THE B-SIDE, Documentary, Netflix

Elsa Dorfman was a “Polaroid” photographer. And this documentary is about her profession till “Polaroid” lasted.

What is striking with this documentary is the rhythm and the narration. The filming is done with low tone, almost calm. There is not much movement. The filming camera is fixed and the queries about the various photos comes as a voice over. Most of the documentary time is spent on the creator – Elsa Dorfman. Most of the voice is hers.

This is a documentary on a photographer and her camera. And her pictures. Yet, the documentary is free from any talks on technicalities. No jibber jabber about F-Stops, shutter speed and Contrasts and white balance etc.. It’s refreshing to come across a subject of photography without jargons, without big talks by a person with a camera.

What this documentary deals with is the life of person spent in pursuing profession with an unique camera. The film documents those thoughts and circumstances which led her into the profession, held her to it, with successes and mistakes over time. There is a distinct approach attempted in this documentary. It’s not formulaic. But very poetic. It also feels truthful. She says, “she was always last on the list, still she ploughed on.” Well, this documentary takes her out of her obscure life and puts her on top of the list of unique personalities.

The period of growth of Elsa Dorfman is handled with care and devotion. The documentary is not “TimeLine-ish” :- ‘this is father, this is mother, this is me, this is family, we lived here, then moved there, then this happened and then that.’ Instead, the passage of time is shown thru photographs and notes scribbled on the margins, the white borders of photos. And as Elsa Dorfman speaks, the documenter catches the period of her work by showing the ‘year-stickers’ on the cabinets and albums in her room.

Most of the documentary is filmed inside a “not so long” narrow room filled with photos shot by Elsa Dorfman over the years. As she takes out photos from several cabinets and removes the protective sheets to display her shots – she speaks about them in a homely fashion. Her simplicity of words and voice shows her keen observation about the life and times and the characters in those photos.

THE B-SIDE, is the biopic documentary with a soul.