"...an intriguing mystery that plays with history. A documentary that takes a case and explores it through strange characters and dynamic structure." - David Gordon Green
In April 1989, a body floats down the Colorado River with a bullet wound in the back of its head. That body is John H. Jenkins, rare book and historical document dealer. He had been at the epicenter of one of the largest document-forgery scandals in Texas history and his death (legally ruled suicide) is the start of a journey deep upriver into that exotic kingdom known as the past. THE PAST IS A FOREIGN COUNTRY is an essay about forged historical documents, murder and scenic time travel (not necessarily in that order).
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Wow - fantastic. Watch This Film. This is a film with the structural rigor of James Benning coupled with the exploratory nature of a Chris Marker video essay. It is not about an unsolved death, it is about the very nature of the unknown itself and uses forged documents as a way to meditate on forgotten and future times, spaces and relationships. If I want something spoon-fed to me, I'll take steak and potatoes, and if I want a true crime story, I'll watch TV. This movie, on the other hand, delivers in the best possible way.
The doubly exotic world of Texana and its colorful collectors is enticing, and the new footage is prettily shot. But not only are the facts of the case presented in a haphazard and difficult-to-follow way, the narration is sometimes snotty and sometimes pretentious, leaving the viewer in doubt as to whether there is any real value here.
Interesting...human beings are strange indeed.
Potentially fascinating mystery with only-in-Texas characters and subtext. Arch and pretentious narration mars this documentary experience for the viewer.