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March 27, 2014 | posted in Filmmakers
Robert Lemon has been bitten hard by the film bug.
Initially, when he began researching taco trucks, his focus was on dissertation work rather than a film. His original idea of exploring Mexican agriculture and cuisine soon developed into “how these taco trucks are considered across the United States in different cities.” While doing graduate work at Ohio State in 2004, he had become familiar with a controversy regarding the spread of taco trucks in lower-income neighborhoods in Columbus, Ohio, and decided to research the topic further. Soon, Columbus became the center of his story, and the dissertation had transformed into a documentary.
“I was always a photographer, so I’ve always taken photographs of everything I do anyway,” he explains. He swiftly amassed a large collection of pictures, but getting people to talk to him on video about the controversial issues connected to taco trucks—issues of race, poverty and immigration—proved difficult, until he made friends with Lidia Labra and decided to base a short film around her truck and her story.
“Transfusión” is actually a collection of six short films, an approach inspired by the common screening practices of film festivals Lemon attended. This approach freed him to tackle different issues and controversies that might not otherwise have fit together. “Every time the topic changes, it feels like you’re watching a different film,” he says.
The construction of the films was also influenced by his teaching position. “The whole time I was filming and editing I was thinking, ‘How am I going to use this in the classroom?’” His students were his first target audience, which has made the film a tough sell to mainstream festivals.
“I’m getting a lot of contacts from university libraries and Latin-American Studies departments to show the film,” he observes, but “the only [film festivals] that are accepting it are the ones that have more of an intellectual audience base or have immediate experience with the issues.”
Lemon has decided to treat that as a challenge, and hopes to produce an alternative cut that will have broader mainstream appeal. He says that there will definitely be a next film for him, too, although he isn’t sure if it will be “a documentary or a narrative or something in between.” Whether film complements his academic career, or steals him away from it entirely, remains to be seen.
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