Moment of Truth: Reliving the Road to October Country
So Donal, what did this advantage help you express about the Mohawk Valley that you hadn't been able to previously?
Mosher: The photographs give a hint about life there. I can write as much as I want, and I can take as many pictures as I want, but you can't hear the way my family speaks. You can't hear the tone of voice. You can't hear the intelligence and the articulation of the things they say. Film delivers that. They're there, as close to life as you can get.
This film and its subject matter could easily have lapsed into reality-TV territory, which is something I know you were both concerned about. What lines did you draw? How exactly do you preserve the integrity of lives disintegrating in front of the camera?
Mosher: The funny thing is that we do get accused of being sort of an arty version of reality-TV by some critics. But there was a lot of material that was far more sensationalistic that we cut out. You can only so much of a character, but you want to show the strengths and the weaknesses. So we were constantly checking our material against that balance. We also gave the family the final edit. They got to say, "This is OK; you can [show this] to the public." hat's the big difference there.
Palmieri: It's weird to talk about exploitation, because the only thing we can do as filmmakers is go in and first ask the subject if they want to be filmed. So you make sure they wish to be on-camera. Then later on, when you're shaping material, you need to show that material you shaped. You need to go back and say, "Is this OK? Is this cool? This is very personal material." That way everybody has a say before the film gets out there. The Moshers had final cut, but they saw they saw the film and they loved it. And they didn't want to change anything. They wanted their voices to be heard in the way that it occurs.
Was this just a one-off project, or are you two going to continue to collaborate?
Palmieri: Oh, yeah. We're working on at least two or three others at the moment.
Mosher: Or we're trying to.
Palmieri: We're trying to pull ourselves out from underneath this film, which we've been very lucky to have such a good run with. But the next film we're working on is tentatively called Lab Rats. It's about phase-one human test subjects in pharmaceutical research -- the issues that arise with people who do drug testing for a living, basically. And we've been working on a couple other projects along the way. The intention was always to be working together; it just happened that this was the first one that dropped.
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