The Search for Emak Bakia

A lyrical documentary whose surreal subject is defined through the movements of reality.

Have you ever tried to describe a poem to someone? It is hard. Really, really hard. It is so difficult because poems often deal with emotion as a medium, emotion that is delivered through a re-imagining of the way we have been trained to use words. Trying to describe The Search for Emak Bakia (and also the film's namesake subject, the modernist/dadaist/surrealist Man Ray's 1926 experimental film Emak Bakia - embedded below!- whose Basque translation is "Leave Me Alone") is like trying to describe a filmic poem that splinters, spins, risks, and is made with an entirely new look at the form.

With this debut feature, director Oskar Alegria sets out on a journey to find the illusive place of Man Ray's film which was shot somewhere along the South Coast of France. But, it isn't really the name or location that is the subject of this film, it is the journey in search of the name that becomes the off-centered focus. Alegria takes the phrase "Emak Bakia," shines light on the amorphous meaning, and explores how it is the humans uttering the phrase that breath into it life, purpose, meaning, and beauty of all kinds.

Like Man Ray and his contemporaries, The Search for Emak Bakia is also similarly preoccupied with movement, light, technology and expectation. Alegria uses digital film as the secretly malleable form that it is, mediating the world around him through the possibilities of the camera lens and his own keen mind's eye. A documentary film is never a completely objective act and approaching the form as an artist crafting art the director, the subjects- nearly every aspect of the film- are able to have a freedom that makes the film feel like it is levitating. This freedom silently, imperceptably, creeps out into the audience, hovers over each viewer, and offers them a brief moment of communal experience, feeling, & understanding that only the best art can conjure.

Another way to attempt to speak about this film is to relate images from it but the luscious dreamscape is to be seen not described: intertitles and interviews are posed between shots of sculptural wonder and fluid forms that are enmeshed with a texture of noises, songs, nature that implicate the space & viewer in a web of connectivity that this rhizome-like film expands from. Another angle is to try describe this film through the humanistic stories encountered along the director's journey, but these stories are best told by their individual protagonists: an aging princess drawn to the pulling shores, a wayward glove guiding the way in the breezy streets, a dead clown who becomes a prism for a multitude of musings. The whole film feels like a shared dream.

There is no way to describe this film other than to say it is indescribable. And I am not saying this as a cop out. Or an attempt to lure you into a screening. I am saying this as someone who gets chills when seeing a new, luminous vision with a strong, resilient purpose. You must dream this film with a room full of strangers.

The Search for Emak Bakia plays Rooftop Films Friday June 13th, 2014. Rescheduled due to weather for Sunday 15th @ 8pm due to weather (Note: I wrote the description of the film for Rooftop Films which can be found at this link! ) 



Donna K. is a recent transplant to the Midwest where she can be found exploring culture at large through film programming, writing and her general interest in the world- both on and offline.