Sign up for our free newsletter
Free D.C. news, delivered to your inbox daily.
If a 90-minute film waxing on—in German—about the many minute aspects of dust sounds like a party, Dust is your kind of documentary. It’s certainly director-narrator Hartmut Bitomsky’s kind of documentary, as he rhapsodizes about what many have never considered—dust has no home; it is unwanted matter; it needs us to bring it into a room and it needs us to leave so that it can settle. “A battle is waged against dust, but the battle gains nothing,” Bitomsky intones over images of dirt being swept endlessly into a dustpan. The film, although boring, is lovingly and painstakingly shot as it spins through household dust, industrial dust, filtered dust, gold dust, dust bunnies, radioactive dust, dust storms, construction dust, cosmic dust and, in one of its more compelling moments, toxic dust. In a very long list, the contents of the collapsed World Trade Center are enumerated, ending with “a certain amount of organic substance”—human dust. It’s a line of dialogue said over a picture of barely recognizable shoes covered in very recognizable dust and, surprisingly, it does hit the right note. Yet although Dust is hypnotic in moments, it suffers an affliction familiar to similar documentaries that attempt to seriously and broadly address a very small idea (Helvetica, a film about a typeface, comes to mind): It’s too damn long. Had Bitomsky had the good sense to leave about 30 minutes to gather dust on the cutting-room floor, his over-written narration, his interviews with scientists discussing flow charts, and his American Beauty-like love of clouds (they exist because of dust, you know) might all be forgiven. —JB