity, hope captured by art films

The Turner Prize, the United Kingdom’s prestigious modern art award, has always been controversial for unexpected winners. This year, protesters denouncing the winners gathered at Tate Gallery in London where the four works of finalists were displayed.
The protesters insisted the pieces were not art and should be sent to television networks because all were videos.
This year’s prize went to “Memory Bucket” by Jeremy Deller, a documentary on Texas, the home state of President George W. Bush. The 20-minute documentary includes calm interviews, but has symbolic messages. One of the interviewees is a survivor of the Waco siege, the 1993 incident that ended in the death of 83 members of a religious group with apocalyptic beliefs. The testimony of the survivor reminds us of the Iraq war. The Waco siege was a tragedy because armed members of the Branch Davidian sect set a fire and killed themselves during the showdown with the FBI. However, the survivor claims that the cult members were living peacefully and the agents suddenly besieged them. She insists the authorities killed women and children.
Just when the viewers feel a little awkward, the camera moves to a hamburger joint near Crawford Ranch, Mr. Bush’s home. The walls are decorated with photos of President Bush posing with the locals. A sincere young waitress calls him a nice man who is kind, fun and comfortable.
Robert Flaherty, who is often called the father of documentary films, has said documentaries should be films “of discovery and revelation.” Deller analyzed today’s world through the president’s hometown. The Waco site and the hamburger bar are the sections of America and President Bush that the filmmaker discovered. By juxtaposing the seemingly unrelated two scenes, the filmmaker revealed the inhumanity of the war.
Since the Lumiere brothers shot the first documentary images in 1895, or since Sony introduced PortaPak in 1965, video images have always been mediums for experimentation by artists. Now documentary film has established its status as an art genre. Korea has its own legacy of video culture to take pride in, one of the latest pieces being a documentary about the leftist footsteps of the president’s father-in-law. Is it really a piece of discovery and revelation?


by Oh Byung-sang

The writer is the JoongAng Ilbo’s London correspondent.

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