Looking Back


Reviewed by: James Gracey

Looking Back
"A poignant and thoughtful five and a half minutes."

This short film by Emile Bokaer focuses on the importance of remembering the past to gain insight and hope for redemption in the present. The film is a touching and quietly provocative glimpse into the life of Albert Lewis, a veteran of the Vietnam War, who was residing in an emergency housing facility for homeless veterans during the film’s production. While a sensitive approach is taken by Bokaer, the film still seeks to gain an unflinching understanding of its subject and in no way glorifies its depiction of these damaged souls. Simply filmed in black and white, Looking Back is a poignant and thoughtful five and a half minutes.

Snap shots and polaroids of other residents, photographed by Lewis when they took up residence in the shelter, helps to personalise the men and give faces to a nameless and overlooked section of society. Before and after photos highlight the change apparent in the men – many of whom had dependencies on drink or drugs when they first arrived at the shelter. Lewis candidly talks about the escapism that was attempted through the use of drugs and alcohol. A small but vital support network exists between the men who rely on each other as it would appear they have no one else. The mutual understanding they all share gives them each a quiet hope and the strength to continue living, and this is subtly conveyed in the intimate access they grant Bokaer.

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In its short running time, the film reflects on the importance of remembering and looking back to the past, but without dwelling or ever wanting to actually go back to it – as a comparison and a way of coming to terms with the present. While many of these men can’t help but dwell on the past and are essentially consumed by it, Lewis’s message is to try and help them move away from harmful dwelling and to live in the present – this is highlighted in the photos he takes of the men. They can easily see how they once were and compare that to how they are now as they begin to move up from rock bottom.

Looking Back implores us not to forget about those who fought in wars (regardless of whether or not we agree with war) and the importance of supporting these now broken individuals. Never condescending or indulgent, this is an understated and moving film.

Reviewed on: 19 Jun 2009
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Documentary about a man struggling to come to terms with memories of war and his addictions in a community of homeless veterans

Read more Looking Back reviews:

Amber Wilkinson ***1/2

Director: Emile Bokaer

Writer: Emile Bokaer

Starring: Albert Lewis

Year: 2008

Runtime: 6 minutes

Country: US


EIFF 2009

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