Part film diary, part personal travelogue, Thomas Allen Harris’ patchwork collage of silent super-8 footage from different times and places in his own life and the life of his ancestors uses music and narration to impose order on its jumbled imagery. A poetic meditation on the contradictions of African-American cultural identity, “Face” travels from white America to black Africa, winding up in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil, whose ethnic heritage lies somewhere between. Winner of the Ecumenical Jury Prize at Berlin, docu has traveled quite a bit itself since its bow at the Toronto fest last year, garnering several awards. Pic’s 56-minute length makes it a natural for public television.
Harris effectively interweaves home movies of his 8th birthday party and his two-year stay in Tanzania into a mesmerizing autobiography. Footage shot off early ’60s television by his grandfather, thrilled to see blacks on the screen, result in kinescopic glimpses of Africa and famous African-Americans, the eerie, blue, flickering images taking on the aura of sacred legacy. In contempo Brazil, black-and-white and color film stock alternate in chronicling Harris’ desperate search for synthesis through the superimposition of ethnicities, religions and faces.