Thursday, March 10, 2011

Brooklyn Filmmaker Successfully Returns Lost Vacation Photos to French Couple, Replicating Czech Documentary

Posted By on Thu, Mar 10, 2011 at 1:21 PM

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Yesterday afternoon, Gothamist related the triumphant (and, looking back through their links, well-publicized) tale of Brooklyn filmmaker Todd Bieber, who last winter discovered a canister of film in Prospect Park and set out to find the vacationing couple in the photographs via relatively widely disseminated viral do-you-know-these-people videos. He tells Gothamist that he's just back from Europe, where he went to return the photos to the French couple who took them.

It's all very human-interest and the-way-we-live-now and a great story, which is why a similar story has been made into a documentary before.

In late 2008, BAM's annual New Czech Cinema series screened Lost Holiday, a documentary in which director Lucie Králová and her crew set out to find the subjects of 22 rolls of undeveloped film found in a dumpster in Gothenberg, Sweden by a Czech vacationer. The photos, once developed, appeared to be the complete vacation photos of seven middle-aged Asian men; the film team analyzed the photos (technically and speculatively); traveled through Scandinavia to the places pictured, to do a little detective work; and appealed to the global interconnected hivemind.

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A news item on Chinese state TV eventually connected the filmmakers with the vacationers of a few years back: a group of Communist Party officials on a tour of the frozen socialist north. The Czech filmmakers are feted at banquets under portraits of Mao; there are hugs, expressions of gratitude and fellow-feeling. The film has a self-aware, amateur, earnest gung-ho spirit as it documents the process (and thus its own creation), and concludes with a bemused, almost dispassionate open-endedness about the random nature of cross-cultural connection.

It's not a particularly easy film to see, I don't believe, but nor is its story, apparently, a unique one—I'm sure there are others, too. There's an interesting confluence at work here, of fragile because physical analog technology and the supposedly infinite digital memory machine—but then, people who lose their film today tend to be relatively present on Google.

Old flea market photo albums and their family snapshots retain their mystery, thankfully.

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