Director/Elan Bogarín, Jonathan Bogarín
Watched on P.O.V.
Insufferably twee and annoyingly impressed with itself, 306 Hollywood is an excruciating experience to sit through. I knew this when I walked out after watching the first ten minutes of it in a theater at Hot Docs in 2018, and my feelings were confirmed when I suffered through another hour of viewing on PBS’s P.O.V. series. So, I’ll make this brief.
Directed by a brother and sister, and ostensibly about the eccentric but not extraordinary charms and vicissitudes of their late grandmother, the movie bills itself as an archeological excavation of her home, her obsessions, her possessions, her memory. I’m all for stories about unremarkable people made remarkable by patient, heartfelt, authentic storytelling. I think documentaries could use more of these kinds of stories and less, way less, of the issue-of-the-moment advocacy films and celebrity profiles that take up most of the air in the room of top tier film festivals.
The problem here is that the Bogaríns spend most of their screen time constructing the cloying scaffold of their archeological dig and far too little time allowing us to get to know their beloved grandmother. It’s as if they’re afraid she’ll bore us, so they bore us instead with specious reenactments and unmotivated tangents, meticulously lacquered and polished into a magic realist stage show that is as tedious as it is unnecessary.
Funders and film festivals and distributors and, apparently, PBS, love these kinds of expensive shiny-object movies. They can pat themselves on the back for championing “inventive” non-fiction filmmaking that appeals to undemanding, non-fiction averse audiences.