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Creative History: Engaging the work of Peter Forgacs

By Mary Moylan
International Documentary Association

Nichols_cinemas coverCinema's Alchemist, The Films of Peter Forgaćs, the latest  from the Visible Evidence series of texts on nonfiction cinema, unfolds with an impressive array of essays from contemporary international scholars about one of Hungary's preeminent filmmakers. The book is organized into three sections: Part One, "Setting the Scene," contains the text's two interviews with Forgaćs; Part Two, "The Holocaust Films," and Part Three, "Other Films, Other Contexts," includes essays from 12 scholars, with themes ranging from memory practices to the phenomenology of the trace. A unique perspective is offered up by the contributions from Hungarian intellectual thinkers on the soulfulness of Forgaćs' installation spaces, for example. Through rare reflections on the delicate compositions for this compilation film genre, we are acquainted with the rich collaborative effort between Peter Forgćas and composer Tibor Szemzö.

Part One features interviews from Bill Nichols and Scott MacDonald concerning the nuanced specificity of the everyday lives of Hungarian families during World War II, and the special commitments required of filmmakers engaged with this compilation film genre. MacDonald, a professor of film at Hamilton College, delivers articulate aspects of Forgaćs' collage method: "Forgaćs creates a kaleidoscope of events by moving from one place to another, from one kind of human experience to another, from one home movie-amateur film style to another, and even from one balance of formal devices to another, and provides viewers with an opportunity to meditate on the remarkable surreality of what we call everyday life."

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