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Kirill Dmitriev
Kirill Dmitriev

Stories We Tell(2012) _TOP_

Families create their own narratives. Stories are passed on from generation to generation, and in this way the past continues to live, but it can also be obscured or distorted. Joan Didion famously wrote, "We tell ourselves stories in order to live." Family arguments often come down to who "owns" the narrative, or which version is decided upon as the "true" one. Sarah Polley's fascinating documentary, "Stories We Tell," is ostensibly about her mother, Diane Polley, who died in 1990. A powerful and thoughtful film, it is also not what it at first seems, which is part of the point Polley appears to be interested in making. Can the truth ever actually be known about anything?

Stories We Tell(2012)

In both of these films, and now in "Stories We Tell," Polley experiments with the expected narrative structures, pushing us to consider not just the meaning of stories but how the way we tell the story can change its impact. The interviews in "Stories We Tell" are amazingly intimate. This is a family talking to each other. Everyone still misses Diane. The loss they have suffered is incalculable. The questions Polley asks are not always easy. The answers aren't simple either.

I saw the movie yesterday evening at CPH: DOX. It is a captivating and gifted film. Rarely the personal stories appear on film, with humor, intelligence and deep respect for all involved. This film is a personal masterpiece with a story told so we can all recognize parts of the drama or the special family secrets that exists in all families. This film is a MUST SEE. Thank you to Sarah Polly who have the courage and wisdom to unfold her own destiny out in public. This film is full of vitality, humor, death, passion, great love and tremendous respect for her family.

Sarah, I am riveted just reading your story here, This must have been the most difficult movie as well as the most fascinating to make, a real artistic challenge. I am looking forward to seeing how you have portrayed all the stories in the movie.

Here, we see Sarah acting in Mister Nobody, whose protagonist narrates multiple incompatible life stories to a reporter. While on set, Polley was contacted by a reporter wanting to publish the story of her discovery before she had told Michael. The conversation this prompted led Michael to write his version of the story, which he reads as the voiceover narration to the film.

Stories We Tell by Sarah Polley is an act of self-construction. It is the fact that she tells the stories of her parents (or allows them to be told) and the way she tells them that are significant here. Something that is important about performatives is that they are neither true nor false; they simply are.

Most of the directors I named are narrative filmmakers. But there is just as exciting work being done by women in the field of documentary films. This mode of filmmaking gives female directors a unique opportunity. If they choose, they can use the documentary genre to tell stories from their lives in a manner that lets the audience know what they are seeing is a true story in a way that a narrative film cannot. They can use this method of filmmaking to reclaim control of their stories from men who seek to control them and discover their own strength in the process.

The genesis of Stories We Tell began when a Toronto journalist contacted Sarah Polley in 2007 to verify a scoop about her family history. After convincing him not to publish the story, Polley decided to tell it herself by interviewing relatives and peers for a documentary. The secretive production evolved into an experimentation with film form when National Film Board (NFB) producer Anita Lee encouraged Polley to create a collective portrait of the ways in which families share and remember stories.

Sarah Polley cared more about truth than comfort, and the grace with which she conducts her interviews makes her collaborators trust her enough to provide that truth. The result is a stunning rumination on the nature of memory, the process of storytelling, and how the two come together to create the stories we tell.

The documentary reveals a discovery of self for Sarah and brings her closer to the man she grew up calling dad. It also brings to light the stories we tell ourselves about the ones we love to ignore certain details of the past.

It made little sense. The film I had just seen was Stories We Tell, a 2012 documentary about secrets that swirl around the Polleys, a showfamily from Toronto, and was put together by youngest of that clan, the ethereal indie actress and Oscar-nominated filmmaker Sarah Polley. It had ended on a light, even comical note of discovery. But none of that mattered: this film about how we craft identity out of the stories we tell about ourselves and our family had left me a wasted puddle of emotions. Employing the same Socratic method that the film does, it was my job to figure out why. 041b061a72


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