It is a truism of postmodern culture that the difference between truth and fiction is not what it used to be. But in Jesse Lerner’s Ruins, this is more than an empty slogan, it’s a point of departure. Ruins is a self-proclaimed “fake documentary” that exposes the persistence of colonialist ideology in pre-hispanic histories of Mexico and calls into question the processes by which the disciplines of archaeology and art history are constituted. In Ruins, Lerner is as much concerned with historiography – the processes of writing history – as with history itself. The film mobilizes a multiplicity of historiographical and documentary strategies, ranging from archival footage compilation and hidden camera interviews to cutout animation and fictional recreation. Ruins puts forward a scathing revelation of the racist and colonialist underpinnings of ancient Mesoamerican history and offers in its place an enlightened critique and alternate vision of the region’s past.
Published in F is for Phony: Fake Documentary and Truth’s Undoing, edited by Alex Juhasz and Jesse Lerner (University of Minnesota Press 2006)