Teatro Amazonas | Chicago Reader

Teatro Amazonas

Sharon Lockhart's 40-minute film (1999) is a continuous take of an audience shot from the stage of the Teatro Amazonas, the 104-year-old opera house in Manaus, Brazil, that figures prominently in Werner Herzog's Fitzcarraldo. As the camera gazes on the audience members—who fidget, squirm, and stretch—a choral drone on the sound track (composed by Becky Allen) gradually gives way to ambient noise. The film is said to be a critique of ethnographic documentary, but subjecting a cross section of people from a third-world country to a conceptual-art exercise tells us more about this Westerner's intellectual hubris and slavish adherence to stale avant-garde conceits. Ethnographic depiction of everyday tasks sheds light on the way a group of people lives and thinks, while Lockhart's enterprise corrals anonymous citizens into a decidedly European space, showing us little about them except their stamina and gullibility.

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