Thursday, July 15, 2010


Brendon Bouzard writes an interesting blog called, "My Five Year Plan..Stumbling toward bmovies since 2006..." His July 14 post looked at my film, NO LIES. The following is reprinted with his permission..He really nailed it. I've embedded the video from Vimeo.

By Brendon Bouzard

I'm going to take two steps in advance of talking about ...No Lies, which I think is an important film. One is that every single thing that follows is a spoiler. Including my second warning: that this film is potentially triggering. lies - a film by Mitchell W. Block from Direct Cinema Limited on Vimeo.

...No Lies was directed by Mitchell Block while he was a student at NYU in the 1970s, and though it's just sixteen minutes long, it covers a lot of ground. It is a mockumentary (although that word seems inappropriate given the film's gravity) in which a student filmmaker pesters a female friend about where she's going that night as she gets ready. Slowly he coaxes from her - at first unwittingly and then exploitatively - that she was recently raped and that when she tried to file a police report she was harassed by the officers. She becomes upset at her friend's increasingly aggressive and accusatory line of questioning as he follows her around her small apartment with his camera, leading to her breaking down emotionally.

It's a difficult film to watch, but as I said above, I think it's an important one. Its subject is power relationships between men and women - rapist and victim, police officer and victim, filmmaker and... victim. It offers a withering rebuke to the then in-vogue trend of American documentary, the direct cinema style that informed the works of The Maysles, Frederick Wiseman and Alan and Susan Raymond, whose An American Family had premiered on PBS the year prior and whose filming of the divorce of Patricia and Bill Loud was fodder for ethical debates within the filmmaking community in the ensuing months. Surely Block had the Raymonds in mind when he conceived this film.

The film is very smart, asking questions about the relationship between subject and filmmaker early ("You're really intimidating with that camera, you know?" the woman jokes, offhand, unaware that her friend's camera will later become a weapon of humiliation), and recognizing that rape is one part of a continuum of power dynamics in American culture in which men exploit and degrade women. Though it predates the publication of Laura Mulvey's seminal "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema" (written in 1973, published in 1975) and Molly Haskell's From Reverence to Rape (1974), it was produced right in the thick of the development of feminist film theory at NYU in its most theory-intensive days and is likely informed by the ideas of Mulvey, Haskell, and the generation of film theorists who began exploring the problematic way cinema treats women. ...No Lies posits the relationship between the documentarian and subject as one of exploitation. It details the way, for example, pushing in for a close-up during an interview gives the documentarian power against his subject by isolating her face (roughly akin to the argument Mulvey would advance about filmmakers using close-ups as a means of fetishizing the female form).

On the level of aesthetics, the film is a remarkable success, so much so that many viewers believe it to have been actual documentary footage until they see the disclaimer at the film's end and the acting credits. The title of the film, of course, is a lie. ...No Lies is a fiction. And while it contains emotional truth, it nonetheless dupes the audience in the same manner, Block would argue, as direct cinema. By keeping the film to the putatively 'real' footage, Block implicates the viewer in the filmmaker's increasingly misogynistic interrogation and shows the callousness and idiocy of his victim-blaming and that of the police.

The film had a long life after Block made it -- it was used throughout the '70s and early '80s by state and local governments across America as a means of sensitizing police officers to the unique challenges of working with victims of sexual trauma. And though it is itself a problematic work -- the central question that I don't know the answer to: Does this film use cinematic exploitation as a metaphor for rape or rape as a metaphor for cinematic exploitation? I tend to think it's the former, but the latter would be unquestionably ghastly -- I take heart in knowing that this is the rare fiction film that actually made an appreciable difference in public life, marking an epochal shift in the way many police precincts addressed victims of sexual assault.

NO LIES and the NO LIES rehearsal tapes can be seen at this location:,600,75,76,511,233,461,183,77,491,235&alpha=N

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