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WORST POSSIBLE ILLUSION: The Curiosity Cabinet of Vik Muniz

The Curiosity Cabinet

Filmmaker Q&A

Filmmakers Anne-Marie Russell and Paige West come clean on the ideas, motivations and ambitions behind their film.

What do you hope to achieve with this film?

Two things. First: someone remarked about the film that it “would make little boys want to grow up and be artists.” I think it’s important for our culture to recognize artists and intellectuals as heroes, and to not limit heroism to brute strength or might alone.

Second: Vik is concerned with increasing visual literacy. In a totally visual culture, where television is the social glue that has become our shared oral history, it is crucial that we become savvy and critical viewers—that we understand how photos can lie—or, as Vik quotes Lewis Hine, how photographers can lie with the camera. It’s frankly essential to our well being as a culture to be aware of the extent of visual manipulation in our world. Plus, it’s just plain fun to deconstruct the “semiotic black market” that Vik speaks of.

What did Vik think about the film?

His reaction was mixed: delighted, self-conscious, shy, excited. Most of us can’t even handle looking at a single photograph of ourselves—and here is your life’s work reduced to an hour by a stranger! What made the film successful is that Vik was courageous enough to open up and put himself in a vulnerable position. That’s what allowed us to create the intimacy that you feel—the viewer feels the impression that Vik is speaking directly to them. It’s a risky thing to do. I had to earn Vik’s trust before we even turned on the camera.

Why show this on public television?

The market cultivates the least common denominator, so noncommercial public media is essential. If money is always the bottom line, there is no room for art.

Learn more about the filmmakers and crew on the Filmmakers Bio page >>

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