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By David Finkelstein | October 31, 2009

In a little under 5 minutes, Neil Needleman tells a powerful story, using silent Super 8 footage and a narrative told in subtitles. We see shots of homeless New Yorkers which Needleman filmed on his lunch hour from his office job. Needleman goes to see his dying father in a hospital in Florida. The doctors pronounce the father brain dead, but his body continues to flail in what are termed involuntary muscle spasms. We read in the subtitles that the father repeatedly ridiculed Needleman for being an artist and a filmmaker. Needleman films the old man flailing helplessly in the hospital bed. The hostility in this act of public humiliation, the scream of “F**k You Dad, this is for all those times you made fun of me,” is not exploitative at all, but breathtaking.

“I developed an insatiable appetite to explore visual worlds that my father was incapable of seeing,” says Needleman. The impulsive need to fight back against his father is turned into a positive drive to experience what his father denied was valuable. This very short film is complex and resonant, and manages to show how the drive to be an artist can be motivated by feelings which are at once ugly and inspiring.

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