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In her work Sally Gutierrez uses the documentary format as a method of approaching the objects of her videos. However, both the process and the final result are fundamentally different from that which we normally associate with the documentary.
Tell comprises a total of six short videos, in each of which a different New York City resident is portrayed in a peculiar manner. In all of the pieces the characters narrate a specific experience in their life, which is especially relevant to them. Their faces are never shown. The camera only captures their hands at certain times, and the objects around them.
The protagonist of Tell Purple is the woman who put the first personals ad in the Village Voice newspaper. We hear the woman’s voice in the voice-over, an old woman who, after her divorce at forty-eight, decided to find someone by publishing an ad in the Village Voice. The story is charming and representative of the time and context in which it took place. During the woman’s monologue the camera wonders around the room she is in, offering us a parallel portrait of her, of her objects, of her more personal and intimate context.
Sally Gutierrez uses the same working method and process in Tell Yellow and Tell Red, featuring a black female teenager and a Mexican immigrant respectively. The latter’s story, in which the protagonist tells us of her personal experience and hardships at the bordercrossing from Mexico to the US, is especially distressing.