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Regarding Susan Sontag is this year’s Best Documentary Feature at InsideOut

By Sanita Fejzić on October 24, 2014

Winner of this year’s Best Documentary Feature at the Tribeca Film Festival, Regarding Susan Sontag is a eulogy to one of American’s most famous and important thinkers of the twentieth century. She was a star during her lifetime; one of the most photographed women of her period; a woman that, amid the luxury of the Western world, celebrated her birthdays under the torrent of violence.

She witnessed the Vietnam War. She put on a play while bombs fell over Sarajevo. Susan Sontag was a woman not estranged from the suffering of others. For her, the role of a writer was a crucial one to society; she believed writers should be passionate about everything, and this passion she absolutely possessed or it possessed her, either way Susan Sontag was passionate about life.

She wrote numerous essays and her first one “Notes on Camp” made her an intellectual elite and was later published in book format as Resisting Interpretation, one of my favourite collection of essays. I will not say much more about her work or personal life: you should see the movie to find out more.

Of course, in the context of the InsideOut Film Festival, her sexuality is the narrative string that runs through the entire movie. The documentary relies heavily on interviews from family, friends and critiques (of the academic realm, in whose waters she swam effortlessly) but also on old lovers and extinguished flames. Wherever Sontag went, it seemed, a woman fell for her.

The way Sontag experienced her homosexuality, or perhaps bisexuality leaning towards lesbianism if we consider sexuality to be a spectrum, strikes me as telling of the era in which she lived. Asserting one sexual preference openly, no matter how much acclaim or fame one accumulates, was a risk and even a risk-taker like Sontag was prudent in this regard. I say this while at the same time admitting that her courage was like that of Jean of Arc: whenever and wherever she sensed injustice, Sontag straddled her white horse and picked up her pen, ready for battle.


Regarding Susan Sontag will be showcased at The Bytown Cinema (325 Rideau Street) on Saturday October 25 at 12:15 p.m.