In this lesson we saw a quite personal documentary made by actress/director Sarah Polley, because it is the story of her family, but more specifically the story of her mother.
In this piece of film, we are introduced to Sarah’s family, being it her father, two brothers and her sister. The focus of this story is all around her mother Diane, because as we get more into the story of the film, we discover that her mother was the light of the family. She was caring, loving, sweet and bubbly. She was a breath of life and love to all her children. And that is the way she is portrayed, or more accurately, that is the way she is explained by the people who knew her (her children, her husband, her sister, her friends).
All of this information and more is transmitted to the audience through a conjunction of witness interviews and old archival footage. The witnesses vary between family members and friends and the archival footage consists of old home movies from Sarah’s family, even having the wedding tape of her mother Diane’s first marriage to a man other than Sarah’s father. So it is really remarkable the amount of material she found and with every new thing the viewer learns, there is footage to back it up.
But probably the most impressive thing that Sarah did, creatively speaking, for this film was that she actually re-enacted some events in Diane’s life, with the use of Super 8 film stock. The feeling you have when watching the film is that you believe completely that all that you see is the truth because there is the footage to back it up, yet when the audience reaches the end of the film, it realizes that a lot of the home videos that were presented are actually only reenactments of how the events might have occurred. It was quite a surprise, at least to me.
Another characteristic of this documentary is that the controversy between what is real and true is always put to the test. And this is the case when it comes to the discovery of Sarah’s biological father. This is the major plot twist in the film, because up until that point what the viewer knows of Diane is that she was an amazing woman but that same ‘ideal’ comes crashing down, a bit, when we know she cheated on her husband with another man. This is where we see the controversy on whether she did cheat and who could be the father, and Sarah’s personal journey to discover who he is.
So from this lesson, what I learned is that the truth can have many shapes and forms. It’s not just one thing but multiple. And what intrigued me most was the reconstruction of key scenes in Diane’s life were done to give the story a more human feeling was something quite inspiring to me, and also I like the idea of eventually working with old film stock because I really like that old ‘crackling’ feeling of the image and sound that is inherent to old movies from the 30s and 40s.