Lensed in Ohio’s Broadview Developmental Center in 1967 by secret camera genius and audio visual healer Jeffrey Paull, Scrapbook tells the story of audacious autistic Donna Washington in her own words, as she encounters pictures of one of her former selves fifty years later.
“We found Scrapbook to be incredibly unique, singularly captivating, unlike anything we have seen before. Congratulations to Mike Hoolboom on making such a moving film.” Best Short Film, Edinburgh International Festival Jury
“A reciprocal dialogue both between time, and bridging time, sculpted from re-purposed footage shot as part of a project exploring image and self in 1967, in a residential center for children.” Online Movies
“In the 1960s, Toronto filmmaker named Jeffrey Paull shot footage of children and teenagers in a so-called ‘development center’ in Ohio. It was part of a process whereby the children, experiencing a range of mental disorders, were to learn how to make images. Fifty year later, the internationally renowned Canadian avant-garde filmmaker Mike Hoolboom, revisits Paull’s work to astonishingly immediate and powerful effect.” Geoff Pevere, Rendezvous with Madness Festival
“My favorite film of 2015, a difficult and beautiful work that challenges notions of both identity and representation. Working with footage shot by Escarpment School guru and audio/visual healer Jeffrey Paull, footage from Broadview Developmental Center in 1967, Scrapbook examines the faces of the most under-represented and vulnerable. The film tells the story of the audacious autistic Donna Washington as she encounters pictures of her former self. Despite the fact that Washington’s voice is played by an actor (further complicating ideas surrounding identity and representation), the voice induces empathy while making sophisticated use of Hoolboom’s signature ‘universal you.’” Clint Enns
“Some images have such power that become full of things in their inside. They have power because they look at us, because they speak from the inside out. ‘Emotions are a hard place,’ says the voice that delivers Scrapbook’s intense account. The text belongs to Donna Washington, a patient with autism, committed to a psychiatric hospital. The faces of children look at the camera, and at us. ‘How to watch a face, how to receive it?’ We stay suspended.” Indielisboa
“Heterogeneous by nature, this exhibition brings together portraits, namely usage of cinematographic art to allow us to see and hear, like never before, the link between a voice and gestures, a body and phrasing, a scene and stories. It’s also the ‘zero degree’ of cinema, (we remember Eustache’s grandmother opening up to him in Numero Zero) and an archiving mission, a telling sign of great ambition. It is not a question of hoping to explain anything, nor ‘record’ anyone, nor ‘seize’ and gather a force which doesn’t cease to open out into a firework behind a person. It is rather a question of allowing the enigma to increase, to grow in it’s mystery, and it’s fascination. It’s a question of allowing ourselves to become accomplices without any familiarity with each other, nor with the distant, faraway, and unknown. As Nietzsche once said, it is an exercise in admiration.” FID Marseille Festival
“We had the privilege to screen his astonishing new film Scrapbook. The film, which is comprised of footage shot by Mike’s friend Jeffrey Paull in the 1960s in a mental hospital, or “developmental center,” as it was called—features the voiceover of one of its former residents, an autistic woman, who looks back at the footage of her other, prior self, and narrates what it meant to her, for Jeffrey and his camera to inhabit the space of that institution, and engage her and the other residents in the practice—the ethics, really—of producing pictures of each other. A stunning meditation on identity formation and media education within one particular institution, the film asks fundamental questions about how a camera can be like a face: can open; can be a gift, given and received; can be an empathy machine; can be a site of recognition—of others, of ourselves in our own Otherness to ourselves, and of the face of which we are all a part.” Justus Nieland
“Scrapbook is a great film – only possible because of these people being in another time and looking to each other and having both these attitudes: paying attention to the camera, facing it, and also ignoring it. Your editing work, in terms of images and sounds, is giving to this book an incredible intensity, in the heart of cinema, it helps us to see, to feel our eyes and bodies in the space of our lives. ‘We are part of the same face’ – how not to be afraid of that – disappearing in someone’s face. ‘I didn’t have a body, that came later…’ So many sentences made out of precious words are given in these fragile and rooted pictures.” letter from Jean Perret
“Scrapbook by Mike Hoolboom retrieves an old experiment in which a worker at a center for disabled children filmed his charge so they could encounter themselves in a tough exercise of self-observation. This camera operator named Jeffrey Paull is the true genius of the film. He is led via intuition to obtain almost primitive images, full of curiosity, wonder, discovery, trust. Together, he and the children conjure an innocence which returns us to the origins of cinema or pure spirits.
Fifty years after leaving the center, one of its residents wanted to see it again; here comes Hoolboom, compiler of the Jeffrey Paull images. He bears witness to the confrontation of this woman with her past. ‘I liked to look at the glass of a window, but not what was on the other side of the glass.’” Curtocuito 2015, Santiago de Compostela. Four Degrees and an Optimistic Conclusion by Andrea Franco Nov. 11, 2015, Cinema and Moving Image Research Assembly
“Dans les années 60, Jeffrey Paull donne à des jeunes autistes l’occasion de filmer et de se filmer. Muni de ces archives, Mike Hoolboom poursuit son travail : exprimer au grand jour les émotions de ceux que l’autorité et le regard des autres condamnent au silence. Face aux images, Donna Washington, ancienne patiente, témoigne des étapes endurées pour parvenir à enfin se percevoir elle-même.” Fid Marseille Festival
“Special Mention goes to Mike Hoolboom’s Scrapbook for its sophisticated treatment of a cinematic subject that is both personal and historical.” Special Mention, Dokufest Jury
“The footage was shown to Donna Washington, an autistic lady who was resident at the home as a child for twelve years. Her words, spoken by an actor, are her response to seeing the footage for the first time in almost fifty years and are full of moving ideas about self, image and how we locate ourselves in the world. She talks about emotions, how they filled her with fear as a child, and her struggle to identify herself within the world: ‘The colour of the drapes could last the rest of my life – do you understand? I’m an orange drape.’
The footage is intriguing, the children looking as lost as Donna’s words suggest, though not without hope. It’s a time capsule, a strange slice of the past… The young faces are already separated from the viewer by difference, their struggle to communicate, but most of all by time.” AC Goodall, Candid at Edinburgh International Film Festival 2015 – Final Day
“Scrapbook isn’t, initially, a scrapbook, more an album of sorts, a spawning for reminiscence, but a recollection made more complicated by the effort of recollection, and the consequences of looking back. It is set in the Sixties, in an institution, a residential centre for children with a variety of psychological conditions — and fifty years later there follows an interview with a person in that time or place, Donna.
Except, complicating matters, Donna does not want to be heard. So Donna is not Donna, but an actress, the stumbling over things unseen for 50 years is performance, based in fact, but complicated by another remove — another set of tearing away from previous contexts, a rearrangement.
These are complicated recollections — “I couldn’t tell whether emotions were a place in my body or a place in the city” — made more complicated by presentation, by a sense that this is a film that might be best served not by a cinema but by a loop. In seeing someone seeing things again there might be benefit in seeing things again. A 1966 ‘collective portrait project’ provides the source material, but this movie builds upon it differently. Director Mike Hoolboom’s work can be, is, difficult. This can and should be read as an experiment with the form of documentary. Screening in Edinburgh’s International Film Festival as part of the main shorts programme (rather than the frequently challenging Black Box strand) it won Best Short — in a strong year this is no small achievement — but this is perhaps a film that speaks most to some audiences, and it can be hard to determine who that might be. The act of making memory uncomfortable, or finding uncomfortable memories in the act of looking back, the act of making becomes part of the film via the textures of scrapbook — to rip, to tear, to re-purpose, and to look.” Andrew Robertson in Eye For Film Magazine