[DCIFF] The Hole Story

I caught Alex Karpovsky’s The Hole Story (IMDB) at the DC Independent Film Festival on Friday night, and like Matt, I deeply enjoyed the film. The Hole Story has been on the festival circuit for a few months now, and like Matt, I believe the film deserves a much wider audience, and after seeing this film, I can’t help but anticiapte what Karpovsky will be doing in the future.

The Hole Story playfully mixes reality and fiction, using documentary and mockumentary tropes that recall the best work of Albert Brooks (Matt mentions the underrated Real Life) and Ross McElwee (I was especially reminded of Sherman’s March), with the Boston Globe coining the term ficumentary to describe what Karpovsky is doing. The film opens with Karpovsky traveling up to Brainerd, Minnesota, with a small film crew to explore the mysterious “Black Hole” in the middle of North Long Lake for a pilot episode of a planned reality TV show on small-town mysteries. When Karpovsky arrives in Brainerd, however, he discovers that the mysterious hole has closed for equally mysterious reasons (explanations for the hole range from thermal vents to aliens).

So Karpovsky does what every enterprising filmmaker would do: he improvises. He interviews locals, including the mayor and a local hair stylist among others, to see if they can explain the black hole, reminding them to speak about it in the present tense, as if it hasn’t closed. He investigates Brainerd’s other local legends, Paul Bunyan and Babe the blue ox, even breaking into a local amusement park at night with the hopes of filming a 40-foot statue of the legendary figure. But each attempt only serves to remind Karpovsky and the audience of the “hole” in the documentary, the absence of any footage of the (un)natural phenomenon he has come to film.

Eventually the pressure of making the film takes its toll on Alex. His long-distance fights, via cell phone, with his girlfriend intensify. Most of his film crew abandons him. Alex worries that his investors will be disappointed in the documentary he has made. And he fears that he will be forced to return to his day job, editing karaoke videos. These problems produce an existential crisis that leads Karpovsky to check into a pyschiatric clinic. The result of all this is an intriguing film that playfully mixes documentary and fiction while managing to take Alex’s existential questions seriously.

As Matt points out, Alex has been somewhat coy about the boundaries between truth and fiction in the film, and that’s fitting for this kind of project. But the most enjoyable aspect of the film is watching Alex evolve over the course of the film and to watch a filmmaker create something fresh and exciting, even with odds stacked against him.

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