“A Story for the Modlins” and “Notes on the Other”, two experimental documentaries directed by Sergio Oksman, will be screened on Wednesday, August 19, in A4, from 20.00. Madrid based filmmaker Santiago Mejías, in charge of programming the event, shared why he chose these eclectic shorts.
In its 26 minutes of run time, “A Story for the Modlins” paints the portrait of an eccentric family, through an unique format. The film was released in 2012, being directed by Brazilian documentary filmmaker Sergio Oksman. It follows actor Elmer Modlin who, after appearing in Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby, ran away with his family to a distant land, where they shut themselves inside a dark apartment for thirty years.
Oksman’s other film screening in A4 this week is “Notes on the Other” (2009). It follows a surreal yearly event where a crowd of Ernest Hemingway doubles meet in Florida to choose his best impersonator. There was a day in 1924 when the real Hemingway also wanted to be someone else. Notes on the Other is the story of this hypothesis.
Madrid based filmmaker, Santiago Mejías, currently on an ESC placement in A4, was in charge of programming this week’s event. He shared some of his favorite aspects of these films and what audiences can expect from the screening.
What made you choose these specific short films?
Beside the fact that they’re both documentaries, the technique used for them is kind of minimalist but also brings something new, which you might have not seen before. It’s mainly about the format rather than the story, but the narrative is also very intriguing. It looks like fiction but it’s not. In a way it’s related to the sublime and romanticism. Things that look natural but have some effect or distortion, something happens and makes it seem like from another world. For me, the concept of the sublime is something that happens in reality but the manifestation is surreal. I think that only by watching the films you properly understand this feeling, though.
I’ve never seen anything like “A Story for the Modlins”. Everything is narrated with objects, parts of it are home videos. This simple format means that the director isn’t really going into details, like why did it happen. I think that when you get too caught up in specifics some of the magic gets lost on the way. He likes mystery.
When were you first introduced to Sergio Oksman’s work?
I first saw “A Story for the Modlins” in university. One of my professors was teaching experimental video making and he showed it to us one day. I think it was one for the materials that are part of the recommended watchlist for the course. It was the only one on that list which really stuck with me and changed my perception in some way. They were also showing Bill Viola videos and other experimental videos.
What are your thoughts on the director?
I find his style very interesting. He’s from Brazil but his films combine the weirdest aspects of Spanish culture from the point of view of an outsider. It recontextualised it from an English/American perspective. The work of this director mainly revolves around identity. Why are we here? Why do we feel forced to make something in life? Is there any meaning? Where are we going? Where do we come from? Etc. But it’s always simple and minimalist. What I enjoy most is the format. I think the technique is really interesting. If you want to watch something about identity you’d be watching like Ingmar Bergman or Carl Dreyer, but the format elevates the material.
Who would you recommend these films to?
I wouldn’t recommend it if you were not interested in the border between fiction and nonfiction. People who enjoy metafiction things that go beyond reality while still being real. It’s interesting to think about what’s real and what’s fake.
The two short documentary films are screening on Wednesday, August 19, in A4 from 20.00. Tickets are available for presale online (here), or directly at the venue on the day of the screening.