g The Film Panel Notetaker: Stranger Than Fiction - "The Axe in the Attic" - Feb. 10, 2009

Friday, February 13, 2009

Stranger Than Fiction - "The Axe in the Attic" - Feb. 10, 2009

Stranger Than Fiction
The Axe in the Attic
Q&A with directors Lucia Small and Ed Pincus
IFC Center
New York, NY
February 10, 2009

(A sold-out crowd enjoys the Q&A with Lucia Small & Ed Pincus moderated by Thom Powers. Photo by A.M. Peters.)

Last winter, I conducted a One-on-One Q&A with filmmakers Ed Pincus and Lucia Small before their documentary, The Axe in the Attic, screened at the Museum of the Moving Image. Flash forward to Tuesday night when The Axe in the Attic was given the royal treatment by Thom Powers at Stranger Than Fiction during a sold out screening, where by the way, the first 100 patrons received The Katrina Experience box-set DVDs from Indiepix, which is also distributing The Axe in the Attic. The Axe in the Attic follows Ed and Lucia on their journey through several states down to New Orleans as they meet up with and interview those who were displaced and affected by Hurricane Katrina.

Thom started the discussion by asking Ed and Lucia what their experience was like going back to New Orleans recently to show the film there. Ed said it’s hard to describe visually, but there seemed to be a general bareness, despite there being some new housing projects that have been built. “There was a whole culture and life destroyed there and that’s coming back in very small ways,” he said. Lucia added that the Lower 9th Ward has been cleaned up, but it’s all empty lots with grass. Some neighborhoods have been revitalized, while others have been completely neglected. What was most compelling for her was that the stories on the screen continue to live on. “Some people have gotten better and they’ve been able to heal, but a lot of people are still telling these stories and reliving them over and over again,” she said adding that “one of the biggest problems they’re experiencing now is long-term mental health care.”

In my One-on-One Q&A, I asked Ed and Lucia if they felt they were taking a risk turning the cameras on themselves to become a part of the story. Lucia said while it was both a challenge and a risk to make a film on such a grandiose topic that’s politically layered and insert them into it; it did feel more honest for them because they wanted to tackle the notion of who is behind the camera. A similar question was asked on Tuesday by Thom, to which Lucia responded that the reason they teamed up in the first place was because both of their previous work has been pretty raw and they both looking to seek a truth in their documentaries.

Did they emerge from their experience with an attitude about social policy and what they believe should happen with responsibility of various governmental agencies, one audience member asked. Ed replied that that’s not part of the film, he basically thinks that “the Bush Administration wanted to viscerate what the Federal government could do well, everything from Social Security to FEMA.” They didn’t make the film for social policy, but more for the fact that “citizens believe that they have a right to a safety net.” Lucia said they had been talking about making a film about poverty in America, “and when Katrina hit, it was a lens in which to address this issue,” Lucia said. “We did want to tell the story of the diaspora of Katrina, but it was more the long-term story of the history of our nation and the neglect for planning for these kinds of disasters.”

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