The Pain of Others
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Director: Penny Lane
Presented by: Penny Lane
2018, USA, 71 MIN, DCP
In her new found-footage documentary about sufferers of a disease only rumored to exist, Penny Lane (director of MdFF 2016’s Nuts!) offers a complex and deeply challenging study, unique in its power to confront your capacity for empathy. Culled almost entirely from YouTube videos, The Pain of Others is at once a documentary body-horror and an exegesis on performing suffering for the internet.
Truly ambitious filmgoers take note. Lane’s epic is harsh, but also distinct, offering-up the most unique vision at this year’s festival.
The subjects of the documentary unite on YouTube as victims of a rare skin condition named Morgellons, and for the sake of skirting spoilers, their symptoms are best left described by the film. It is apparent that these vloggers have built a community and find solace in sharing their respective methods of relief from their condition. Away from their corner of the internet however, they feel ostracized by the medical community and, in some instances, by their families as well. In one stark display of suffering, a woman tearfully pleads for her audience to simply try and understand how it feels to be second-guessed at every turn. It’s a powerful moment, and like so many other scenes, it stays with you long after the film ends, fermenting and expanding in your memory of the work.
Not quite like any other movie, The Pain of Others is perhaps best compared to those late‑night, blue‑light‑fueled excursions into the recesses of the internet. As with the best of what you discover, from Lane’s new film grows an indelible thread for discussion. Cinephiles, unite. (Mitchell Goodrich)
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