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Jonathan Kahana and Irene Lusztig: Documentary Reenactment

April 18, 2012 @ 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm  |  Cowell Conference Room


Filmed reenactment has a long, inglorious history: for decades from the origins of cinema, it was a central aesthetic and conceptual method for both fiction and nonfiction filmmakers working with unrecorded pasts. With the invention of cinéma vérité, an ethos which virtually banished reenactment overnight from the toolkit of “serious” historical documentary, reenactment fell from favor during the 1960s. But in the past decade, and with
remarkable alacrity, reenactment has been revived as a critical figure, in all manner of film-historical writing, both in and on film. UCSC Film and Digital Media professors Jonathan Kahana and Irene Lusztig consider some sources and implications of this renewed interest in reenactment as a trope of history, with reference to and excerpts from two of Lusztig’s reenacted documentaries, Reconstruction (2001), and The Samantha Smith Project (2005). In Reconstruction, Lusztig unearths a dark family secret in search of answers and reconciliation, when she travels to Bucharest to construct a portrait of her enigmatic grandmother. The title of the documentary is derived from a bizarre government propaganda film that reenacts the crime and trial of a robbery that “starred” her grandmother, as a member of the infamous Ioanid Gang. Braiding together the story of the briefly-famous ten-year-old girl from Manchester, Maine who became Yuri Andropov’s penpal at the height of the Cold War and a parallel personal narrative of travel to Russia fifteen years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, The Samantha Smith Project explores the aftermath of the Cold War and the contemporary Russian landscape, while meditating on notions of forgetting, nostalgia, and the manufacturing and dismantling of political enemies.

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April 18, 2012
5:30 pm - 7:00 pm


Cowell Conference Room
Cowell College
Santa Cruz, CA 95064 United States
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