Cinema Turns: Catalan Creative Documentary
In this beautifully paced and expertly constructed video essay, Celia Sainz focuses on a quartet of documentary films made in Catalonia over the past two decades by female filmmakers. She does not seek to ascribe a collective national identity or ideological agenda to these works but looks for shared artistic (cinematographic and narrative) strategies. Sainz finds three such common strategies: their blurring of the lines between fact and fiction, their temporal approach and their haptic imagery. All three are aspects that set these creative documentaries apart from more conventional and more prevalent modes of documentary filmmaking.
The power of this piece lies not only in Sainz’ careful research and reasoning, but also in the specific form she has chosen for her video essay. Like the creative documentaries it studies, this audiovisual piece uses time and tone to drive home its points. It calmly lays out the four films it will address, and at times allows itself to linger on images from those films and let their aesthetic impact sink in. The alternation between a voice-over and on-screen texts are a smart and effective way to use different registers of language. This technique makes the structure of the video clearer (by using written chapter titles, quotations and buzzwords) and it doesn’t overburden the atmospheric soundtrack with narration.
This video essay was peer-reviewed and published by [in]Transition. Celia Sainz presented this audiovisual work as her master’s thesis to the University of Massachusetts Amherst (forgoing the traditional manuscript form). And masterful it is: the assured tone and well-judged rhythm of this piece are part and parcel to its intellectual and affective impact.