50 Years Later, We Still Don’t Know Whether This Film Is Fact or Fiction

William Greaves, Symbiopsychotaxiplasm Take One (image courtesy Criterion and Janus Films) In 1968, filmmaker William Greaves took a small crew and his camera equipment to Central Park and made a nonfiction film about making a nonfiction film about the making of a fiction film. If this sounds confusing, it’s because it is. To break it down: first, a crew shot a short film; then, a documentary captured the crew making the short film; finally, the overall film, titled Symbiopsychotaxiplasm Take One , captured the making of the documentary of the short film. By using the documentary format as a means to test the boundaries of the documentary genre, Greaves turned cinéma verité on itself, never making it clear whether the film was in fact fiction, nonfiction, improvisation, or some combination of the above. Harlem-born Greaves, who died in 2014 at the age of 87, started his career as a dancer and stage actor in New York City with both the American Negro Theater and the Actor’s Studio. He honed his filmmaking skills when he moved to Ottawa to work with the National Film Board of Canada. When he returned to the States as a filmmaker for the United Nations, […]

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