One room, six cameras, thirty-something individuals — these are the spare elements with which Leigh Ledare constructs The Task, a scintillating study of group dynamics rooted in the Tavistock method, captured over a three-day conference at the Art Institute of Chicago. A number of participants, seated in a spiral arrangement of chairs and monitored by a few “consultants” (psychiatrists trained in the method) and silent observers, are asked — broadly speaking — to examine the dynamics of the group itself. The result is as chaotic as could be expected, with histories and dynamics of race, gender, economic background, et. al informing the inevitably contentious proceedings. (As one consultant says: “Like an idiot savant, this group has spread shit over every reflective surface it’s come across.”)
What sets The Task apart from other such conferences is Ledare’s very act of documentation, which adds yet another thorny element to the mix (and which becomes a significant point of debate). As an examination of current U.S. group relations, The Task is necessarily limited, but also riveting and revealing. It’s the rare documentary that goes into the actual work of confronting issues too often co-opted by lazy commentary and invective.
Published as part of BAMcinemaFest 2018 | Dispatch 2.