Impressive. Gorgeous. Fabulous.

Over a year ago I was invited into a ‘Documentary Club’, something I had never heard of or ever considered, but thought ‘how interesting.’ The group ran similarly to a book club; the host chose the documentary film,  members viewed it in advance and attended an evening discussion once per month. Although it lasted about two years, it was an educating and enlightening experience which I was disappointed to see end. The topics of the chosen films were varied and pushed me outside of my ‘comfort zone’ in turn broadening my intellectual horizons. I believe viewing these films in preparation for a discussion encouraged me to view with a more critical lens, ask more questions and contemplate more deeply.

Unpredictably I was hooked. Not long after this group came to a close I introduced the idea to the assistant director at the public library where I work. She helped me work through the objective of the potential program, documentaries to screen, dates and logistics. We concluded that I would begin with a pilot Summer Documentary Film series including three films (I highly recommend each of them.): Best of Enemies, Meru, Finding Vivian Maier.

The series was very well received with great attendance and requests for further documentaries. Following many requests we planned a fall series, which was also quite successful. Currently we are working on a summer 2017 three film series.

In preparation for the summer we view many films to choose diverse, thought-provoking, recent and engaging films, hence the inspiration for a new type of blog post. Why not mix it up? The First Monday in May was my first viewing and it lived up to every rave review and it DID. NOT. DISAPPOINT. The documentary offers a unique behind the scenes look at two major cultural events in the history of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Viewers are given an up close and personal perspective of The Costume Institute’s development of “China: Through the Looking Glass”, the most attended fashion exhibition in its history. As well as a first hand account of the planning and preparation for the 2015 Met Gala, which was made possible by Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of Vogue magazine and Met Gala chair.

Notable Nuggets:

  • Is Fashion Art? – Ever-present throughout the documentary is the question of whether fashion is truly a form of art. We closely follow Andrew Bolton, curator for the exhibition and team member of The Costume Institute, as he guides us to the basement of the Met, a telling locale, and through The Institute’s history. While Bolton collects the pieces to be included in the exhibit he interviews a few prominent designers, who are also asked this question. While their answers vary the audience is given an opportunity to consider the idea, think deeply and form a personal opinion. Another layer of this idea in question is its intersection with cultural, Chinese culture in this instance. Although this is quite a bit to cover and reflect on in one blog post, I think one key take-away was simply this question, and not all questions need to be answered. Contemplating and discussing the idea can be much more rewarding than coming to a definitive answer.
  • Appreciation – Fashion, celebrities and pop culture are not my top choices for documentary subject matter, which this film may lend itself. At first I was hesitant and suggested a colleague view it, but I located it on Netflix, propped up the iPad on the treadmill and pushed play. I’m sure glad I did. Museums are fascinating places and much like libraries, institutions for learning. The exhibit and its featured clothing were absolutely stunning. The amount of time and focus spent on placement, background, order, incorporation of other Chinese art, lighting and location is fascinating. This aspect of the film grabbed my interest and attention, reminding me of how much I appreciate others’ strengths and talents that do not mirror my own. Creating a visually engaging and rich educational exhibit is truly impressive.