Saturday, November 23, 2013

Family Stories

Stories We Tell is a prize winning documentary by Sarah Polley, a film maker who isn't afraid of complexity, in fact, needs it and seems to revel in it as she tells the story of discovering her actual paternity. The film weaves real interviews with family members with home movies and with acted scenes from the past as well as some, I think, faux home movies.  The honesty and love and searching for words to handle a complex set of emotions is deeply affecting. 

Strange to say, seeing this documentary yesterday afternoon was just one part of a 24 hour period in which I heard more family stories told than, probably, I've heard in the last year.  Thursday evening at a monthly story slam at the Cape Cod Chat House (my family and I are regulars and addicted to the format), the topic was family. So several people including daughter and son-in-law told stories, as did quite a few other people (not I). At lunch yesterday Patti told me of recently discovering an extended Swedish family that she knew nothing at all about and then after the film, Lili, who produces this class of documentaries, told about recently discovering branches of her complex family and that she'll go to Texas next week to meet members of the family she hadn't known about until very recently.

I'm amazed that these stories all were told in such a short period of time.  They are all complex, as Sarah Polley's story is. That she, with help from her two writer fathers (the one she grew up with and the one she discovered is her biological father), produced a very coherent, beautifully edited, beautifully produced film.  It won a grand prize at a Canadian film festival (she is Canadian) and was the hit at the Sundance Festival earlier this year. I would not be surprised if it's  a nominee for an Oscar and I very much hope Sarah is nominated for an Oscar as best director. 



I find that family stories are very complex filled with all kinds of emotions from glee to sadness. I like the idea of a monthly story slam -- I believe that hearing others stories is like a support group -- support in the fashion of letting us know that our life, comparatively, is certainly worthwhile.

June Calender said...

Yes a monthly story slam is catching on. Some come to talk and quite a few come just to listen. Since the venue must change over the winter, I hope it will be able to continue without losing momentum.

Lynn Guardino said...

I don't know, June, maybe I have too many friends who have stories similiar to Sarah's and failed to find this doc as interesting as did most of the class or....maybe I'm just too disappointed in my own family members to have seen the beauty. I loved Michael's story and the reading of it. I could have been very happy just listening to an audio of that. But I just could not engage in the rest of the story. I did, however, like your post very much. Your insights are always a treat and more often than not, I am humbled and reminded that I am not as intelligent as I would like to be but am gifted in the time that I get to spend with those who are.

June Calender said...

We all have different tastes, Lynn -- and different talents. You certainly have nothing to feel humble about, you have plenty of talent.

Part of the reason I liked the story is that I have a very uncomplicated family. But mainly I liked that it was so very well done as a film.