An American in Aberfan
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A 60 minute documentary film about Internationally acclaimed American artist Shimon Attie. During 2006 he worked with the people of Aberfan, to create an artwork to mark the 40th anniversary of the Aberfan mining disaster. The producer and I knew the anniversary would be a media frenzy, so we began visiting the village in 2003, listening to their concerns about the approaching anniversary and trying to devise a film that would both satisfy the villagers and the needs of a television company/television audience. We tailored our film to match the requests of the villagers. Firstly they requested that the film contain no archive images of the actual disaster. The 17 other crews who filmed during 2006 all used the archive which so damages the village community. Secondly they wanted to 'create' something to mark the occasion, and so we introduced them to the artist Shimon Attie. Thus Shimon’s central role in this film as 'the artist' working with the villagers is manufactured. In the finished film I concealed this fact – this was a film that managed to balance the ethical dilemmas of truth within documentary. Once again I was influenced by Werner Herzog’s (Herzog on Herzog. Faber 2002) ideas of creating 'ecstatic truths' rather than 'literal truths' in film. The project addresses issues of representation, media responsibility and the exploitation of tragedy. The film also explores (with Shimon Attie) the tension and interplay between 'collective memory', history and storytelling. The impact on the community of Aberfan has been huge – it acts as a mirror to their grief and casts new light. The connection with Shimon Attie will be further explored in a cinema feature documentary film about the disputed claims over Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
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