is like an Old West daguerrotypist capturing the faces of the vanishing
frontier, except this barnstorming photographer travels through Tibet. Viewers
will watch him work in Hu Wei’s Butter
which screens during Shorts Program 2 at the 51st New York FilmFestival.
first it looks rather surreal. A quick succession
of Tibetan nomads assembles for family photos shot in front of the
photographers wildly anachronistic fake backdrops, such as Disneyland and the
Great Wall of China. Every time the shutter clicks Hu skips ahead to the next
family. The older nomads still don traditional formal dress and wield their
prayer wheels, but in each subsequent photo sessions, the younger, impatient
generation more frequently wears blue jeans and western sportswear.
the format is simple, Butter offers a
shrewd commentary on globalization and the deliberate marginalization of
Tibetan culture. While an elderly woman will prostrate herself before the image
of Potala Palace, most of the photographer’s customers chose something
reflecting a more consumerist lifestyle. Yet, some customs are still observed.
Straddling the boundaries between dramatic
narratives, documentaries, and cinematic essays, Butter Lamp is visually inventive and decidedly zeitgeisty
(particularly at a time when the Tibetan language is struggling for survival,
per government policy). Patrons on a New
York budget may not feel Hu’s fifteen minute film alone justifies the price of
a ticket, but it is an accomplished production, well worth acknowledging. It screens this Sunday (10/6) and next
Thursday (10/10) as part of the 2013 NYFF’s Shorts Program 2.
Labels: NYFF '13, Short Films, Tibet