#51) Fake Fruit Factory (1986)


#51) Fake Fruit Factory (1986)

OR “I’m Ready for My Extreme Close-Up, Ms. Strand”

Directed by Chick Strand

Class of 2011

The Plot: Filmed in Mexico in the early ‘80s, “Fake Fruit Factory” is a documentary short about a group of women who make papier-mâché fruit for sale. Through overlapping audio and with the camera’s zoom function set to the max, the film covers snippets of the women’s conversations, mainly about sex and their American boss.

Why It Matters: The NFR praises Strand for her “unique style that deftly blends documentary, avant-garde and ethnographic techniques.” The description goes on to drop the word “ethnographic” a second time. We’re all very impressed, college boy.

But Does It Really?: At long last, that rare type of NFR entry that defies description. I’m not quite sure what I saw, or what exactly, if anything, it was trying to say. But ultimately I dig it and give it a pass. Thanks for the ride, Chick Strand.

Everybody Gets One: Born Mildred D. Totman, her father gave her the nickname “Chick”, while Strand was her first husband’s last name. During her happenings in 1960s Berkeley, Chick helped fellow future-NFR filmmaker Bruce Baillie create the indie film distributor Canyon Cinema. Chick’s work was similar to the avant-garde type on display in “Fake Fruit Factory”, and much of it has been preserved over the years by such institutions as the Academy Film Archive and the American Film Institute.

Wow, That’s Dated: That soundtrack could only have come from the early ‘80s.

Seriously, Oscars?: No Best Documentary Short nomination for “Fake Fruit Factory”. Instead they opted for a film about female anti-nuclear activists (probably shot at a regular non-zoomed-in angle. Cowards.) Despite 20 films over the course of 30 years, Chick Strand never received an Oscar nomination.

Other notes

  • About that extreme zoom: it definitely sets this film apart from others on the Registry. For me, that’s definitely a plus. It forces you to focus on what’s being said and gives the whole film a sense of mystery, since you (literally) don’t get the whole picture. Plus towards the end it gives the film an invasive, almost voyeuristic feel. I felt like I needed to apologize to these women after my viewing.
  • I’m not going to pretend I understand everything that happened, but the one thing that I really didn’t understand was the 98 second shot (yes I counted) of a rear-view mirror as the employees travel to their picnic. What in God’s name was that about, Chick?


  • While Canyon Cinema no longer exists as a film distribution company, it lives on as a nonprofit film organization, specializing as always in the avant-garde. Visit their website here.

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