MANIFF 2017: My Life As A Film – One Father’s Life Behind His Camera
The final day of MANIFF 2017 saw this particularly intriguing Swiss documentary, My Life as a Film play in the afternoon and was certainly well worth watching, despite having to miss out on eventual ‘Film of the Festival’, Cardboard Gangsters.
Often documentaries are either a filmmaker telling other people’s stories or a filmmaker journeying to various places. My Life as a Film was rather unorthodox in the sense that it told a very personal story for the director, Eva Vitija.
Growing up, her father was obsessed with filming everything, creating a story of his family’s life and even going as far as to edit the parts he didn’t want out in order to presnet this family the way he wanted to. The film is about Eva trying to understand why her father did this and learn what kind of impact it had on him and those around him.
The interviewees were her own mother, brother and half-brother from the father’s (Joseph) first marriage. The most interesting aspect of this documentary that in truth, sets it aside from many others, is this highly personal subject matter. Few filmmakers would be bold enough to make a film to try and understand their own father more.
— Manchester Film Fest (@ManIFFofficial) March 5, 2017
My Life as a Film is surprisingly much more than a look into Joseph’s life though. It’s philosophical take on humanity is something that works very successfully in drawing you into this family’s life and discusses what Joseph was trying to do by filming all the time. Was it his seemingly distant way of showing intimacy? Did he simply want to preserve memories of his family? What led him to develop this ‘obsession’?
Director (and daughter) Eva Vitija, in the Q&A that followed the screening said that it was perhaps a little easier than it looke to tackle this personal topic in the film, because she had always known the camera to be there; it wasn’t as though she was finding out shocking details about her father’s life every ten minutes.
Vitija said the film took three years to make and its clear that that was three years of passionate work. We see her in the film, perusing her father’s extensive archive of film reels and video tapes. In fact, aside from this and the talking head interviews, the film is edited together almost entirely from Joseph’s original recordings.
This certainly impressed the jury at MANIFF enough to award the film ‘Best Edit’ at Sunday night’s awards.
My Life as a Film may sound rather inaccesible at first: German language, personal documentary etc. but in fact is quite universal in the questions that it asks. It’s not difficult to become interested by Joseph’s (or ‘Joschy’ as he is reffered to as) life and you are sat there thinking yourself about what it all meant, about what he was thinking all that time.
There are some conclusions that are posed in the film but nothing absolute. A wonderfully intriguing film that finds that philosophy that’s deep inside everyone and will leave you thinking about it for a good while.
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