Film Series Secrets in Family Documentaries- ‘The Flat’
Many families have a secret; hidden for generations or of more recent vintage. Is there a price to pay for revealing these secrets? Or does revelation provide release? Both possibilities are seen in our four selected documentary films. These films explore different approaches to telling stories behind family secrets. Several of our filmmakers are members of the family whose secrets they expose.
The group will view each film and discuss some of the key issues raised.
Week 1 -July 11. Little White Lie by Lacey Schwartz. 2014
Filmmaker Schwartz grew up in a middle class Jewish household with loving parents but she realized from childhood that something was amiss. Not until she entered Georgetown University did Lacey come to understand her dual identity. She made this film to” come out of the racial closet”. She wanted to understand and unravel the “power of denial” that had enveloped her childhood and caused her so much personal suffering.
Week 2- July 18. The Flat by Arnon Goldfinger. 2011
Israeli Filmmaker Goldfinger begins to clean out the Tel Aviv apartment of his recently deceased German-born Jewish grandmother when he discovers evidence of his grandparents’ close friendship with a leading official in the Nazi propaganda ministry. Most shocking is the discovery that they remained friends after the war. Thus begins a grandson’s journey into buried family history and the human capacity for self-delusion. He recognizes that the past often returns to haunt the present.
Week 3- July 25. The Kids Grow Up by Doug Block. 2010
Filmmaker Block offers an intimate sometimes uncomfortable look into his relationship with his only child, Lucy, as he documents her final year at home before leaving for college. Alternating between past and present and between emotionally fraught and humorous moments, the film explores the complex issues of parenthood and what it means to let go.
Week 4- August 1. Grey Gardens by Albert and David Maysles. 1975
The Maysles style of making films changed the landscape of documentary filmmaking by using very unobtrusive methods to tell their stories. By allowing action to occur without “direction” they manage to create a mesmerizing and candid portrait of two highly eccentric women living hidden from the world. The reclusive Beales, big and little Edie, who come from a largely unknown branch of Jackie Kennedy Onassis’s family, are living in total squalor amid multiple cats and racoons in a once beautiful home located on prime land in the posh village of East Hampton. Once the film was released little Edie said: “…to my mother and me, Grey Gardens is a breakthrough to something beautiful and precious called life”. In 2014 Grey Gardens was voted the 9th best documentary of all time by a film critics association.
Patti Kaplan is an award-winning producer and director of documentary films for HBO, where she worked for many years. She holds a doctorate in Art History from CUNY. Patti currently teaches documentary film at NYU and at the New School.