Eugene Weekly : Eugene Celebration : 9.3.2009

Eugene Celebration 2009

The Process and the Product
Mayor’s Art Show, 2009 edition

Who Gets to Choose?

Cats Down Under The Stars
Melvin Seals and JGB close Saturday night’s Eugene Celebration

Blues to POP
Plenty of shows worth the price of admission


Who Gets to Choose?

Given that one of the themes of his documentary Behaviors of the Backpacker is the Mäori idea that we walk backwards through life — meaning we can see where we’ve been, but not where we’re going — it’s rather appropriate that Sándor Lau’s films have shown in reverse chronological order in Eugene. His 2007 Squeegee Bandit, about a Mäori window-washer, screened at last year’s Eugene Celebration; this year, his 2003 film Behaviors of the Backpacker shows on the Eugene Celebration Film Festival’s final night.

Sándor Lau in Behaviors of the Backpacker

Behaviors is a short film about a long walk: Lau’s 500-mile trek across New Zealand, from Auckland to Cape Reinga. He describes it as a trip from New Zealand’s least spiritual place to its most spiritual place, from the city — which he depicts as nauseating via jumpy editing and shaky camerawork — to the stillness of the northern tip of NZ’s north island, a Mäori sacred place.

But it’s the journey that matters. The people he talks to range from a New Zealand family who opted to start an organic farm (on which Lau works briefly) to an Asian-American man who discusses the changes in the way he’s perceived: In L.A., he’s Asian; in New Zealand, he’s American. Lau talks to Americans, Israelis and Australians but keeps coming back to the Mäori men and women he meets, whose displacement is of a different kind. The backpackers didn’t feel at home and chose to leave, but the Mäori are home — in a place that isn’t really theirs anymore. As Lau explained in a 2004 article, the people in his film “are all people who cannot be at home in their own countries,” but the division between those who choose their exile and those who do not is made strikingly clear in the stories they tell.  

Behaviors of the Backpacker screens as part of the Eugene Celebration Film Festival at 4:30 pm Sunday, Sept. 6, at DIVA. Other films screening include an adaptation of Jack London’s Call of the Wild (6 pm Friday, Sept. 4, at the McDonald Theater) and a collection of shorts from DIVA’s Youth Visions Project (2 pm Saturday, Sept. 5, DIVA). Free with EC wristband. — Molly Templeton






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