Hidden in Plain Sight
Photos and Video
Part of the Progressive Landscapes program.
Mark Street's films explore urban spaces from a variety of genre perspectives-experimental shorts (Fulton Fish Market, TFF '04), improvisational narratives (Rockaway, TFF '05), and personal documentaries (A Year, 'TFF 07). In Hidden in Plain Sight, Street travels to four different continents-Africa, Asia, Europe, and South America. Searching in urban landscapes (Dakar, Hanoi, Marseille, and Santiago), he uncovers traces of the leftist political figures Ho Chi Minh and Salvador Allende. Street intersperses his own filmed images of these locales with captions containing historical details and writings by political and literary figures, with particular ruminations on Ho Chi Minh's trip by boat to Dakar and Marseille in 1911. Hidden is a meditation on perception. In completely different stylistic fashion from John Gianvito's Profit motive and the whispering wind, Street structures his film in the first-person, placing himself squarely in the center of the journey. He takes refuge behind the lens, which observes the smallest details and rituals in these locales, and he intercuts scenes of daily life between the four continents. Throughout the film, he incorporates captions that reveal his own tentative emotional and physical relationship to his surrounding environments. These visual observations are underscored with a richly textured sound design, incorporating an amalgam of local urban noises, a soulful original score, and voices from the past including Allende's radio speech as his presidential palace was being attacked in 1973. Whereas Street's previous film A Year explored his place within his own nuclear family, Hidden in Plain Sight is this filmmaker's poignant meditation on discovering his own position within a more global historical and geographical continuum.
– Jon Gartenberg
Director's Statement Collapse
Hidden in Plain Sight was made by wandering cities that interested me and shooting 16 mm film with a Bolex and videotape in each place. I made the film over a period of about five years. I got a couple of small grants to travel to these locales, and then just let these urban milieus take me where they would in terms of how I represented them. I shot mostly by myself, walking and taking public transportation, though I hired a person to take me to out-of-the-way spots in each locale. I tried to get a feel for each place and be as unobtrusive as possible. I generally shot every day (and most of the night) for about 10 days in each city. I carried a camera everywhere and sought out locations that I thought were visually resonant and spoke to the idiosyncratic spirit of each place. It was all very low tech and simple: I walked and recorded images and sounds and was very focused on the process of active observation.
I chose these cities because I thought they were vibrant and interesting and somewhat underrepresented. I didn't want to record an icon: I hoped to show people something unexpected embedded in the street life of these urban environments. I liked places that had negotiated colonialism (Dakar, Hanoi, and Santiago) and the vagaries of the African diaspora (Marseille). I felt like this allowed me to show contradiction and multiple layers in each location.
Before traveling I did a fair amount of reading (some history, but mostly fiction) in an attempt to inhabit the voice of the place in some (albeit cursory) fashion. Later in editing I made the decision to mix all the places up so that the viewer is led from city to city, mixing up experiences and images and sounds, as one does before and after having traveled. I tried to stay active in the process of looking and experiencing even after I returned to New York and was editing: I continued to read and study the culture of these cities, hoping to find connections and dissonances between these urban environments.
Film Information Collapse
[PROGR] | 2008 | 62 | Documentary Feature
Directed by: Mark Street
Foreign Title: (Hidden in Plain Sight)
Premiere: New York
Cast & Credits Collapse
Producer Mark Street
Editor Mark Street
Director of Photography Mark Street
Music Jane Scarpantoni, Guy Yarden, Morton Feldman
Sound Designer Tom Myers
Sound Mix Bill Seery, Mercer Media
Titles Cynthia Madansky
Connect to this film Collapse
About the Director(s)Collapse
Mark Street has shown work in the New York Museum of Modern Art's Cineprobe series, Anthology Film Archives, Millennium, and the San Francisco Cinematheque. His films have wo prizes at film festivals from Ann Arbor to Athens, and he has received grants from groups like the Film Arts Foundation and the New York State Arts Council. Street's films include a graphic silent film for three projectors (Triptych, 1992), a diary film (Lilting Towards Chaos, 1991), a travel documentary (Excursions, 1994), and a reworking of pornographic footage (Blue Movie, 1994). His experimental narrative Rockaway (2005) had its world premiere at the 2005 Tribeca Film Festival. He is Assistant Professor of Film in the Visual Art Department at Fordham University.