Family Instinct
Andris Gauja 2010
Documentary Feature

Sunday Jun 26, 2011
$10 online or at the door.
VENUE
The Old American Can Factory
(on the roof)
on the roof and courtyard
Gowanus
232 Third St. at 3rd Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11215
F/G to Carroll St. or R to Union

SHOW
8:00PMDoors Open
8:30PMLive Music
9:00PMFilms begin
10:00PMQ&A with filmmaker Andris Gauja
11:30PMAfter Party in the Courtyard
In the event of rain the show will be rescheduled for a later date ~ No refunds ~ Seating is first come, first served. Physical seats are limited. This means you may not get a chair. You are welcome to bring a blanket and sit picnic-style, but no alcohol is permitted.

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This Show Presented in Partnership With
XO Projects
Vulture
New York Magazine
IFC
NY Premiere
NY Premiere

Family Instinct (Andris Gauja | Latvia | 60 min.)

At first glance, Family Instinct is a documentary about incest. Zanda is a 28-year-old woman, worn out by hard work, trying to survive with her two children in a god-forsaken Latvian village. Her hardships can be traced back to her romantic relationship with her brother Valdis. When Valdis is put in jail, the local community forces her to make a difficult choice: to wait for him to return, or to do what she must to take care of herself and her family.

Zanda’s living arrangements are precarious at best. Her community was probably never particularly stable, but post-Soviet rural Latvia has been entirely abandoned by the government and there are precious few opportunities for work of any sort. The local men have not responded admirably, and their disastrously irresponsible drunken misbehavior frequently borders on the absurd: one man steals a chicken from a back yard and walks door-to-door trying to trade the squirming bird for a bottle of beer; another pledges his devotion to Zanda in a fit of romantic rage and breaks into her house with a corkscrew sticking out of his chest; someone leaves a door open during a party and a neighborhood dog wanders in and devours a kitten.

One is tempted to say that it would be funny if it weren’t so sad, but the truly disconcerting thing about Family Instinct is that it is sad, but it is also still funny. Moments that could be horrifying are repeatedly played for laughs and as a viewer it is impossible not to feel a little disappointed in one’s own bemused reaction to the subjects’ insanely messy lives.

But as we continue to watch, certain scenes begin to jump off the screen, and we become a bit suspicious: Some shots just seem too well-blocked, others too cleverly composed. And how could Gauja possibly have been lucky enough to have captured some of these perfect, hilariously poignant moments of desperately unhinged behavior? And yet Family Instinct still seems very much “real” in so many substantial ways…

If this film were actually a pure documentary—which it isn’t—it would be a non-fiction miracle. If it were entirely scripted—which it isn’t—it would be a powerful drama. How much of Family Instinct is “genuine” and how much is “fabricated” is tantalizingly unclear, but despite our unavoidable questions about the production, Gauja’s film offers a powerful, tragicomic, but highly authentic insight into the reality of the Latvian countryside today.


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Rooftop Films is a New York based non-profit whose mission is to engage diverse communities by showing independent movies in outdoor locations, producing new films, coordinating youth media education, and renting equipment at low cost to artists.


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