Atlantic Film Festival recap: State of Mine

Despite an engaging title and synopsis, Jennifer Hogg’s documentary State of Mine, left me wanting more.
State of Mine is, in a way, a documentary within a documentary. It follows photographer Chris Geworsky as he photographs musicians for his newest portrait exhibition, which is also called State of Mine. The exhibition is an exploration of the ‘place’ a musician goes to when they are preforming. Through interviews with Geworsky, as well as the exhibition’s other subjects, the viewer learns a bit more about what this ‘place ‘means to them. While the film was interesting and I found each person interviewed to be engaging, State of Mine didn’t completely deliver on what it promised.
In a way, the film appears to be more a commercial for the exhibition itself, instead of a stand-alone project. This association seemed to take away from the viewing experience. I kept feeling that the documentary was a teaser trailer and that if I was to completely understand Geworsky’s vision I had to see all of the photographs.
The interviews, although insightful, were too short and felt like something that could be explained on card next to the photograph. I was also left with too many questions and not enough answers. I wanted to know a bit more about Geworsky as a photographer and why he spent so long on this project. I also wanted to know more about these musicians. For some of the subjects, why did they choose this instrument or music style? Have they always gone to this ‘place’ in their mind when preforming? Have they ever had another ‘place’? I felt a few minutes with each person didn’t seem like enough time to really tell their story. This stopped State of Mine from being a really interesting character study, which might be because the film was only 45 minute long and had to try to fit in interviews with seven different people.
There is one thing I feel that State of Mine can be commended for: visually, the documentary is very attractive. Geworsky’s portraits are outstanding and are beautifully complimented by black and white interviews and behind the scenes footage of each shoot. I found this to be a beautiful blend of the two mediums and eagerly waited to see how each musician’s final portrait would look on screen. This would be the reason a person should give the film a chance, but visuals aren’t enough for me to think of State of Mine as more than just a commercial for Geworsky’s photo project.
State of Mine, which premiered on September 13th at the Atlantic Film Festival, was an admirable effort, but I would like see the current version of the film expanded upon. It needs to have less of a promotional feel, as it has the beginnings of something really unique. It has the potential to be a perceptive look at a musician’s personal experience when they are in front of an audience.
Rating: Two out of five lobsters.

This story was originally published in Halifax Magazine.

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