Category Archives: documentary

Gillian Wearing, Self Made (2010)

Ash Akhtar plays himself in artist Gillian Wearing's first feature film

Compared with art, film has a closer relation with truth. It was a spirit of scientific inquiry which drove the first experiments in taking a rapid succession of still photographs.

Perhaps the best known pioneer of moving image is Eadweard Muybridge, whose work can now be seen at Tate Britain. Around 1878, by using multiple cameras, he recorded how horses gallop.

Then there was Albert Londe who worked at the Salpêtrière Clinic in Paris. In 1893 he developed a 12 lens camera for recording fits of hysteria. His serial images were used in early psychiatry.

More than a century later, cinema is still obsessed with both subjects. The action movie is the most bankable Hollywood genre. Psychoanalysis is still a mainstay for reading films.

Now artist Gillian Wearing has made a feature film which reveals as much truth as any other you are likely to see. Her documentary Self Made explores the psychology of seven non actors.

Members of the public were invited to participate in a method acting workshop. The demonstrations of rage, despair, sorrow and alienation are as real as any found in a clinical report.

Moments of action, which include a stabbing and an assault on a pregnant woman, are thankfully staged. But the film offers a real understanding of the emotional dynamic in such events.

Of course cinema has its share of artifice and fantasy. Yet Self Made takes us back to the origins of the medium. It is a project of discovery which just happens to entertain.

Self Made is showing at Vue West End, London, until 21 October: a few more details here. You can read an interview with Gillian Wearing in Time Out here.

Phil Collins, marxism today (prologue) (2010)

marxism today (prologue) is unelaborate art. If it was on TV you would think it a more or less ordinary documentary, with just one or two creative flourishes.

Once, the voice of a presenter from East German TV is faded down and music is faded over the top. The track is a bittersweet instrumental in the mould of Stereolab.

Music is again used towards the end of the film, where library footage is speeded up in a time lapse sequence. Here the shots are of a sports ceremony in the former GDR.

Documentaries are not meant to bend the facts in this way. By adding these touches, artist Phil Collins offers strange feelings which go beyond the usual interest and empathy of the genre.

He puts a contemporary spin on the past. The presenter’s words are of less interest now than his ambience. The socialist training regime of the athletes could do with some fast forward.

Which brings us to the third arty flourish, a tangential title for the film. This is not about the past. The three former East Germans who are interviewed in it are still alive and well.

Collins keeps his 10-minute prologue short. As the maker of a documentary, he cannot film the future. But as an artist, he can exhibit part of history and make it seem new.

This film is showing as part of Phil Collins: marxism today at Cornerhouse, Manchester, until 28 November 2010.