The Ethno-Fictions of Laura Huertas Millán + Q&A, Open City Documentary Festival, London, 7th September 2018.

Following the showing of three of her short films, Colombian artist and film-maker Laura Huertas Millán took part in an interview and answered questions from the audience. There is much to be said about this work, but here I’ll concentrate on aspects that led me to reflect on the direction of my own work. The films combine fiction and documentary, exploring settings, relations and lived experience. The fictional aspects include scripted and improvised dialogue (for instance, conversation between the film-maker and her mother). To a degree, this bears a resemblance to Jeff Wall’s re-staging of witnessed events.

Jeff Wall, 1982, Mimic

For my own work, this suggests the possibility of co-creation of images with participants, and maybe the re-making of photographs taken by, or events re-counted by, residents, using image making as a means of exploring their experiences and aspirations, and communicating these to different audiences.

Close focus on the body, and the stitching together of fragments is used to give a sense of a particular life-world. The creation of a narrative is secondary (and very much in the hands of the viewer). The films avoid the exoticism and colonial tropes that can inflect explorations with an ethnographic intent. Serendipity was also discussed with respect to the opening of one of the films, shot on 16mm film, in which the film had accidentally been run twice through the camera, superimposing two contrasting settings. This brought to mind Harry Callaghan’s double exposure photographs, and the potential of the accidental in image making as a spur to creativity. This would seem to hold some potential in collaborative image making, particularly where some participants have specialist knowledge and experience, which can be subverted through collective consideration of accidental artifacts.