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Rineke Dijkstra
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David Lamelas,The Desert People
USA, 1974, sound, colour, 48 mins, 16mm

In an interview with Ian White, published in Frieze (issue nr 100, June-August 2006), David Lamelas said on The Desert People: ‘The original idea of The Desert People was very conceptual; it was to have two films that were unrelated, but because of the editing the viewer will believe that a story is unfolding. I wanted it to be a sort of fake documentary about a group of people recounting their experiences of visiting a Native American reservation. In a way the spectacular ending is the denial of any narrative. On the one hand, you see people travelling somewhere; on the other, you have interviews with people explaining what happened when they spent five weeks with the Papagos. But going there, they all die in a car crash. So their narrative was not possible because they were dead! At that time, apart from Hollywood movies I had seen as a child, I knew very little about American cinema. When I arrived in LA I watched television for three weeks – all the latest movies, as if I was training to understand the Hollywood syntax. I was playing with differences in the way the camera works within a fictional movie and in documentaries.’