Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Visiting Artist Series: Laura Poitras

       On Monday Laura Poitras came to Hunter College to talk about her independent documentary work. She had gone to Iraq to film about the American living in Iraq, post 9/11. However, she got a completely different thing than she was expecting. The family of a doctor had invited her to live with them and she was able to experience the lifestyle of a regular family in Iraq. She also got the most exciting yet frightful experience of documenting the life of a Jihadist who at the time was a taxi driver and used to be Osama Bin Laden's body guard. 
         Laura Poitras faced many obstacles while filming. She likes her films to be about the place and people she is filming about and have a more personal feel. One scene that she showed us was the family in the house talking when all of a sudden a bomb was heard outside. Instead of focusing on the commotion of the outside, she focused on the family and their reaction towards the bomb. She really tried to capture the true states of each scene without the consciousness of there being a camera there. However, whenever someone tried to talk directly to the camera, she tried to remind them that they aren't supposed to recognize that she is there. She also had an issue with language because translators in Iraq were being killed constantly and that wasn't a risk she was willing to take. She would use body language to understand what was happening.
           When she was asked about her over all framework of her documentary she explained her characters first. She followed many characters throughout her film, but essentially had one main character. She was also very careful of where and she was filming and had to be aware of her surroundings at all times.  Another person asked about the truth in her documentary. She emphasized that she tried to put out the ARTIST TRUTH. Basically there is a truth and an artist truth, which is the point of view of the artist filming. 
         I had gone to a video game seminar that talked a little about the artist truth. Every form of media wants to bring out a message. However, people need the illusion of a fictional world to understand the reality of life. This is what writers, film makers and even video game programmers do for the public. In this case, Lauar Poitras, documented her stay in Iraq, but edited everything to bring out the artist truth of what she believed the public needs to be aware of. For her documentary she felt the need to express what the Iraqis lifestyle was during post 9/11 and that is what she eventually did!

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