DocuClub - "The Hand of Fatima" - Jan. 28, 2009
Wednesday night I attended my first ever DocuClub screening, thanks to Pamela Cohn’s post on her blog, Still in Motion. Pamela moderated a discussion after Wednesday's work-in-progress film, The Hand of Fatima by Augusta Palmer. DocuClub, a screening series of works-in-progress documentaries, is run by the non-profit organization Arts Engine, which supports, produces, and distributes independent media of consequence and promotes the use of independent media by advocates, educators and the general public.
This was a very different experience for me because it was not your typical post-screening Q&A, where the director responds to questions from the audience about his or her finished film. This was more of a workshop where the filmmaker can listen to constructive criticism and comments from the audience on aspects of the film that did work versus what may have been unclear and could be improved. The filmmaker can walk away with suggestions that he or she may or may not take into consideration when working on the final cut. I think this is an affective exercise and I applaud DocuClub for providing such an outlet for filmmakers to gain such valuable criticism.
I won’t give away too much of what was said at Wednesday’s discussion due to the fact that it is a work in progress, but will give you some general observations to at least provide you with an example of how this process works so that you may one day submit your documentaries in progress for consideration.
First, here’s a brief description about the film. The Hand of Fatima “follows filmmaker and new mother Augusta Palmer from Mississippi to Morocco on a search for her rock critic father's ideal mystical family, the Master Musicians of Jajouka. Animated sequences based on the late Robert Palmer's writing for Rolling Stone lead his estranged daughter to the people William Burroughs called ‘the world's only 4000 year-old rock band.’"
Pamela, who spoke with Augusta prior to the screening, found out that Augusta’s main issues to deal with during the workshop would be the weaving together of all of the strands with her father’s story, her story, the story of the musicians and how that all comes together in the film's ending.
One audience member commented that she liked how there was a juxtaposition between Augusta and her father giving the film a nice arc. Another woman said she liked the film and Augusta’s voice in it, but she wanted to like her father more in order to care about his journey to Morocco.
One woman said she loved the animation, but the first part of the film had a lot of animation, whereas the second half had far less and felt more like a travel guide, therefore she would have felt the film was more even if there was more animation throughout.
And one fellow said that he did feel there was some level of clarity in the beginning of the film and Augusta did a good job with the structure and the voiceovers, but towards the end it wasn’t quite clear to him what the audience was supposed to take away. He suggested she add a little bit more obviousness and step closer to being explicit about what she was thinking and experiencing.
After the discussion, Pamela introduced me to Augusta who told me that she expects to complete the film sometime this spring, so I look forward seeing what, if any, changes she makes.