Milwaukee filmmaker Dan Ollman presents new film on campus

Emily Carl

Filmmaker Dan Ollman visited campus on Monday May 3 for a showing of his documentary, “The Life Over There,” followed by a question and answer session and reception. Assistant Professor of Art Julie Lindeman, Lawrence Film Production Club president Carolyn Armstrong and former co-president Stephen Anunson introduced the film with some information about Dan Ollman and the Film Production Club.
Dan Ollman is a UW-Milwaukee graduate with a degree in film who has only recently broken into professional filmmaking. He started filmmaking as an amateur as a teenager when he taught himself how to edit and began to make horror movies. His most well known film is 2003’s Audience Award winner “The Yes Men.”
Ollman was inspired to make “The Life Over There” after working in Africa on his last project, “Suffering and Smiling.” He claimed that returning to capitalism in America was frustrating and made him feel the need to make the film.
Julie Lindemann’s description of Ollman’s films as “sensitive work” with attention to small details proved to be an accurate description of “The Life Over There.” The film follows the lives of three individuals living in inner-city neighborhoods, which functions as a subtle way to show the three different psychological states in “the hood.”
Ollman’s attention to small details and environment emphasized individual character traits and also functioned as commentary on the social situation. Coupling audio commentary with past clips from the film also worked effectively to give the viewer a sometimes-jarring look at inner-city life.
The documentary was presented in three acts, corresponding with the lives of the three individuals. The first act followed a fellow documentary filmmaker, which was a bit challenging at times because the audience didn’t know if they were watching the character’s footage or Ollman’s footage.
The second act followed a political activist, and the third followed a cocaine addict. The footage throughout these three acts was disturbing at times, but fulfilled the purpose of portraying the harsh reality of inner-city communities.
The film presents social issues associated with “the hood,” shows ways in which people can to try resolve these issues and exhibits the need to do more than just talk about such socioeconomic problems. What stuck out most in the film was that it ended up being less about race and more about class differences.
The question and answer session and reception following the film provided students a great opportunity to raise questions about people interviewed in the documentary and Ollman’s film production choices.
When asked if the film is meant to make the audience feel hopeful or hopeless, Ollman replied, “It takes more than hope to fix the chaos in this country.”
Although Ollman provided insightful answers to the students’ questions, he encouraged viewers to reflect on the film and come up with their own answers since he “didn’t necessarily make the film just for [himself].”
Overall, “The Life Over There” was well-received by the large audience and Ollman’s presence provided helpful insights into documentary filmmaking and the social issues presented in the film.
The Film Production Club’s next event will be the Director’s Cut Film Fest on Thursday, May 20 at 9 p.m., where students will have the opportunity to showcase films they make based on inspiration from the director of their choosing.

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