Ryan Findley

Found Magazine vs. Found Footage at the Oriental Theatre

By - Nov 16th, 2011 04:00 am
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Cultural anthropology is alive and well, and it is hip. Found Magazine and the Found Footage Film Festival each, in their own way, are telling us about ourselves, and in turn telling us that we’re all OK. Through found letters and scraps of paper (Found Magazine) and digitized footage cut together from scrounged VHS tapes (Found Footage Film), we are presented with a vision of American culture that is deeply mortifying, riotously hilarious and touchingly, achingly poignant.

Nick Preuher and Joe Pickett

Found Magazine is a repository of text-based memorabilia found by editor Davy Rothbart and his brother Peter or from submissions from interested parties around the country. The submissions run the gamut. A receipt for “Chicken ramen, chicken ramen, chicken ramen, chicken ramen, chicken ramen, chicken ramen, and a 12-pack of lubricated condoms” shares space with a letter detailing the entire curve of a young man’s life from marriage, fatherhood and divorce, through illness and drug addiction, all the while holding onto the memory of a beautiful girl with a French braid he met at a coffee shop ten years earlier. These are joined by a back-and-forth between two high school girls calling each other every nasty name you can think of. The exchange ends with one girl asking the other “Wait, you’re not mad, are you? I was just playing.”

In the film medium, Nick Preuher and Joe Pickett curate snippets of film pulled off of VHS tapes dumped in garbage bins or pawned off on Goodwill. From a video series by an insurance company detailing gruesome accidents in spectacularly campy fashion (Bonus nail in foot! Leaf blower leaves in eyes!) to a creepy, off-color attempt by videographers to provide lonely people with a friend on a television screen (complete with question and answer sessions that have pauses for the viewer to answer back), Preuher and Pickett are showing us how terrible – and also how beautiful – we can be in our loneliness. Public access television may be a joke, but it is also an earnest expression of someone’s interest and passion, and while Preuher and Pickett are poking fun at it, they are also presenting us with ourselves.

Peter and Davy Rothbart

All four of these men have a gift for picking out both the absurd and the agonizingly tender moments of vulnerability in the detritus of pop culture and personal life. They are cataloging our recent past and showing us to it in bright lights. But while the light might not be flattering, it does allow for good long looks. And while it might not be the most attractive thing you’ve ever seen (and there are some video dating clips that prove that unequivocally), it will be real, and earnestness comes through no matter how ridiculous the packaging.

So keep on, everyone. You may think you’re ridiculous and that no one could possibly care, but someone out there does, and someone somewhere at some time will catalog and appreciate it.

For TCD’s interview with Davy Rothbart and Nick Prueher, click here.

Categories: Movies

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