Kites: A Review of the Film

Thankyou Ioana Bursan for sending me a copy of Kites. It was shown at the Dialektus Film Festival in Cluj, Romania in early March 2009. I know Ioana from the time of my Fulbright in Romania. She knew I would love this film. It is a Polish documentary made by Beata Dzianowicz and producer Krzysztof Kopczy?ski. Apparently, its working title was, “Learning to Watch.” Dzianowicz tutored a group of Afghan students attending an art school in Kabul. They were studying documentary film making. This film is compelling at many levels. The students, challenged by Beata’s questions and comments, begin to see what is around them in new ways. Their experiences of their own lives deepen as they interact differently with people around them in new ways. The students learn to see and ask and find significant stories, even as they blunder into difficult ethical territory with their little handheld cameras. It is a film as much about teaching and learning as about “film making.” You can see an interview with the director at the site of the Institute of Documentary Film: Gate to East European Documentary Film. Visual anthropology has a beautiful life in Europe. The images and stories being produced are stirring. This is, I believe, part and parcel of the neo-neo realism movement in Europe generally and discussed in an interesting essay in last Sunday’s NYT (which I can’t find in my various piles of papers to cite properly). On at least a superficial level, I’d argue that the lyrical films (and I find these are inevitably visually exhilirating) about “people” and their lives being produced by documentarians in Eastern Europe are products of new digital technology (its availability and portability), a burst of post-1989 creativity (including a wish to discover and imagine a new cultural and filmic identity–restate and reinvent it), and a certainty that the European Union/European identity and capitalist/consumerism is going to eventually flatten the cultural landscape. That landscape is not the quaint old world cheese shop “discovered” on a Rick Steve’s tour. It is often a landscape of pain.And everyone has a story. Dzianowicz tells his students in Afghanistan to look into the eyes, look for the soul. And that is indeed what so many Eastern European documentarians are doing with stunning results. Thanks Ioana for knowing how moved I would be by this film and for staying true to your own work. I’m afraid I can’t tell those of you on the west coast of the U.S. where to see this film. My living room? In Olympia, Washington, see if OFS brings it to town? Link to: for the interview with filmmaker.