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Trinh T. Minh-ha. Documentary Is/Not a Name

19 january, 2004 - 30 january, 2004 /
Sabatini Building, Auditorium

This film and video programme presents the complete filmography of the Vietnamese filmmaker Trinh T. Minh-ha (Hanoi, 1952), one of the most forceful voices in post-colonial and post-feminist discourse in the 1980s and 90s. Born in Hanoi, she moved to the United States in 1970, where she studied music composition, ethnomusicology and French literature at the University of Illinois. Her film work has been highly recognised in the field of documentary, where she has adopted a critical ethnographic eye with respect to the narrative of the traditional documentary, which she deconstructs in her films. The technique of documentary film often contains the illusion of offering an objective and impartial look at the observed subject. The filmmaker, like the anthropologist, usually enjoys a privileged position, a distance above the observed subject that supposedly guarantees the neutrality of the process and the document. Part of Trinh T. Minh-ha’s work consists of challenging this proposition, revealing the strategies and methods used in the specific relationships between the documentary maker and the exploited or oppressed subjects who are observed in a hieratical power structure with an underlying authoritarian discourse about the ‘other’. In her films, meaning is constructed, not given. Thus she shows that commentary is not impartial, but rather an interpretation open to all its inherent complexity.

The reference point for her work is the idea of the ‘other’, focusing on the situation of women in countries like China, Japan and Vietnam, and is characterised by a broken narrative based on constantly changing points of focus. Her films reveal an intense critique of the colonial attitudes of western anthropology, as well as a profound deconstruction of the codes and conventions of ethnographic film. Her use of many techniques from avant-garde film - jump cuts, accelerated montage and sound omission - is not merely a formal exercise. Rather, they modify the experience of film as spectacle and the ‘other’ as a subject for consumption.

Presentation of the series and conference by Guilia Colaizzi, Professor of Audiovisual Arts at the Universidad de Valencia

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