Andrew Filippone Jr.
The Status Films (documentary; 4 x 20 mins.; 2011)
The first 24 years of my life were spent in a small working-class city in Massachusetts. I left in 1994. I now live in a world that is both economically and culturally middle-class. Over the years I’ve shed (consciously and unconsciously) almost everything that I absorbed from my hometown: its language, thinking, preferences, expectations, and habits.
But, my hometown intrigues me still. And something - maybe nostalgia, maybe sympathy, maybe guilt - compelled me to return to that working-class world and use it as a film subject. Culturally, it was very much the "fuzzy gray patch of nothingness" that Jim Goad often writes about, though ethnically Italian during my time there. I wanted to conjure up the feeling of the place - its limited horizons, meager ambitions, and the overall poverty of imagination and opportunity.
The four documentaries that make up The Status Films are the result. Together they map a specific cycle of actions, circumstances, and experiences that surrounded me as a child. These are films about people who are powerless, both in relation to their own lives (because culture, family, and tradition provide few models and little support for self-discovery and self-invention) and in relation to the dominant, privileged, professional society.
To make the films I turned to Facebook. I needed authentic language and Facebook was the largest and most accessible repository I could find. Using the site’s internal search engine, I entered four separate, culturally-resonant queries: “SSI,” “scratch ticket,” “bad luck,” and “bored.” The search results updated in real-time, returning thousands of hits, and I let the queries run uninterrupted for hours. I used screen capture software to record the results, and then I sifted through everything, transcribing those status updates that seemed most relevant. Finally, I edited the title cards, arranging them in a new order.
The first film in the series - SSI - establishes a fractious baseline condition. The second - SCRATCH TICKET - brings hope for a better life. BAD LUCK, the third film, scuttles those dreams and BORED, the fourth and final film, conveys the resignation that comes with that defeat (and it’s this resignation that eventually begins to boil and becomes the latent anger and frustration that fuels SSI, and we start the cycle over again).
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