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From mental image to sketch – how memories and emotions conjure up a face

In Composite, the US filmmaker and anthropologist Toby Lee decouples composite sketches from their most common use – law and order – and transforms them into a rich device for exploring intersections of memory and relationships. Completed while Lee was a member of the Sensory Ethnography Lab at Harvard University, the short documentary chronicles three fascinating experiments in which people describe the faces of those they know best to a professional sketch artist. In the first sequence, a man tries to convey his mental image of his beloved wife of 53 years. In the second, two identical twins attempt to describe one another, both of them sitting out of the artist’s sight. In the third, a blind man, also unseen by the artist, describes how he understands himself to look today, having not seen an image of himself in many years. While every sequence is a fundamentally different exercise, each reveals much about the interviewees relationship with the subject of the sketch and, further, the complex interplay between perception and emotions.

Director: Toby Lee

11 April 2022

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