This week, Chautauquans suffering from summer-blockbuster burnout can look forward to a change of pace.
At 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 24 and 6 p.m. Thursday, July 25 at Chautauqua Cinema, Hrag Vartanian will screen and host discussions on two new wave documentaries, “Camera-
person” and “Wild Relatives.”
Vartanian is a core faculty member at the School of Art this season and the editor-in-chief and co-founder of the art and culture magazine Hyperallergic.
He said the films selected represent diverse perspectives and new movements in documentary filmmaking.
“I think both of these films are kind of unexpected because they’re telling stories that don’t often get told,” Vartanian said.
“Cameraperson,” screening today, is a film by award-winning documentary filmmaker Kirsten Johnson, which features unused footage from her many projects.
“Essentially, this is the material she thought would never be shown, and it’s also a way of revealing her own biases and bringing them into focus,” Vartanian said. “This is a very well-respected cinematographer and filmmaker who is showing the part of her life we don’t often really see.”
Vartanian hopes the film will kick off a discussion about the elements of filmmaking and photography that often go unseen and unquestioned.
“I want (viewers) to think critically about why they take photos,” he said. “I want them to think critically about why they share them.”
He said that “Wild Relatives,” screening Thursday, is “probably the most unlikely story most people will have heard about the Syrian Civil War.”
The film, by director Jumana Manna, follows efforts to protect and safeguard endangered seeds after an international seed bank in Aleppo is forced to relocate to Lebanon.
“It’s a commentary on globalism,” Vartanian said. “It’s a commentary on how the systems work and the fact that we’re all interrelated in ways that we have no idea about.”
He said that when watching the film, he wants Chautauquans to “think about the unintended consequences of (our) actions in the world today.”
“I think those are familiar to all of us,” he said.
Vartaninan said Chautauquans don’t need any background knowledge to understand the films and contribute to the discussion.
“I think people just need to bring their empathy and bring their own minds to (the screenings) and grapple with them, and not everyone has to like them,” he said. “The topics they raise are crucial, and they’re important in that they impact everyone in different ways.”