As promised, I am making it a goal of mine to discuss more experimental films this year. The first one I will discuss is the experimental short documentary Fake Fruit Factory by Chick Strand. I discovered this particular piece after it being mentioned as one of the National Film Registry's 2011 list of 25 culturally significant films. Before actually viewing the film I was surprised by its inclusion given that it is only a twenty minute documentary about a group of Mexican women making fake fruit. Upon beginning my viewing of the film though I realized it was something far grander and more realized than simply documenting an unusual type of employment. What Chick Strand creates in her brief documentary is an ethereal study of human existence as seen through the lives of a few under-appreciated and blatantly exploited women. Unlike other fly on the wall documentaries, Strand offers you no explanation as to what you are watching besides an occasional title card of explanation, you are left to glean from the film what is shown and what is said by the works, most of which is referencing the sexual exploits of the women. This approach makes considerable sense given Strand's close ties to the ethnography program that existed at UCLA in the 1970's. What Fake Fruit Factory becomes through Strand's vision is a concise narrative essay on a few women who are being exploited by an often faceless white man, who only desires their craftiness and, at times, exotic bodies. We as viewers fear the worst when we realize that their is little these women can do to escape, until we are shown the women enjoying a picnic and swimming at an unknown park. This brief moment reminds viewers that life is not about the products we create or those things we can quantify, but instead the always fleeting moments of quality which toss and turn like agitated waters. Chick Strand offers something different and proves how integral experimentation in film has become to the grander evolution of cinema.
For more information on Chick Strand and to watch an online version of the film click either of the stills above.