Avant-garde in form yet poignant, funny and accessible, normally acerbic experimental filmmaker John Sanborn’s short feature “MMI” unites the political, the personal and the philosophical in one deft package. Reflection on his tumultuous first post-millenial year — one that encompassed a cross-continental move, stressful new job, deaths and 9/11 — is an inventive audio/visual collage that carries real emotional heft. Unclassifiable pic merits consideration by fests, specialty distribbers and artscasters.
Pushing further at idiosyncratic docu frontiers flagged by Ross McElwee and Errol Morris, Sanborn uses stills, home movies, news footage, graphics and simple animation to chronicle a soul-shaking annum. First he moved wife, child and two dogs from Berkeley, Calif., to NYC, having taken a plum job with Comedy Central. His division eventually folded. In the meantime, both hounds expired, his father died, and the fledgling family returned from a California vacation on Sept. 10 — with the World Trade Center just 20 blocks away. There’s no speech here; helmer’s disarmingly blunt ruminations are laid out in artfully timed/placed captions, while Paul Dresher’s chamber score provides luminous accompaniment. Parting lesson learned — to accept life’s “short gasps of joy” as they come — is heartfelt.