Flaherty Updates: #1 Garth Donovan

Not attempting to earn brownie points here, but I actually did enter this year’s Flaherty Seminar with little or no preconceptions, especially about what I would be seeing up on the big screen. Honoring the mantra of its creator Robert Flaherty harvested a great deal of insight

and inspiration both to the simple human and the filmmaker inside me.

Overall, I found the week’s programming and discussions incredibly stimulating and challenging. Coming from the traditional school of narrative filmmaking, many of the films screened were out of my comfort zone and showcased a more alternative narrative than I am accustomed to seeing in the documentary world.

I was inspired by the work of Su Friedrich, Laila Pakalnina,

Sylvain George, and Lourdes Portillo, all of which in my opinion embraced a more standard paradigm of storytelling. Although a more recognizable through-line permeated these films, they were ripe with innovation and personality.

As an aspiring documentary filmmaker, Sylvain

George’s powerhouse May They Rest in Revolt redefined what “commitment” to making a film means to me. His sacrifice and dedication to his subjects and their struggles blew me away and as I watched his film completely on edge, I was utterly magnetized. “If I could be half as courageous, half as passionate”, I thought to myself, “then maybe finally that Sundance letter would be welcomed with a celebration instead of the usual grimace.”

Three Men and a Fish Pond, by Laila Pakalnina reminded me off thenatural ebb and flow between nature and humans, something that I will carry with me this summer as I launch into production on a film about great white sharks off the coast of Cape Cod. Her intuitive editing and timing created a space and atmosphere that I long to bring about in my work.

Su Friedrich’s use of self-deprecating humor and self-criticism struck me as highly effective in making the audience identify with her humanity and quick-fused moxie. Like Sylvain George’s endeavor, I found Friedrich’s longevity and dedication to her subject matter inspiring. I tried to fight against a juvenile attack on her film in a heated debate, but my brashness and sometimes-present social anxiety got the best of me… I think my point was understood even though it wasn’t coming out as eloquently as imagined.

Leaving the Flaherty, I welcomed a slight break from the rigorous schedule and intensity inherent in any 12 hr a day, weeklong endeavor. Yet upon my return to home and a normal routine, I quickly began to long for that very passion and fury that drove our communal experience, adventure, and discovery.

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