Tuesday, November 15, 2011



THE TINIEST PLACE (El Lugar Mas Pequeño) is a documentary about a tiny area of El Salvador. It is a peculiar film in both its subject and the approach to covering it. The film does not use the traditional documentary technique of on-camera interviews. Instead, the film uses voiceover interviews with the subjects, while the visual images show them taking part in their normal daily lives, and reveal the natural setting. In some ways this film is similar to fellow IDA nominee NOSTALGIA FOR THE LIGHT, in that it uses gorgeous cinematography to establish a basis of beauty for the location, yet at the same time it must deal with the atrocities that occurred there.

Although I liked this film a lot and I would recommend it, I do have reservations about the filmmaking style. Those who know me, know that I have a basic problem with voiceover to begin with, as the incessant drone eventually becomes boring and the audience tends to tune it out. This is definitely true in this film. In addition, it creates a complete disconnect between what we are seeing and what we are hearing when the speaker is never allowed to speak onscreen. In fact, it seems downright disrespectful to the subjects that they were never given the opportunity to speak onscreen. In addition, I'm not completely convinced that the people we are hearing are the ones we are looking at. It would be nice to know if this had been completely manipulated. (Are the voiceover interviews actually actors?)

Obviously filmmakers don't really think about international audiences when making their films, but that creates two problems for the American viewer. The first is that I know so little about the Salvadoran war that I really needed a lot more backstory to have a complete understanding of this film.

Secondly, getting back to the incessant voiceover, I normally love it when the audio and the video are supplying different but related streams of information. However, since I don't speak Spanish and I am a very slow reader (I'm dyslexic), my eyes were pretty much glued to the bottom eight of the screen to read the subtitles throughout this film, which meant that I lost a lot of the visual beauty the film was intended to convey.

Nonetheless it is a beautiful documentary about a slice of life I knew nothing about. It left me wanting more.

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