Open City Documentary Festival – CRAIGSLIST ALLSTARS – Review ****

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Artist Samira Elagoz has an ongoing project that consists of meeting strangers and recording their interactions. No scripts, no planning – just raw reality. As part – or somewhat obvious consequence – of her project, Craigslist AllStars was born. Filming in Amsterdam, Berlin and Tokyo, all of Elagoz’s encounters are with men, some only for a few hours, others for days.

With the first story titled “The Sadist Pianist”, we are straightaway made aware this is not your usual run of the mill documentary. As out of focus men confess to the director their deepest secrets – and some even expose their genitals – a sexual sub-theme arises. In the beginning stuck behind the camera, slowly Elagoz starts featuring on her own film, first looking bored and having tea, while the Exhibitionist masturbates to his webcam, then as a protagonist of sorts, as she parties, drinks, and gets physical with the Magician on a colourful, Japanese style montage. Men open up with her – from the recently divorced English plumber, to would-be musician Steph, or the Expert (who shares with her his recipe for creamier, more abundant sperm ejaculation), as she keeps filming with her camera, denying any kind of staging (much to the dismay of the Director, who wanted to spank her on camera) or stepping off limits.

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Craigslist AllStars starts thus as an exploration of the real life possibilites offered by our virtual world, and ends up as a reflection on the limits of intimacy and the ethos of the documentary filmmaker. It’s a wild ride (that lasts little more than an hour), but where lesser artists would end up in self-portray mode, Elagoz never forgets to keep her camera running, pointed to the men who accepted a stranger to enter their lives, and take a bit of their souls through a lens. Even when she is not the one holding the camera – as it stands on a tripod, or is operated by someone else – she is still, very much, the supreme puppet-master.

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As the film advances, Elagoz’s technical ability improves, and her sense of composition, colour and shot size mature at the same time as she explores her own physical and sexual limits. From the strange Toy, who wears a mask and strips as a “camgirl”, to the sarcastic Guy who Lives Above His Bar (hoarder phobes, beware!), Craigslist AllStars is a compilation of curious humans,who are visited by an artist, and become somewhat part of her – and our – life.

Craigslist AllStars will be screening at the Open City Documentary Festival this weekend. For more information, please check http://opencitylondon.com

Sara is originally from Coimbra, Portugal, where she studied Film Studies before moving to London to enrol in film school. Having made her first short film about her neighbour's chickens when she was 9 (a dystopian sci-fi, still her favourite genre), she is now a London-based film director and editor, and also a writer for the Portuguese Take Magazine. She is a huge fan of Lars Von Trier, Krysztof Kiéslowski, and David Lean.