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The NYU Cinema Research Institute brings together innovators in film and media finance, production, marketing, and distribution to imagine and realize a new future for artist-entrepreneurs. 



Kim Nelson



Happy New Year! My posts from last year were filed under the category "Live Documentary" but were not quite about live documentary. Not yet. What they've been about so far are questions of historical truth telling and the unique, challenging and solitary view from the editor's chair. These are both interests that have lead to me investigate new platforms for documentary film. This month I'll explain my past approach to film, and my inspirations, and reasons for looking into possibilities for the hybrid projection/performance documentary. 

In 2010, I made a film called Berliner (see trailer below) about women in the Turkish community in Berlin. It probed the impact of the reunification of Germany, ending the island of West Berlin, and 9/11, both cataclysmic global events that transformed the sense of self that was projected on the streets in Berlin's predominantly Turkish kiez's (boroughs) of Kreuzberg and Neukölln.  My interest in the topic came out of a curiosity about veiling and the many Muslim Lebanese women who were the mothers of my children's classmates at school in Canada. By talking to women in a similar minority community in another country, I thought I could learn something about my own neighbors. In Berlin I was an outsider and this gave me greater access to interviewees because it allowed them to be more open with me. They could criticize the sociopolitical culture of their city and country without worrying that I would become defensive. Canada is also known for being very "Multikulti", as the Germans would say, so I also benefited from that perception. I wanted to make a film that drew the audience into a conversation with people they may not have spoken to before, particularly about deeply personal issues. I hoped to make a complex film that does not provide a clear argument stating what is right or wrong or creating a monolithic portrait of this diverse community with many layers of inclusion and othering within it. Complexity of course makes a lot of people uncomfortable.

My major takeaway from the film was to understand how important our identities are to us. I think the more a culture tries to discourage certain identities the more entrenched they become. Since 2010 the issues the film deals with have only become more vital. Engaging audiences in a conversation with the material is a major impetus for me to conceive and mount documentary in the live space, to allow a place for audiences to contribute to the shaping of the narrative in a communal way.