Slow Motion, Stop Motion スローモーション、ストップモーション by Kurihara Mie was awarded with the Grand Prize and the Audience Award at the 32nd edition of the Image Forum Festival. Shot in Laos, Miyanmar and Thailand in the course of 4 years, as far as I know the director usually stays in the regions for at least a couple of months a year, the movie is a funny and poetic telling, through the mode of the personal documentary, of her experiences and encounters in those countries. On the surface thus Slow Motion, Stop Motion is a diary film and a record of her meetings and interactions with the people she meets and befriends, but on a different level it’s also a glimpse into their life and daily struggle to survive. Avoiding shots of turistic places, beautiful postcard-like landscapes, and disengaging completely from a moralistic and exploitative use of the poorest areas of the countries, the film excels in creating a vivid and vital potrait of the people Kurihara meets. The images captured by the Japanese, but often she gives the camera to children and other people to freely film whatever and however they want, feel thus very authentic. Moreover the home movie-quality that permeates the entire work is functional to what seems to be one of Kurihara goals, that is capturing glances of ordinary life in South East Asia.
An important element of the film is the narration. Done by Kurihara herself it’s infused with a dry sense of humor, the words spoke n not only are funny and represent a commentary a posteriori on what is depicted on screen, but they often reflect and indirectly criticize the act of filming itself and the fetishism towards technology that visual artists very often succumb to. In one of the funniest parts, the director buys a cheap version of a Go-pro and tries to film underwater scenes and pigeons, there were no seagulls on the beach, like in the beloved Leviathan by Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel.
The humorous parts are intertwined with few poetic and melanconic scenes, when Kurihara reflects on the sad mood that permeated the day of her departure for instance, or in a long scene without comment or narration, almost ethnographic in style, where an old man kills, plucks, cleans and cooks a rooster for his family.
The film has neither the stylish and polished aesthetics so in demand in the current international festival circuit, nor the political and activistic approach that often drives people to documentaries. I really hope that despite the lack of these qualities the movie won’t fall under the radar, because as a hybrid experiment that uses the diary and personal documentary style as a point of departure, it subtly touches very crucial themes such as post-colonial representation and representation of marginal areas in contemporary visual culture.