Philosopher Gaston Bachelard says that when we recall memories of home “we are never real historians, but always near poets, and our emotion is perhaps nothing but an expression of a poetry that was lost.” In retracing life’s treacherous progress so far, This is Yates trades historical certainty for poetic immediacy, and the clean lines of autobiography for a manifest confusion, a stunned but grateful perplexity that might as well be synonymous with humanity.
Less a confessional documentary than a mixtape that samples a copious personal archive, This is Yates pan-n-scans a wide track of time running from the near-present back beyond Yates’s pre-pubescence to home movies of the time before his birth. The journey there and back is contoured by catastrophes large and small: loss of balance, loss of consciousness, loss of family and the sense of home. Principally Yates’ account of himself is marked by the deaths of his parents, first of his father when he was still a child and later his mother. As Yates warps, paints, de-muxes his material, grief exerts a destructive pull on the content of memory, like a magnet on a videocassette.
Despite the firm declaration of its title, the whole piece feels most like the opening stage in an ongoing research, not a summing-up but a catching-up, a drawing of a line under a period of life perhaps in the hope of starting again. Which reminds me of another haunting dictum of Bachelard’s as related by the poet Mary Ruefle: that we begin in admiration and we end by organizing our disappointment. Yates bids farewell to a young life’s disappointments, to come alive to a new admiration. (13 minutes) Directed by Josh Yates: zeldajune.com