‘Wildly creative’ indie doc ‘306 Hollywood’ excavates artifacts of grandmother’s life, home with humor, whimsy
“When you lose someone you love, you start to look for new ways to understand the world,” says the voiceover for “306 Hollywood.” “One moment, they’re there and they’re tangible and the next moment, they’ve passed.”
Elan and Jonathan Bogarín have taken this universal experience of going through a departed loved one’s belongings, and Jonathan says, tried to make it extraordinary and magical.
In “306 Hollywood,” their cinematic “excavation” of their grandmother’s New Jersey house of 70 years, the Bogarín siblings focus on her and her late husband’s belongings, creating kaleidoscopic still lives of dentures, toothbrushes, hairbrushes, dishes, paperclips, wrenches, radios, ties, cups, clocks, toiletries, cameras, socks, hats, dresses, shoes and even more dresses and shoes. Meanwhile dancers in their grandmother’s girdles, glide across the tidy lawn with Annette Ontell’s vivid and varied attire in hand, and an army of shoes marches single file up the sidewalk to the front door.
Deftly intermingled with the Bogaríns’ whimsical “magical realism” are cinéma vérité clips of the housewife and fashion designer, shot by her grandchildren over the decade before her death, and new landscapes within the old home. The living room becomes a forest, the basement an archaeological site and a train travels through the kitchen. “Experts” provide clues while Grandma Annette – who was “a character” – provides much of the humor.
On Monday, Feb. 18, at 7 p.m. in East Tennessee State University’s Ball Hall Auditorium, Mary B. Martin School of the Arts will present a screening of the award-winning 2018 documentary “306 Hollywood” as part of the South Arts Southern Circuit Tour of Independent Filmmakers. The film screening is free and open to the public and will be followed by a Q&A and reception with filmmaker Elan Bogarín.
“306 Hollywood,” the duo’s first feature, premiered on opening night of the 2018 Sundance Film Festival as the first documentary ever to be included in the festival’s NEXT section.
“We are siblings whose primary artistic ambition is to make documentaries that reveal the myths and magic of everyday life,” they say in an artist statement. “ ‘306 Hollywood’ uses humor, fantasy and drama to transform the story of an old lady into an epic tale of what remains after life ends.”
¬The Verge calls the Bogaríns’ style a “whole new way of tackling documentaries. This ‘magical-realist doc’ pushes subjectivity into poetry.” First Showing calls the documentary “wildly creative.”
Indiewire, Harper’s Bazaar and rogerebert.com echo with terms like “landmark,” “daring” and “the evolution of the definition of ‘documentary.’ ”
That was the siblings’ – visual artists – intention. “We are interested in rethinking the documentary form and are inspired by fairy tales, myths and magical realism,” say the New York-based filmmakers. “Fairy tales have been used for thousands of years to articulate our deepest fears and ease life transitions. We also believe that real life stories should be as entertaining and accessible as narrative films.
“Our cinematic language springs from this tradition and uses a technique called ‘normalized magic’ where the day-to-day is collapsed with the wondrous.”
As a result, the dusty fragments of an unassuming life become a metaphor for the nature of memory, time and history – and what they call the house, at 306 Hollywood Avenue in Newark, N.J., “full of junk” becomes the site of an epic odyssey and archaeological excavation, as Jonathan Bogarín calls it, of artifacts, memories and love.
“It’s just a delightful journey,” said Anita DeAngelis, director of film-series sponsor Mary B. Martin School of the Arts. “Their grandmother is a feisty woman. ‘306 Hollywood’ is a funny film in many ways, surreal in many ways and also touching.”
The sibling co-directors/producers/writers brought on Elan’s partner, Troy Herion, to compose a score equally magical, mysterious and playful. “Here’s [their] grandmother’s house. She was someone who lived a ‘ordinary’ life,” Herion says in a CineVino video. “Now put an orchestral score behind it, and suddenly, you sense the magic that is there, and the music can bring out the latent electricity.”
In a Sundance festival interview, Elan Bogarín says she hopes everyone can embrace the ordinary a little differently after seeing “306 Hollywood.”
“As I see my life passing …” she says, “there’s an attitude and philosophy of life, a way of dealing with it and also finding beauty and humor at the same time. It’s something I hope I can take with me into the future.”
The Southern Circuit Tour of Independent Filmmakers is a program of South Arts. Southern Circuit screenings are funded in part by a grant from South Arts in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts.
For more information on the film, visit www.306hollywood.com. For more information on the event or film series, call the Martin School of the Arts at 423-439-8587 or visit www.etsu.edu/martin. For disability accommodations, call the ETSU Office of Disability Services at 423-439-8346.