DER Documentary

Hello Photo

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by Nina Davenport
color & b/w, 55 min, 1994

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In her startling, exquisitely shot Hello Photo, documentarist Nina Davenport turns the conventions of the travelogue inside out. She takes us to India and abandons us there, leaving us to believe what we see through her eyes. Her movie replicates the experience of being a traveller and thus a voyeur, of taking in sights without necessarily understanding their meaning. Davenport seems less interested in cracking the enigma of India than in savoring it …Her hunger makes her unashamed, like the eager children who find the eye of her camera the next best thing to sweets.

"Hello Photo takes its title from their greetings, and its method from her persistent visibility. It's a film about seeing and being seen. It's about making a spectacle of yourself — as a Western woman armed with a movie camera — and being part of a spectacle; in the theater of the street, under a circus tent, on a movie set. Davenport uses images of Bombay filmmakers at work and the comments of two film stars who philosophize about the nature of fame, to frame her own enterprise, and to comment on it both directly and ironically.

In a country intoxicated with cinema, Davenport is just one more moviemaker. Yet she's undeniably an outsider, subject to the scrutiny that brings her. And what she's after is something quite different from her Indian counterparts; popular Indian cinema is spangled, artificial, and gleefully dramatic, a true manifestation of myth. In contrast, Davenport's vision is poetic and free form, attuned to the beauty and strangeness of real life. Instead of being staged, her drama is found in the details of a broken stone wall and a sky full of bats that are really kites. More than just found, it is aggressively pursued - seized in the faces of people carried on a wave of madness or religious ecstasy, in the look of a blind boy whose expression is as remote and mysterious as the moon."

(notes by Linda Dubler, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston)

”Davenport has the extraordinary eye for surreal juxtapositions, for understated epiphanies... her pictures have the electrifying power of the photographs of Walker Evans.” — Peter Keough, The Boston Phoenix
”Completely uncompromised, eloquent.” — Ross McElwee, filmmaker

Film Festivals, Screenings, Awards
Premiere, Rotterdam International Film Festival
Best Black & White Cinematography, International Film Festival of Cork, Ireland
Best Documentary, Melbourne International Film Festival Short Competition
Outstanding Independent Film Award, New England Film & Video Festival
Kodak Award, New York Expo of Short Film & Video
Best of the Best, Charlotte Film & Video Festival
Judges' Technical Excellence Award, Ann Arbor Film Festival, Michigan
Mumbai Women's International Film Festival, India, 2013
Visions du Reel, International Documentary Film Festival, Nyon, France
Seattle International Film Festival
Chicago International Film Festival
Sydney International Film Festival
Festival de Nouveau Cinema, Montreal
St. Petersburg International Film Festival
Festival de Femme, Creteil, France
Sao Paulo International Film Festival
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