Shoot for the Contents

This essay film by the U.S.-based, French-educated Vietnamese writer and filmmaker Trinh T. Minh-ha (Naked Spaces: Living Is Round, Surname Viet Given Name Nam) approaches Chinese culture from an outsider’s position–or, more precisely, through a series of contrasted outsider positions and layered perspectives. Shoot for the Contents, whose title alludes to a Chinese guessing game, was motivated by Trinh’s desire to explore her Vietnamese roots (she plans to make a companion film about India, the other major influence on Vietnamese culture), but she’s more concerned with poetic evocation than journalistic information. This film may confound spectators looking for a thesis or the kind of false knowledge proffered by conventional documentaries; as usual, Trinh is interested in radically opposing the means by which documentaries generally claim to be authoritative. But the dispersed presentation–which makes use of video as well as 16-millimeter footage and consists largely of speculative conversations with filmmakers and diverse kinds of visual displacement–is provocative and compelling. Like Trinh’s other work, this could be described as the film of an accomplished and talented writer rather than the “writing” of a pure filmmaker, but it is no less commanding for that (1991). (Chicago Filmmakers, 1229 W. Belmont, Saturday, June 27, 7:30, 281-8788)

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