Visual artist siblings Elan and Jonathan Bogarin describe their very personal documentary about their maternal grandmother as ‘magical-realist’. After she dies the pair persuade their mother to delay selling grandmother’s New Jersey house so they can conduct an ‘archaeological dig’ that will serve as an excavation into her life.
Anette Ontel the matriarch of their family, lived in the same unpretentious house at 306 Hollywood Avenue for 67 years, and for thirty of them the Bogarins and their mother would visit her every single Sunday without fail. Now in her 90’s Anette had outlived her tax-accountant husband, and her only son David, and nearly all of her friends in the old Jewish neighborhood. Despite being alone this ex-fashion designer was highly animated and sparkly when surrounded by her family who adored her.
For the past 10 years on her life the siblings would once a year film conversations with their grandmother, which made a poignant base to start their documentary after she died.
Avoiding most of the usual norms for putting together the story of her life, the Bogarins used a very experimental approach using the pieces of objects that they uncovered. Some of their highly stylised visuals like lining up all their Grandmother’s vast collection of tooth brushes worked very well, whereas introducing the concept of seeing ghosts in the house did not seem authentic at all.
They sought advice of ‘experts” too and one of the very useful lessons they learned was from the director of the Rockefeller Archives. He explained the importance of preserving records of the famous and powerful for posterity, but also to emphasize that he considers the archive he keeps of his own family to be just as important.
The Bogarins inspired investigation stretches both one’s imagination and one’s patience at time. Some parts seem a tad too self-indulgent on their part, but having said that the final result which they premiered at Sundance earlier this year makes an Anette’s time on earth quite compelling viewing .