Meghan Eckman: The Parking Lot Movie

At the end of the film a song comes up – called ”Life in a Nutshell” – which is exactly what the director of this classic observational and interview born documentary aims it to be. It takes place in Charlottesville in Virginia, and moves barely out from the lot. Only when there are interview bites with those who were there as parking lot guards and later have left for something else and more profitable. They look back at a place in the city, and a place in their lives, that had and has its own importance as free space for different characters and reflections. Some of them are so-called ”unemployable misfits”, who basically do not want to leave and if they do, they come back, and some of them are now in fine positions out there in the society.

They sit in the small booth, taking the payment from the clients, most of the time in a good chatting atmosphere, with exceptions where the guards have to run after people who try to get away without paying. After f… word debates between the driver and the guard.

… overeducated people people, they say about themselves ”with time to think about it”. It being Life, and love and fun and sorrow, as most of them come from the university nearby.

It is quite fun, and get sometimes deep with the characters, because of their quirky personalities. There are good sequences to look at, and it is an interesting microcosmos that has been caught. But it is not very interesting to look at, as goes for many American documentaries after Michael Moore. Could have been great to see some visual interpretation of the theme of Life, of waiting, of helping each other. But enjoy the fun part of it, the observations of the booth and the poems on the wall.

(A film like that makes me think how different American and European documentaries are, in general. Something went wrong, Albert Maysles, Pennebaker and Leacock – they have forgotten to SEE, they just record…)

USA, 2010, 74 mins.

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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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