By Jared Herr ’22 (he/him), Film Critic

During her years as a student at Davidson College, Caroline Rumley ‘85 didn’t spend much time in the visual art departments. With the exception of some painting classes, Rumley had other academic interests in her college years, yet she turned to filmmaking later in her life and eventually attended graduate school for the subject. Her thesis film for graduate school was The Ghost Behind, a short film about her brother Jim Rumley ‘84, his musical pursuits, and his struggle with addiction. The film was accepted into the Sundance Film Festival, one of the most prestigious film festivals for independent films, and was screened virtually at Davidson College on Thursday, October 15th.

Though I attended the event with the intention to write a review, I struggle to critique a work such as this, especially considering the personal attachment to the filmmaker and the subject of the film. I am certain Rumley made the film that she felt best told her brother’s story, and I feel as though this is not my place to tell her how this story should be told. 

However, The Ghost Behind work still compels an analysis. The work presents interesting visuals with an engaging narrative, combining found footage with no relation to the story and archival footage of her brother and his band. The visual style is not only engaging and intriguing, but Rumley seamlessly incorporates this found footage to serve as a connection point for the audience. 

Rumley makes good use of the 12minute runtime, and the film tells a complete story. However, details about her brother and his story seem to be missing, and as a viewer, I was left wanting more. Though perhaps a selfish impulse, in regard to such a deeply personal story, I wanted to feel closer to the narrative. Rumley’s narration feels a bit distant, perhaps because Rumley is only permitting the audience to have the access to the version of her brother’s story that she received herself: across a distance caused by his addiction. 

Following the screening last Thursday, Rumley accepted questions over Zoom from a virtual audience. The event was hosted and moderated by Dr. Maggie McCarthy, Chair and Professor of the German Studies Department, as well as the coordinator of Film and Media Studies at Davidson. Through her answers, Rumley revealed certain decisions, described her process of making the film, and chronicled her overall journey into filmmaking. As a viewer, I was left conflicted. Questions circled my head that felt too personal to ask Rumley as they indicated answers that, as she admitted, even she did not hold.