Durham doc organization presents works in progress

Apr. 07, 2013 @ 06:13 PM

Two films in progress – one about the 1997 murder of a family of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the other an essay on the meaning of Occupy Wall Street and other revolutionary movements – were screened Sunday during the Southern Documentary Fund’s annual In-the-Works discussion at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival.

The Southern Documentary Fund, based in Durham, sponsors films made in or about the South. Directors Ashley York and Durham filmmaker Rodrigo Dorfman showed excerpts from their respective films, and received feedback and critiques from the audience, which included fellow documentary filmmakers.

York’s film “So Help You God” is a documentary about the aftermath of the murder of Jehovah’s Witnesses by a group of teenagers from rural Kentucky. York grew up in Pikeville with the six teens who are now serving prison sentences for their crimes. Her film, using many close-ups, examines the teens’ varying views of the crime.

The film has been some nine years in the making, and York said she originally intended to make a documentary about the war on drugs. Her knowledge of the people involved in this crime drove her to make “So Help You God.” During the process of filming, “it’s very much turned into a film about life in prison,” York said.

Dorfman’s film, “Occupy the Imagination,” is his personal essay on the connections between two distant, yet in his view connected, events – the coup that overthrew elected Chilean socialist president Salvador Allende, and the recent Occupy Wall Street movement. Dorfman’s father, playwright and novelist Ariel Dorfman, had to flee Chile after the coup. Rodrigo Dorfman interviews his father and other Chileans whose lives were changed by the coup.

Much of Dorfman’s film looks at the contrast between the characters Walt Disney created, and the books that Chilean publisher Quimantu produced as an alternative to that view. Dorfman also uses his father’s book, “How to Read Donald Duck,” a critique of Disney and capitalism, as a starting point.

By examining Chile’s failed revolution, Dorfman said he hopes his film “will become a mirror for you to look at your own country.” Some issues that the Occupy Wall Street movement addressed – inequality of wealth, the breakdown of labor unions, privatization of health care and other safety nets – are directly related to what happened in Chile, Dorfman said. “All of these ideas that are plaguing our society were born in that coup,” he said.

Dorfman narrates “Occupy the Imagination,” a recent addition to the film. The audience at Full Frame was the first to see a newly edited version with his narration.

An audience member asked him where he planned to take the rest of the film. The next parts of the film will look at the dictatorship under Augusto Pinochet, and a final chapter will look at possible solutions, Dorfman said.

“I’m trying to capture the emotion of a movement, rather than the idea of a movement,” Dorfman said. “My father’s generation believed that the world could change, and it didn’t work.”