Yesterday, I was privileged to view a remarkable documentary film shown at the Griffin Museum of Photography. As a photographer/artist and writer, I sometimes wonder if there’s a point to all of the time and energy I put into my crafts. The film, called “A Single Frame,” produced by Austin businessman and filmmaker Jeff Bowden, makes clear that one can never know the tremendous impact a work of art may ultimately have.
While on a family trip to Dubrovnik in 2007, Bowden’s daughter suggests going to an exhibit showing the work of female war photographers. Bowden is much taken with a photograph of a refugee boy taken during the war in Kosovo by a young French photographer, Alexandra Boulat.
Driven by the haunting image, Bowden sets out to find the child–who, if still alive would have been in his twenties or early thirties. Bowden’s search takes him from Texas to Paris, where he learns that Boulat passed away due to natural causes not long after the war. He tracks down a group of photographers she worked with, and, in conversations with them and others who were impacted by the war, learns of the devastation it caused, and of the post-war culture of the Balkans. Joining forces with an experienced war-time fixer, he embarks on a search for the boy.
Rather than give away the outcome of the search, I’ll just say that A Single Frame, released in 2015, humanizes and educates distant audiences about the origins and impacts of the cruel war that lasted from 5 March 1998 until 11 June 1999 in the former Yugoslavia. (As described on Wikipedia, the war was fought by the forces of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (by this time, consisting of the Republics of Montenegro and Serbia), which controlled Kosovo before the war, and the Kosovo Albanian rebel group known as the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), with air support from the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and ground support from the Albanian army). Effective in multiple dimensions, the film shows that one never knows where a work of art might lead, whom it might affect, and how its spirit might live on to inform, influence and inspire future generations. Bravo!
–Anita M. Harris
New Cambridge Observer is a publication of the Harris Communications Group, in Cambridge, MA.