Mandy Durham · Echoes

In her documentary Echoes, 2002, Durham tells the story of her father's younger brother, Monty, who was killed in an ambush in Vietnam when he was only 18. More precisely, it is about the process by which Durham and her siblings learned about Monty, who had for so long remained unknown to them. Using family photographs, home movies, and her father's memories, the artist constructs a picture of the uncle she never knew, and who for years, no one spoke of.

The film, divided into three acts, begins with a haunting montage of photographs of Monty. Like pieces of a puzzle yet to be arranged, the cropped images do not give a complete picture of Monty, but provide only tantalizing clues. This incomplete picture is perhaps symbolic of Monty's life, which ended far before it was lived fully. Over this montage, Durham narrates the gradual disclosure of Monty's story, as her father became more open about it, and in his own quest to in some way recover his brother he decides to go to the reunion of surviving members of the unit of the First Armored Cavalry who served with Monty in Vietnam. The second act chronicles the road trip that Durham, her father (a Navy veteran), and sister took to the reunion, driving from Kansas to Texas. Along the way, he recounts childhood memories and also tells of the shock he felt the day he learned of Monty's death. Text of this conversation appears at the bottom of the screen, like subtitles to the footage that Durham videotaped from inside the car. The film has been slowed down and edited in a way that accurately conveys the somewhat surreal mood of the trip. The final act of Echoes records the reunion of Monty's Army unit in a hotel banquet room. This segment brings the poignant ordinariness of the living in contrast with the almost mythologized dead, and it completes Monty's transformation from a ghost to a more substantial entity, though one that resides only in Durham's memory. – Meghan Dailey, independent art critic, New York

Mandy Durham lives and works in Kansas City. She graduated in 2003 from the Kansas City Art Institute with a degree in New Media, and studied at the University of Tulsa. In 2002 Durham won a Statute Award for excellence in film making from the Princess Grace Foundation. Echoes was included in the 2004 Contemplating War exhibition at the JCCC Gallery of Art.