SF State News {University Communications}

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Telling truth through fiction

March 13, 2008 -- Alum Daniel Robin (B.A. '92, M.F.A. '07) blurs the line between truth and fiction when he approaches history from a personal vantage point. Weaving together real footage from the 1972 Munich Olympics and Super-8 film home movies of his parents' tumultuous relationship in a fictional narrative, "My Olympic Summer," won the 2008 Sundance Film Festival Special Jury Prize in Short Filmmaking. Robin produced the film for his master's thesis project in 2007.

A still from the documentary, Robin's mother stands in front of a windmill in Munich as the Super-8 film home camera rolls.

A still from the documentary, Robin's mother stands in front of a windmill in Munich as the Super-8 film home camera rolls.

"I just kind of reorchestrated history," Robin said. "But the way I constructed it, it's charged against the background of events that were real." While the film's footage is entirely authentic, "My Olympic Summer" shapes a fictional story against the backdrop of the terrorist attack at the Munich Olympics, in which Robin's father, a "Rabbi priest," is taken hostage amid his pregnant wife's despair over a loss of connection in their marriage. "I think when we watch home movies we believe them at face value," Robin said. "But we never really think about what happened when the camera is turned off. What was going on with these people?"

Robin noted that after screening his film at the 2007 International Documentary Festival in Amsterdam (IDFA), several audience members were shocked to learn that most of the film's storyline was fabricated, prompting discussion about what defines a documentary. Robin's response to the debate was simple. "Truth can be elastic. My goal is to communicate something that is emotionally true, and sometimes things are just made up to get to that." The 12-minute film won a nomination for IDFA's Student Award. The festival's Web site affirms, "‘My Olympic Summer' is an investigation into the authenticity of home movies."

"His work is vulnerable and technically innovative. He takes risks, and he is interested in exploring the profundities of ordinary experience," Associate Professor of Cinema Britta Sjogren said. "This film works on an astonishing number of levels to comment on love, psychology and history in a totally engaging and delicate way."

"My Olympic Summer" also garnered a Princess Grace Award Honorarium, the Toronto Cabbagetown Short Film Festival Grand Prize, the Black Mariah Film Festival Director's Choice Award and SF State's Best Experimental Film award. The film is also slated for screening at the New Directors/New Films event through the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the Museum of Modern Art.

Robin plans to continue making documentaries and to accept a tenure-track teaching position at Georgia State University for documentary production.

-- Student Writer Lisa Rau with Nan Broadbent


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