Ruins

Weaving together a rich diversity of materials, Ruins, directed by the gifted L.A.-based media artist Jesse Lerner, is a pastiche of found footage, newsreels, and educational films that's meant as a chronicle of the life and history of Mexico's Mayan people. This perceptive mockumentary, which combines faulty archeology, mistaken anthropology, and misguided opinions of “experts,” was shown at the Frontier section at this year's Sundance Festival, and similar exhibition venues seem likely for of a film that already played in L.A.'s Film Forum last April. Challenging the very notion of authenticity–and what constitutes factuality–Ruins could also be screened in museums and other educational institutions in classes of archeology, anthropology, and cultural studies.

Ruins inventively intertwines the “truths” and “fictions” of the Mayan's history, as explored and “corrupted” from the outside. Endowed with a sharp eye, Lerner, who formerly co-directed (with Ruben Ortiz Torres) the equally intriguing Frontierland (1995), uses authentic and replicated art works and various tribal rituals and ceremonies to comment on the (im)possibility of reconstructing the past of an ancient culture by outsiders. Social connotations and cliches, such as the Western image of the Indian “a dark-skin savage,” are contested in a deconstructive effort to document how ethnocentrism inevitably impinges on the research of scientists when they study foreign cultures.