Triumph of the Wall 2012
Distributed by First Run Features, 630 Ninth Avenue, Suite 1213, New York, NY 10036; 212-243-0600
Produced by Frederic Bohbot and Bill Stone
Directed by Bill Stone
DVD , color, 102 min.
Jr. High - General Adult
Architecture, Art, Documentaries, Philosophy, Psychology, Sociology, Storytelling, Film Studies
Date Entered: 07/18/2014Reviewed by Jennifer Dean, Graduate of the CUNY Graduate Center MALS program with thesis on female filmmakers.
Filmmaker Bill Stone’s documentary Triumph of the Wall follows Chris Overing as he attempts to build a stone wall. Stone admits in voiceover that he is not known for commitment and acknowledges his meandering tendencies which are definitely reflected in the film. At no point does the audience find out who the “client” is that is commissioning this wall. Stone tells us a little about amateur stonemason Chris Overing but admits that he knows little about him. When the documentary begins Chris looks to the filmmaker to document his creation and assumes he will be finished building the wall in four months. Several years later the wall is still incomplete. Stone admits in voice over that he has only ever done camerawork for other filmmakers (and indeed the camera work is well done and captures beautiful images of nature and stone) – and is “unclear what kind of film or story [he] could make on [his] own.” The story remains unclear but philosophy (and occasionally humor) is present throughout the documentary. Sometimes the philosophy is a little heavy-handed but the film definitely is a testament to the struggle of documentary filmmaking.
Stone continues to follow Chris even as others leave him. His first assistant Dez, an immigrant from the Congo, who seemed to diligently work at putting the stones together even as Chris faltered, finally leaves to go back to school, presumably to pursue something more concrete. The quality of Stone’s narration is as melancholy and lacking in drive as is the rest of the “narrative” of the film. What was going to be a few months of filmmaking turns into several years and Stone clearly grows frustrated with his subject. Triumph of the Wall is an excellent film to view for the study of the craft of documentary filmmaking. More than documenting stonemasonry or the story of this one aimless “artist” (Chris, the builder of the wall) or the journey of a frustrated filmmaker (Stone himself) the film depicts the complications that often arise in the world of documentary filmmaking. How do you mold a story out of hours and hours of footage – or what does it mean for the process that you can't really control the story or your subject? An excellent compliment to Triumph of the Wall would be Operation Filmmaker (2007) directed by Nina Davenport which also includes the journey of the filmmaker as part of the film itself. Similar to Stone, Davenport becomes disenchanted with her subject but her disenchantment is even more severe, ending in an even more ambiguous place. Triumph of the Wall says a lot about the human desire to create something of meaning (a wall, a film) but doesn’t necessarily resolve the issue (convince the audience that desire inevitably will lead to results).
- 2012 Winner of the Pierre et Yolande Perrault Prize, Les Rendez-vous du Cinéma Québécois