Long Story Short

June 3, 2016 by  Uncategorized /

Long Story Short: A film by Natalie Bookchin

Long Story Short is a video-installation, documentary and web project that examines and discusses different experiences of poverty in the US. In 2012, artist Natalie Bookchin, based in Brooklyn, NY, was awarded the MacArthur Foundation Documentary Film Grant to produce Long Story Short. Here's a description of the documentary on their official site:

“In Long Story Short, over 100 people at homeless shelters, food banks, adult literacy programs, and job training centers in Los Angeles and the Bay Area in Northern California discuss their experiences of poverty – why they are poor, how it feels, and what they think should be done. Numerous interviews are stitched together to form a polyphonic account of poverty from the inside.

Long Story Short uses the tools and aesthetic forms of the sharing economy to amplify the voices of those most displaced and dispossessed by it. While individuals filmed in separate spaces appear in isolation, mirroring the isolating aspects of the media forms it appropriates, words flow across the screen like musical ensemble, a imaginary collective yet to materialize.”

Long Story Short defies the mainstream portrayal of those who are experiencing poverty. The documentary highlights them as subjects rather than objects of the film. When interviewees in the film are the experts of their own lived experience, we move away from the “overused images of poverty, so-called ‘poverty-porn’”. The documentary is also made in a very personal, low-res, vlog style which not only shortens our distance to the speakers, but the interviewees can present themselves as they wanted, promoting ownership in their own narratives. The use of overlapping speeches, moving between individual and collective narrations calls attention to the complex relationships between individual and collective identities.

Above: Dominic, Angel and Lolita

The interview with Natalie Bookchin by Holly Arden on Institute of Network Cultures blog gives us some insight into the film:

“From the start, I knew I wanted to make a film where those experiencing poverty were the subjects, not the objects, of the film, where they were the experts and decided what was important. I also knew I wanted to create a large archive of video narrations. How could a large archive, taken together, change or add to current understandings of poverty? What, if anything, might it reveal and uncover? How would I structure it and make it legible on a single screen? I really didn’t know, but that’s where I started.”

– Excerpt from the FULL interview which can be found here.




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