The uncanny the holy: and the strange. (A reference on Michael Snow)
I’m on assignment here in Old Forge, New York to present a vernacular 8mm film I put together for a group of families. It was footage dating back to 1950 leading all the way into the late 70s. Possibly one of the most honest projects I’ve ever had to privilege to be a part of. The location I am currently writing from is a lakeside compound comprised of 5 homes all under the ownership of three families dating back 4 generations. It’s referred to as “camp”, yet instead of tents you have 6 Dutch Colonial homes built around one another. Each with a respective boat house and dock into the lake. The presentation was scheduled for the 4th of July and all the families who pertained to the films gathered to walk back in time. As an artist, this was a lesson of pure participation. Watching people meet the past in such a sensitive context. Aunts, Uncles, Grandparents, Grandchildren, family friends, dogs, hats, fireworks all spread out on an open lawn that runs up to a seawall against the lake. It was like a Rockwell painting. Americana at its finest. A true shock since I flew up from Rio de Janeiro to present this piece alongside my producer who made this whole event happen. The films were telecined 3 or 4 years ago and I was brought into the fold to edit and sound the films together. All of which was kept a secret. Tears welled up, memories revealed and laughter came from a sincere place. I stood next to the screen looking at the audience. That was my reward. That was my film. It was a gift and nothing else mattered. I didn’t care about film festivals, or write ups or acclaim. People were returning to innocence, and experiencing a holy moment with cinema in the purest form possible. Mission accomplished, yet, the story continues.
Days after the viewing I was given the option to stick around up here and do some writing. Meanwhile the camp was tense, at least for one of the families. A beloved dog disappeared. Cambridge, a skittish 2 year old sheep dog went missing during the fireworks display. Poor little bugger, fleeing for peace in whatever comprehension that was for her. The family was devastated and went on a 2 day search around the woods and up top a couple of mountains to get a higher view, hoping their voices would bring the dog back. Nothing. It was a sad affair for Cambridge’s tribe. They were somber, collected and tried to do everything possible to find the dog before heading back to Virginia. Imagine being a kid and your dog wanders missing right under your nose. Lost in a strange world, with no sense of direction and plenty of bears. One night I took in a quiet smoke on the dock considering the uncanny nature of this small town. The dog was swallowed by this lake side hamlet. The strange showing itself out from a familiar world. Life eerily went on without Cambridge. That is, until the third day, yesterday, the 7th. Cambridge came home. It was also my cousins birthday in Rio and my dear friends girlfriend was in surgery back in San Francisco. A highly unique operation that will go into medical precedence from here on out. She’s in recovery and all went smoothly. It was a quiet day, sunny, clear skies and me, in the cabin, struggling with software damn near throwing my laptop out the window. Then I hear a voice call me. “Mike! Bring your camera, you have to see this.” I leaped up like a boy scout and ran down expecting to see a deer playing backgammon with a chipmunk. Instead, I see 3 adults, two of which youthful elders, looking to the sky as if a UFO was about to land. A solar halo was smack center sky, high noon sun. I ran back to the cabin, threw on a fish eye lens and started filming. I kicked the exposure down as low as possible and circled everyone staring up at the sun, covering their faces with folded hands. The scene turned catholic. A sight in the sky. Faith was confirmed. All went silent. Everyone kept looking up. It had this private resolution about it all. It went on for a good 10 minutes until the halo disappeared. Here is a little video I made up with the footage.
If you please, here is a clip I commissioned the young Amanda Ziobro to film on my Canon. She’s the daughter of one of the key players in the movie: Peter Ziobro: The families joined during 4th of July, 2011 viewing the 8mm family vignette. “This was the best summer of my life,” Pete said a month or so after this was taken. He sat center front, re-united with his daughters for the first time in years. This film stirred emotions I couldn’t even begin to imagine. Unfortunately Pete passed on in the fall. It was as if this was his silver lining, filled with confirmation: a humbling experience spending time with this family.
Michael Snow’s La Région Centrale