I just wanted to tie up a few thoughts I have related to Billy the Kid, the documentary I saw on Saturday night.
I’ve been doing some reading and research about how Jennifer Venditti came to make the movie and how she “discovered” Billy Page, the star of the movie. Interestingly, there has been some criticism of Venditti, for supposedly “staging” aspects of the filming. She alluded to his on Saturday night, during her Q & A session.
As a filmmaker, it’s easy to arrive on location and film something that isn’t true to the culture of the place. As I’ve stated before, you can have all your facts straight and still miss the story, because you miss the culture of the place. That seems to be a common theme when urban journalists and other chroniclers of events, arrive in rural parts of the country and try to tell a story that they don’t really understand.
To Venditti’s credit, she was very respectful, in my opinion, of the local culture. Since the filming took place in Lisbon Falls, I was paying particularly attention to how she represented the people she was filming. I think she was sympathetic, both as a fellow human being and as a filmmaker, to Billy and his family.
I found a few comments on Venditti’s blog about her being exploitive of her subject, Billy, in order to promote the film.
That’s always going to be a dilemma for documentary filmmakers, doing films like this one. You get close to your subject and how do you make the process as “natural” as possible? When does the camera “go away,” or does it at all?
I’m not a filmmaker, so I really appreciated having Venditti at the screening in Brunswick to talk to us about the process.
This film is special on so many levels and Billy is truly a unique and compelling figure and Venditti, to her credit, allowed him to have a voice for the first time in his life, as well as an audience to speak to.
Thank you, Jennifer.