Usu­ally you wouldn’t record in­ter­views with three peo­ple si­mul­ta­ne­ously with them sit­ting back to back, but I wanted them to have to lis­ten to each other. — Lynne Sachs

Pasatiempo - - CURRENTS - Tip of My Tongue

Among the ear­li­est me­mories com­mon to the par­tic­i­pants who grew up in the United States are the assassinations of Pres­i­dent John F. Kennedy and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Sachs was six years old when King was killed. The pri­mary im­pact of the event on her as a lit­tle white girl in Ten­nessee was that lo­cal cur­fews were im­posed. In the movie, an African-Amer­i­can man who grew up north of the Ma­son-Dixon line of­fers a sur­real mem­ory of the way the shad­ows and light looked in the room as he lis­tened to adults dis­cuss what had hap­pened and how he was handed a ring com­mem­o­rat­ing King so that he would never for­get his legacy. It is an ex­am­ple of how much is­sues of race were part of the early child­hoods of peo­ple born in these years and of how such for­ma­tive me­mories can be­come en­cap­su­lated and pared-down, al­most like art ob­jects in and of them­selves.

The some­times-un­com­fort­able ar­range­ments of Sachs’ par­tic­i­pants were as much for vis­ual va­ri­ety as for the op­por­tu­nity to take peo­ple out of their phys­i­cal com­fort zones as they talked and lis­tened. “Usu­ally you wouldn’t record in­ter­views with three peo­ple si­mul­ta­ne­ously with them sit­ting back to back, un­able to see each other, but I wanted them to have to lis­ten to each other — the lis­ten­ing be­came as im­por­tant as speak­ing in the film, and I thought I could draw at­ten­tion to that. I thought they would dive more deeply into their me­mories if they weren’t look­ing at each other.” In this scene, two men and one wo­man talk about be­ing young adults in Ron­ald Reagan’s America, their par­ents’ rel­a­tive wealth, their first job op­por­tu­ni­ties, and how the men felt about hav­ing to reg­is­ter for se­lec­tive ser­vice as a pre­req­ui­site for at­tend­ing col­lege. “By re-in­hab­it­ing other mo­ments in their lives, they kind of be­came ac­tors in their own sto­ries,” Sachs said.

As the nar­ra­tive arc of the film moves through the decades to the present, some of the sto­ries ven­ture into dif­fi­cult child­hoods or trau­matic ex­pe­ri­ences, but most are more es­o­ter­i­cally per­sonal, even when they are an­chored to a his­tor­i­cal mo­ment. Time is marked in many ways, in­clud­ing in the po­etic and vis­ual in­ter­ludes that are in­ter­spersed through­out the sto­ries. In one in­stance that falls within the 1990s, Sachs refers to the flower called columbine, which is also the name of the high school in Colorado where one of the first mass school shoot­ings took place. Sachs did not want to be­la­bor the point, which no one in the movie dis­cusses, but she said that she in­cluded it be­cause, for her, that time was about be­ing a young mother and imag­in­ing what it would be like to be the mother of a vic­tim or killer. “Some peo­ple will pick up on that in the film, and some peo­ple won’t. It might de­pend on how close they were to the event.”

hur­tles into Sept. 11, 2001, and af­ter that, time seems to col­lapse. There is war, the re­ces­sion, and then comes the rise of Oc­cupy Wall Street, when hun­dreds of ac­tivists camped out in a city park to protest eco­nomic in­equal­ity. Sachs was there to doc­u­ment the lead­er­less move­ment. “I knew I’d use the footage in the movie, so I shot all of it out of fo­cus. I thought it was so near the present that peo­ple in the au­di­ence, even if they didn’t live in New York, would still have their own re­la­tion­ship with it. I thought it would help peo­ple pro­ject their own ex­pe­ri­ences.” — Jen­nifer Levin

“Tip of My Tongue” screens as part of Cur­rents New Me­dia at 7 p.m. Thurs­day, June 15, and Thurs­day, June 22, at Vi­o­let Crown (1606 Al­caldesa St., 505-216-5678); no charge.

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