May 2, 2013
A filmmaker of the personal documentary school, Nina Davenport charts her pregnancy’s progress in First Comes Love.
In the celebrated style of Ross McElwee, one of the looming figures in the world of personal documentary (and one of her teachers), Davenport takes the viewer through her experience of having a child as a single woman at the age of 41.
“This is a film that will appeal to more than just women,” she said in an interview at the Sarasota Film Festival. “It begins as a woman’s journey to have a baby on her own, but it becomes about more universal things such as family, parenthood, friendships, community, and mortality.”
Like other films of personal documentary, Davenport’s work has taken to task the idea of mediating life with a movie camera. Another one of her recent films, Operation Filmmaker (2007), followed the enigmatic tale of a young wannabe filmmaker from Iraq in the aftermath of the U.S. toppling of Saddam from power. Although the film begins as an exploration of the situation of Muthana, the young Iraqi man, it inexorably devolves into a treatment of how Davenport relates to Muthana through the camera.
Several critics have lauded Davenport’s work, especially First Comes Love for its honesty and humor.
“The film is an intimate and often heartbreaking portrait told as only Davenport can,” said John Fink, of The Film Stage. “Her work is often of a diary or point-of-view sensibility—honest, straightforward and often very funny.”
This showing marks the final event in this spring’s F.I.L.M. series, which has brought a diverse group of (mostly) documentary filmmakers to campus over the semester. The series, hosted by Visiting Professor of Art History Scott MacDonald, will continue next fall.