Bontoc Eulogy and Seed and Earth | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Bontoc Eulogy and Seed and Earth 

Ever since Roger & Me and Hoop Dreams, documentaries as personal journals and social commentaries--rather than as "objective" news babble--have been enjoying a renaissance. Worldwide documentary storytelling has begun to underscore how ethnic diversity is being imperiled by McCulture--a point vividly made by many selections of Columbia College's Windy City International Documentary Festival, taking place this weekend. Two of these, Bontoc Eulogy and Seed and Earth, deservedly share the "best of festival" award. In the hour-long Bontoc Eulogy, Filipino-born Marlon E. Fuentes uses his grandfather's fateful journey to the U.S. as a platform for wry observations on the history of the island nation's torturous relationship with the West. Mixing seldom-seen archival footage with dramatic re-creations, he tells how an entire Luzon village and its inhabitants--including his grandfather--were displayed as anthropological "specimens" in the Saint Louis World's Fair of 1904. In voice-over Fuentes is by turns ironic and filled with reverie as he describes idyllic village life and ponders the issues of race and identity. By looking at an odd footnote in modern Filipino history, Fuentes has come up not only with an original, heartfelt indictment of cultural imperialism but also a sardonic meditation on his own twisted journey to the West. Asian village life is also the focus of the half-hour Seed and Earth by Lina Fruzzetti, Alfred Guzzetti, Ned Johnston, and Akos Ostor, about the daily routines of two families in rural Bengal. Through editing only--there are no talking heads or off-camera commentaries--the attitudes and relationships of the family members gradually emerge. Nothing exotic or earthshaking is revealed, yet in the end the village becomes as familiar as one of our towns. Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington, Sunday, May 26, 1:00 (Bontoc Eulogy) and 3:45 (Seed and Earth), 663-1600. --Ted Shen

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