Rodrigo Dorfman's life has been shadowed by a sense of uprootedness. Many people are fortunate enough to live their early years with at least the illusion of comfort and security, but Dorfman wasn't so lucky. He began his life in Chile, but in 1973, the right-wing military coup led by Gen. Augusto Pinochet and encouraged by the CIA forced Dorfman's father, the writer Ariel Dorfman, to flee the country with his family. A peripatetic childhood followed, including stops in Rome and Amsterdam that had him speaking three languages as a child, before the Dorfmans found a home in Durham, N.C., and Duke University.
The younger Dorfman has an extensive filmography that includes the feature film Blood and Honey and humorous educational telenovelas aimed at Durham's Latino community. But with Generation Exile, which screens in competition on Thursday, April 8 at 4:40 p.m., Dorfman obliquely turns the camera on himself in an experimental documentary. The film includes several characters who, like Dorfman, have been torn from the security of their childhood and features expressionistic editing and insistent music to create a tapestry of social dislocation.
Dorfman hits some grandiloquent notes early on, but the film finds its stride midway when, in a voice-over narrative addressed to his daughter, the director describes a life-changing experience with a Sufi group in Morocco. Dorfman effectively evokes the metaphysical tumult of his spiritual awakening. Back in North Carolina, his involvement with a local Sufi community brings his film into surprising, and unsettling, territory.