Documentary Film Review by Jack Bottomley
Despite academic figures telling you otherwise, life does not really have a set structure and in pursuing your passions it is possible to find that the path is much harder than just finding any job and making ends meet. The arts especially can be a winding, hard and sometimes near impassable road but, as those of us who are a part of them know, it is still a journey with some gratifying turns. The Life We Make is an insightful documentary about this very kind of journey and it is an unusual, welcoming and warm offering that acts as a tribute to its varied and diverse subjects, grouped together by their equal love of creating and sharing.
The film offers a glimpse into the world of travelling Art Fair artists, who drive across America to sell and show their pieces of work. Their lives are interestingly varied and sometimes tough but this film, while acknowledging the tests of this profession, also casts a light onto why they do it and why it is worth it. They always say you struggle for your art and this selection of open and affable individuals know very well that they have and/or do but that is just another part of doing what they love.
At one point the American dream is mentioned and this film very much suggests that, for all the gas money and lives spent on the road, these people are freed by their work and liberated by how they can share it with a wider audience. The look at actual art fairs are interesting but more interesting are the anecdotes shared, discussions of personal lives and even - in one instance - a fascinating gaze into a turbulent political history that has inspired the art and artist.
The interviews, conducted by co-producer/artist #HelenGotlib and co-producer, co-director and cinematographer #DylanStrzynski, are less conventional and more like a chat with friends and this relaxed style spreads into the entire project itself. Certain snapshots of photographs onscreen or location information are sometimes delivered with dash of comic wit and it helps even more to give the film a friendly, inviting, feel. You never feel like you are being lectured about the ins and outs of the industry but rather as though you are along on the ride. There are trials and tribulations but what very much comes across here is the sense of community and friendship, this is a profession but more than that it is like a social circle and this film captures that feeling. Money is needed but you feel like it really is not the most important thing here.
There are some unorthodox scenes of people showing off their weird and wonderful artefacts, homes, artwork and telling their stories of fun, growing up and struggle but it all adds to this film’s realistic and unjudgmental style. Directors Dylan Strzynski and #PadrickRitch (who also serves as editor) are as interested in the people holding the brush (in fact more so) than what they have painted because to understand the art it helps tenfold to meet the artist, and in The Life We Make you very much feel as though you have met and chatted with these charming people yourself.