“The Arbor” – Jennifer Merin reviews

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In The Arbor, London-based artist Clio Barnard uses an unusual, fascinating and effective amalgam of documentary and narrative styles to tell the story of Andrea Dunbar (May 22, 1961 – December, 20 1990), the gifted English working class playwright who wrote three autobiographical plays before she died at age 29 of an alcohol-related brain hemorrhage. Dunbar was an alcoholic. She had three children, each fathered by a different man.

Blurring the Lines Between Documentary and Narrative

In her first documentary feature, Barnard experiments with nonfiction form, using actors to lip sync to audio-only recordings of interviews she’d made with Andrea Dunbar’s surviving family and the circle of acquaintances who knew her and shared her difficult circumstances in “The Arbor,” a tough working poor ‘estate’ neighborhood of Bradford in the North of England. The effect of the perfect lip syncing is eerie, especially since the entire film was shot on location in Bradford, at the very places frequented by Dunbar and her circle. Continue reading on CINEMA CITIZEN

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Jennifer Merin

Jennifer Merin is the Film Critic for Womens eNews and contributes the CINEMA CITIZEN blog for and is managing editor for Women on Film, the online magazine of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, of which she is President. She has served as a regular critic and film-related interviewer for The New York Press and About.com. She has written about entertainment for USA Today, The L.A. Times, US Magazine, Ms. Magazine, Endless Vacation Magazine, Daily News, New York Post, SoHo News and other publications. After receiving her MFA from Tisch School of the Arts (Grad Acting), Jennifer performed at the O'Neill Theater Center's Playwrights Conference, Long Wharf Theater, American Place Theatre and LaMamma, where she worked with renown Japanese director, Shuji Terayama. She subsequently joined Terayama's theater company in Tokyo, where she also acted in films. Her journalism career began when she was asked to write about Terayama for The Drama Review. She became a regular contributor to the Christian Science Monitor after writing an article about Marketta Kimbrell's Theater For The Forgotten, with which she was performing at the time. She was an O'Neill Theater Center National Critics' Institute Fellow, and then became the institute's Coordinator. While teaching at the Universities of Wisconsin and Rhode Island, she wrote "A Directory of Festivals of Theater, Dance and Folklore Around the World," published by the International Theater Institute. Denmark's Odin Teatret's director, Eugenio Barba, wrote his manifesto in the form of a letter to "Dear Jennifer Merin," which has been published around the world, in languages as diverse as Farsi and Romanian. Jennifer's culturally-oriented travel column began in the LA Times in 1984, then moved to The Associated Press, LA Times Syndicate, Tribune Media, Creators Syndicate and (currently) Arcamax Publishing. She's been news writer/editor for ABC Radio Networks, on-air reporter for NBC, CBS Radio and, currently, for Westwood One's America In the Morning. She is also a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. For her AWFJ archive, type "Jennifer Merin" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).