THE ART OF REGRET

Judith MacDougall
Australia, China 2007 | 59 Min. | miniDV, OmeU
Q&A with: David MacDougall

This bril­liant observed doc­u­men­tary, by renowned ethno­graph­ic film­mak­er Judith Mac­Dougall, explores the dig­i­tal rev­o­lu­tion in China, where pho­tog­ra­phy is known as the ” art of regret”.
In the rapid­ly chang­ing city of Kun­ming, people are ambiva­lent about whether they want pho­tog­ra­phy to be a medium of preser­va­tion and evi­dence, or of trans­for­ma­tion and fan­ta­sy. In this dig­i­tal age, the old can be made young again, and anyone can be more beau­ti­ful. In depart­ment stores people can enjoy being trans­formed at com­put­er­ized por­trait stalls. But they also value old photos of the city before it was changed. Many pho­tographs were destroyed during the Cul­tur­al Rev­o­lu­tion and mem­o­ries lost for­ev­er. Choic­es about how to regard his­to­ry, real­i­ty, and mate­r­i­al cul­ture con­front every­one in con­tem­po­rary China.

THE ART OF REGRET is a pro­found and sem­i­nal med­i­ta­tion on the uses of pho­tog­ra­phy and image-making in a cul­ture very much in flux, the film demon­strates that dif­fi­cult choic­es about how to regard his­to­ry, real­i­ty, and mate­r­i­al cul­ture face every­one in con­tem­po­rary China.