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SELF(LESS) PORTRAIT (#HotDocs14 Review)

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SELF(LESS) PORTRAIT

Directed by Danic Champoux

Danic Champoux’s latest film, SELF(LESS) PORTRAIT, is an experiment. Over 500 people in Quebec answered a classified ad that invited them to open up about themselves on camera. The list was whittled down to 50 and these peoples’ stories make up the content of the film. One by one, and yet seemingly all at once, they share their stories, shot head on against a white background. No context is given to why they’re sharing or why they’ve decided to share the particular story they’re telling. The results of this experiment vary between fascinating and infuriating.

Self_(less)_Portrait_1

The fascinating comes from the construction of the experiment itself and not necessarily in the stories being told but more stemming from the actual act of telling them. Why do all these people feel the need to share these sides of themselves with a total stranger who intends to share these stories with filmgoers? Is it egotism? Is it insecurity? Is it merely just a desire to participate in a film? And furthermore, while we do hear Champoux occasionally ask a question to keep the story going, we never hear him ask them to talk about anything in particular. The presumption then is that they decided themselves that these are the stories that best represent them. Some of these topics are as serious as suicide attempts and some of the stories are as seemingly frivolous as taking care of a hamster. While the presence of a camera can often provoke people to exaggerate their personas, it seems here to provide people with a safe space to be honest with themselves.

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The film does frustrate when Champoux becomes more involved in the process, whether that’s the overbearing, ominous score or the visual interference that comes and goes throughout the film. These elements seem an intrusion, as if Champoux is interested in his subjects but not able to just let them speak for themselves. In the end, the experiment provides intriguing results but proves to be inconclusive.

3 sheep

#HotDocs14 Screenings

04.27, 6:30 PM, TIFF Bell Lightbox

04.28, 8:45 PM, TIFF Bell Lightbox

05.04, 3:00 PM, TIFF Bell Lightbox

Click here for tickets.

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