It’s always a little fun to think about what happens to the friendships famous people had before they truly became famous. The question becomes even more compelling when the famous person in question is as divisive as Lena Dunham.
This Saturday at Wayfarers, you can see a college-aged, pre-“Girls” Dunham acting in a short film that by the filmmaker’s own admission “didn’t come out too well.” So, instead of tossing the footage into some old box stuffed into the back of a closet, filmmaker A.W. Strouse created a four-minute “docu-poem” titled “Mono Generation” about what it’s like to be an accessory to the rich and the famous and always hovering just below the surface of their personal narratives.
It’s a tricky thing to repurpose footage so that it takes on a different meaning. Originally, the short was called “The Eskimos of 6th Avenue” and Strouse tells Bushwick Daily it was “about a group of Greenwich Village hipsters who planned a snowball fight in Washington Square Park, which was the setting for a dysfunctional romance.”
The docu-poem itself tells a different story: of a college student and his friend who came from a different world to New York City, of an unlikely romance, of its eventual petering out, and of its brief appearance in a memoir as an anonymous anecdote in the form of mononucleosis.
Strouse adds, “Keil [Troisi, the director] and I located the footage in Keil’s archive and reframed it as a form of campy activism.” Campy because it creates something “serious” out of something “bad” and activism because it makes a kind of point about art, class, and ownership.
George Ferrandi, owner of Wayfarers, thinks the documentary engages with very specific generational issues of virality and fame. She thinks Strouse’s “own shortcomings (especially relative to the superstardom of his ex) function as a metaphor for a kind of generational paralysis. So regarding questions of ownership, we feel it’s very much A.W.’s story to tell.”
In case you’re wondering, A.W. Strouse is now a poet who also teaches medieval literature at CUNY. And while the film walks the line between reflection on a specific moment and an attempt to insert oneself back into a narrative controlled by Dunham herself, the ultimate question remains: does anyone have to exert singular control over a narrative?
To that end, Wayfarers is screening the docu-poem in an unorthodox way. Instead of projecting the image for everyone to watch together, visitors will have to stream the film on their personal phones “synchronized so that we can all alienate ourselves together.”
Come out at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 1!
Image courtesy of filmmakers A.W. Strouse and Keil Troisi.