by Brendan Boustany, Joalda Morancy, Katerina Stefanescu, Shahrez Aziz, and Zach Cogan
I would say that the film is a documentary, in a similar way that Waltz with Bashir is. Both stories rework nonfiction events into artistic images. Still, the stories of the characters remain entirely intact. The artistic style does not interfere with Goss’s goals in terms of the story that she is trying to tell. If anything, her decision to use video game images was simply an artistic choice to emphasize the themes of the film. The strong narrative voice is compelling enough without many visual distractions, so the sparing CGI images do not interfere with the interviews about coming to this country as visual reenactments might. Most importantly, the anonymity that this visual style allows may have been crucial to attaining these interviews.
Well, you can’t win ’em all. Over-ambition gets to the best of us, and sometimes a somewhat incoherent lesson is the result. Consider this post to be less of a how-to guide, and more of a postmortem on what is clearly still a work-in-progress.
Migration is a topic that, from the beginning, I knew I wanted to tackle in my Avant-Garde Film and Video Art course this term. US immigration reared its head quite explicitly in my week spent on Bill Brown’s The Other Side, but I also wanted to try out some more conceptually far-flung approaches to the topic. Key here were two texts: Hito Steyerl’s article “In Defense of the Poor Image,” which re-casts image quality as an image of global politics, turning a close eye on how media objects circulate around the world in the current neoliberal order, and Jacqueline Goss’ video Stranger Comes to Town (2007), which tells tales of entry into the US that have been metaphorized into World of Warcraft machinima.
I thought I could draw out some sort of grand theme from this material, about how the circulation of images maps on to the migration of people in our contemporary political regime. It turns out I wasn’t really up to this task. And it’s a shame, too, because I dearly love the videos I assembled for this week, and wish I could have done better by them.
[Update: I asked for feedback in the last day of class, and it turns out that several students actually really liked this class session. They thought its sketched-out argument left them room to think, and really appreciated having to fill in the blanks themselves. Apparently, for some students, it was perfect seminar material. Their only real complaint was that I could have expanded this material, and stretched it out over several weeks! So take the self-criticism in this post with a grain of salt, I guess.]