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Mar 23, 2013 at 8:30 pm
Deafening Silence with Holly Fisher
With Holly Fisher and John Gianvito.
Holly Fisher, 2012, United States, Digital Projection, 118 mins
“…Fisher’s compelling vision of Burma is essential viewing for anyone interested in this fast-changing Southeast Asian country. The military has softened its decades of strict dictatorship, but glimmers of democratic space may prove limited and even ephemeral. … freedom of expression remains tenuous, and the army continues offensives against minority peoples whose human rights have been particularly abused for decades. Deafening Silence offers images of and witness to life in Burma that daily news reports, and even traditional documentaries, cannot. The film is reportage of another order that not only illustrates harsh contrasts, but also illuminates its subjects in a manner that allows us to connect with them beyond the archetypal media panoply of victims and heroes….” — Thomas R Lansner (Visiting Professor, School of International Affairs, Sciences-Po Paris)
Deafening Silence is a fusion of beauty and terror, observation and danger, roving visuals and intimate stories either funny, contemplative, or horrific – a subjective, layered depiction of Burma under brutal military dictatorship. The filmmaker’s first trip was legal, shooting video as a fake tour guide doing research; the next was on foot, undercover with ethnic Karen guerillas, to film internal exiles surviving in a free-fire jungle war zone.
Colonial archival imagery and clips from You Tube are woven within this tapestry of fragments, often in ironic counterpoint, and always to pierce the chokehold of censorship. This is a living history of a country arrested in time, a hybrid documentary focuses on ethnic genocide, but with constant poetic resonance and a rich multiplicity of references to history and popular culture.
Holly Fisher has been active since the mid-sixties as an independent filmmaker, teacher, and editor of documentaries, including the 1989 Academy Award Nominee Who Killed Vincent Chin? Her personal works (director, camera, editor) have been screened in museums and film festivals worldwide, including The Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Museum Biennials, and Centre Pompidou. Her first feature Bullets for Breakfast, made via JK optical printing of layers of S8:16mm, received “Best Experimental Film” at the Ann Arbor Film Festival, 1992. Two of her works have had world-premiers at The Berlin International Film Festival, including Bullets and her first documentary concerning Burma, Kalama Sutta: Seeing is Believing, in 2001.
With an on-going interest in human rights, perception, and media, Fisher followed with a second Burma project –– Deafening Silence (118 minutes, 2012), in which she travels to The Goldenland’s eastern frontier, on foot and under-cover with guerrilla soldiers, to document life in a village of internally displaced ethnic Karen people. Rejecting strategies of agit-prop, Fisher’s films are closed-ended essays, fusing linear narrative with non-linear and increasingly layered and cyclic structures, as a way to position the viewer at the subject/center of the work as it unfolds –– in pursuit of presence.
John Gianvito is a director, teacher, and curator based in Boston. Gianvito’s 2001 feature The Mad Songs of Fernanda Hussein, a three- hour dramatic exploration of the United States during the period of the first Persian Gulf War received the Jury Prize at the Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema, the first “Rosa Luxemburg Prize” and Best Independent Film at the New England Film/Video Festival. His 2007 film Profit Motive and the Whispering windreceived considerable acclaim, earning 8 awards including “Best Experimental Film of the Year” by the National Society of Film Critics, and was cited on various Top Ten lists including in Sight & Sound, Film Comment, Cahiers du Cinema, and Cinema Scope. Gianvito’s latest documentary, Far from Afghanistan.