Walking in the park with Alyssa March 26, 2011

Reflections about Alyssa Grossman's film "In the Light of Memory"

In her film, Alyssa is doing something that I have always wanted to do - she has fixed her camera on a bicycle and is walking with it in a park, passing by people, things, games, and mostly, benches. The ticking of the bicycle is measuring the passing of  time. Sometimes, we hear bits of people's conversations, their laughs, kisses, nothing much, but something - all these lives that we pass  by without getting involved. And then some other lives that we do chose to meet, to have a part of their memories, about Bukarest, their dreams and hopes from the youth that have brought them here. Alyssa's film has something very Proustian about it. Walking on the park alleys, and at the same time, reminiscing the moments from the past, this film is playing with time.

Filmmaker Alyssa Grossman in Tartu (photo by Ran Mendelson)

However, time never exists without space, and so, this film is also relating a space. But the stories we hear and the images we see compose a two-layered space. One, the timeless park with its calmness, everlasting passing-by, movement in going nowhere, loosing the sense of time. Other, the city of Bukarest which is somewhere out there with its reality of big buildings, Bukarest which is in the memories of people who we hear but don't see, like we don't see the city itself much. In this way, Bukarest is in a way very present, but also very absent from this film. Because this park, as well as being outside of time, could also be more or less anywhere in space. Like here, in Estonia. And strangely, many of the stories that we hear could also have happened here, too. The linking similarities between post-soviet countries come through very obviously in this film.

Yet, the best scene in the film is perhaps the moment of present itself, when Alyssa is doing one of her many shots of empty park alleys. The alley is even so empty that an occasional passer-by gets worried – what are you doing, there's nothing to film here! From this meeting, a lovely dialogue happens between this gentleman and the filmmaker, which opens yet another reality of that space. The everlasting park also has its inhabitants, like this gentleman, in his sky blue jumper, as well as the park photographer with his puppet roe deer.

I have often been thinking that this festival, though being a collection of documentaries, is in a way presenting to us the poetic part of the filmmaking, the poetry of life itself. Alyssa's film is part of that aspect, surely. On the other hand, this film is also touching another question, the one about limits between fictionality and documentaries, as does also Iban Ayesta's film "Stone, Fish, River", though quite in a different way. If Iban is playing with the very limits of the genre, Alyssa's film is, without trying to be fictional by no means, also bringing out imagninary levels of the world. Both films affirm, to my eyes, the same effect - there is really no limit between reality and fiction - fiction is part of our lives, and can be documented in the same way as, say, some handicraft method.

, festival blog keeper