Stigmart10 Videofocus Biennale 2015

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SABINE MOLENAAR DANA RUTTENBERG OREN SCHKEDY NEZA A. MOMIRSKI ALBERT CHOI ELENA WALTON BRIAN PHILIP KATZ

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SABINE MOLENAAR DANA RUTTENBERG OREN SHKEDY BEN WOODIWISS ALBERT CHOI ELENA WALTON VINNSLAN NEZA A. MOMIRSKI BRIAN PHILIP KATZ 10th Biennial


From experimental cinema to dance video, eight artists breaking the boundaries Since its foundation, Stigmart10 has encouraged a conception of art based on a dynamic dialogue between artists and audience, reflecting the interactive nature of the creative act itself. A winning formula, according to the doubled number of submissions - more than 3600 applicants have submitted their video works and CV in 2014 - and the increasing popularity of our Biennial project. We are glad to present this year's edition of Videofocus, our special Stigmart10 review focused on independent cinema, videoart and dance film. Due to the advent of technologies like low budget cinecameras, in the last decade it came a true revolution in the video field. The fusion of differents worlds, like videoart, experimental cinema, and fashion video is attested by the increasing number of videoartists cooperating with filmmakers in the last decade, though this synergy is not limited to the improvement of the overall quality in mainstream cinema terms, but shows the great potential of a new generation of artists able to renew the cinematographic language itself from the inside. The primary responsibility of our editorial board has always been to explore the relationships between contemporary art and the audience. Creating and supporting a fertile ground for innovation and dialogue does not necessarily require compromise: cinema is par excellence a syncretic art. Stigmart10 surveys the work of contemporary film and video artists never restricting themself to any single field, inviting the eye and the mind to travel further, crossing the boundaries of conventional cinema. Every is a cohesive summary of the past two years of contemporary art and at the same time a fundamental platform for predicting future trends: this is why we proposed a special focus of this edition on dance cinema: the artists presented in this Biennial Edition include a mixture of young and seasoned professionals, both offering highly original and captiving forms of cinema, often marked by the contamination of painterly and theatrical codes. We are glad to present an exclusive interview with Albert Choi, whose astonishing experimental film The Latecomer will be screened at Cannes, a journey into the surreal atmospheres of the talented duo Dana Ruttenberg and Oren Schkedy, a close look to the visionary work by Sabine Molenaar, three debut feature films and much more.

Dana Ruttenberg & Oren Shkedy

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Dana and Oren have become known for their meticulously choreographed films. Glove story, their second collaboration, is a thrilling viewing experience.

NeĹža Agnes Momirski NeĹža Agnes Momirski ‘s cinema mixes traditional notions of surrealism with a deep interest in complex psychological models.

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RIGHT Still from “That’s it”, Sabine Molenaar Photo by Liza De Boeck All rights reserved COVER A still from “Glove story” Dana Ruttenberg and Oren Schkedy Page 4

Sabine Molenaar

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Sabine Molenaar's works are a whirlwind of provocative imagery, tantalizing storylines, and nonlinear structures. After sold out and award-winning performances in Europe over the last year, she has prepared a cinematographic version of her virtuosistic play “That’s it”

Vinnslans Collective

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An interview with María Kjartan, one of the director of the Icelandic collective Vinnslans. ROF, an extreme shooting experience

Ben Woodiwiss

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Woodiwiss’s debut feature film contains the seed of an attempt to set up new relations between sign and meanings

Elena Walton

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Elena Walton's films are essential for those who conceive cinema as an anthropogical tool to explore the incommunicable

Albert Choi

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Albert Choi, finalist at the prestigious Cannés Film Festival with The Latecomer, tells here the story of an ambitious scientist.

Brian Philip Katz In his debut feature film, Brian explores a world inhabited by haunting memories, transforming figures and places.

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VIDEO/PERFORMANCE WOMENSBIENNALE/15

dana ruttenberg & oren shkedy “ ”


Dana Ruttenberg and Oren Shkedy have become known for their meticulously choreographed films. Their dance film “Private I's” has been honored with several awards at film festivals over the world for its unique, surreal quality. Similar to how deep unconsciousness creates numerous free associations, Dana and Oren's cinema recalls the flow and disruptions of stream of consciousness. Glove story, their second collaboration, is a thrilling viewing experience, forcing the spectator through a cavalcade of emotions. While it is certainly a cliché to open with a quote, it seems appropriate here as perhaps no sentence better captures the experience of Glove story better than Pina Bausch's words "When you create a new work, the point of departure must be contemporary life -- not existing forms of dance". We are pleased to present Dana and Oren's work for this year's Videofocus Biennale. Dana and Oren, how did you come up with the idea for Glove story? Glove Story was a development of and elaboration on Dana's stage work "Armed". It was inspired by her return to Israel after a 6 month teaching residency in Florida. In the US especially there are very clear boundaries to one's personal space. Even when you're on a packed subway car, there is a certain general awareness to maintaining one another's borders. We travel a lot, however this shift of scenery was somewhat more abrupt. As soon as we landed at the TLV airport, the rules changed completely. We were standing in line and the cart of the person behind us was literally touching Dana's ankle. The terminal wasn't particularly crowded, so there was no actual need to get close. It was just that in his eyes, Dana "ended" exactly where her body did, meaning her back, and it was there that this other person was free to "start". It was a short but meaningful moment. It made us question the notion of lack of personal space in our homeland and how it echoes in other fields of life, namely politics (inner and outer). Borders are probably one of the hottest topics in our region: maintaining borders, opening borders, ownership of space and issues of safety, security, identity and many other "explosive"

issues. So Dana felt she wanted to touch these ideas through a creative choreographic process. That led to "Armed", which later evolved into "Glove Story". You are masters at creating entire scenarious out of small, psycologically charged moments, using everyday moments to build lyrical tapestries of visual poetry. How did you develop your visual imagery? Creating cinematic images is basically bringing metaphors to life in a literal, physical way. What metaphors do is pull the familiar out of context and place it in another. In making an Art work, once you acknowledge the fact that there is no such thing as 'no such thing" and that the world you are about to create can allow for all these digressions, then the possibility opens up for humor, exaggaration, designed misplacement etc. Working in the field of stage dance, where the scenery is more often than not very limited, there is a very long period where you gather wishes for where you would or could place this scene but can't. A bottleneck of desires. And then when you come to plan the shooting, this bottleneck opens up and all these images, places and contexts come pouring out. The imagery in Dance Film is multi layered, since you have the scenery, the "frame" and on top of it ever changing physical images. The choreography meets the visuality of the cinematic language at a concrete physical intersection. As opposed to words that might hover over the visual as notes do over a baseline, movement intertwines with it - it is as much architectural as the architecture of the space, and it sculpts through it. So the challange becomes to have imagery that might be constantly fluid but which maintains its engagement. Your dance-film disregards the use of metaphors and cliché becoming an image of pure sound and vision. In that respect, your art presents many points in common with the ideas of Antonin Artaud, the theatre of Socìetas Raffaello Sanzio or Pippo Delbono's latest works. In your choreography you seek rare moments of spontaneity, which usually appear in extreme situations. Could you take us through your creative process when starting a new project?


Subtitolos, Photo by Nauan Barros


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Photo by Paul Vernon

I don't think we disregard metaphors as much as we embrace them so wholeheartedly that they become the reality. If our "imagined" scenarios are recognized as realistic, than we have succeeded in transferring the viewer to another space and time. We don't seek a new reality, but instead are trying to peel off layers to find the reality that resides under our own reality. The reality that we experience innerly is amplified and brought outside, as if you could see everyone's thoughts take shape. Inner dialogues, subtexts, desires and fears come out and play. So it is not a false world but an excavation into the super "real", subjective realities (yes, in the plural). Politeness, maturity, societal codes and norms are removed and what is left is a very raw existence. That is how our work might relate to Artaud's ideas - it is based on the notion that our dreams, dillusions, misconstrued understanding of reality - all become as valid as reality itself (if there was ever any). We go into the shooting days with a plan, but we must remain open and available to what might happen on set. During pre-production and location tours

we figure out the angles, dance "spacings", color schemes, foreseen cuts and matches, camera movements etc. During shooting, we go by the plan but surprises do happen. Film allows us to capture virginal moments, rare "onetakes" that the careful rehearsing of dance, for instance, numbs. In dance, it is usually the studio that gets to see the initial "sparks" which are then digested until they reach the stage. in film, there are rare moments that cannot be traced that are "caught" as a butterfly in the net. In "Glove Story', both water scenes (in the sea and in the shower) could only be shot once, and what you see on the screen are those one-takes. During those onetakes, Shkedy or the DOP might take directorial and artistic decisions of the moment based on something unexpected they see happening at that very moment, and this interesting "dance" happens between them as well, where they might stray away from the plan to react to what happens. Glove story was shot on the Arri ALEXA in collaboration with the


talented cinematographer Ram Shweky. The recurrent use of tracking shot shots marked by barely perceivable movements Ă la Peter Greenaway highlights the dualism between movement and fixation, reminding us of Pierre Boulez's modernist composition explosante fixe. We have been also impressed with the way Ram manipulates color in a manner that is both symbolic and aesthetically pleasing. How did you collaborate? We have been collaborating with Ram Shweky for a long while now. Our collaboration on Dance works for the screen began with a series of dance video art works in 2010 (dance loops), continued with "Private I's" in 2012 and most recently again in "Glove Story" in 2013. In that sense, Shweky is familiar with our Artistic sensibility and we three have developed a language of our own together, which evolves from project to project. Each process begins with an introduction of the dance work to be shot. Shweky familiarizes himself with the

themes, the scenes, the characters, the "story" lines and the choreographic imagery. Then we work together to envision and trace the locations that would complete and enhance the images we have in mind, also keeping track of how these places would "talk" with one another, whether they would be part of the same "world". Shkedy and Shweky are then in charge of "freeing" the dance from its former "frontality" (as stage works are mostly envisioned as en-face, meaning to be watched from a single frontal direction) and according to their shooting plan and planned camera work, Ruttenberg changes and manipulates the choreography once again. They create a conscious play between the steadiness or movement of the camera and the steadiness or movement of the dancers, making the camera another "dancer" on the scene. It's already been 15 years since your debut on the international scene, Dana: a constant aspect of your art practice throughout your choreography career has always been




a remarkable effort to expand the existing audiences for dance, stimulating a dynamic multi-media cross-cultural collaboration with artists from different fields. Dance film is a genre that knows no boundaries between high and low culture, nor between visual art, music and theatrical forms. Can you introduce our readers to the multisciplinary nature of your art research? The boundaries between the different genres of art have long become blurry, and this is a blessed thing. Just the other day I was "dragging" my friend to a show. "Is it dance?" she asked. "well, kinda. It's perfomance". "so it's theatre? I see there's text involved" "well, not really". "are the performers dancers?" "some of them" etc. Etc. Each time I create a new piece, the creation calls for different tools. Some creations beg for pure movement, some are based on an existing piece of music, some are created in silence with the soundtrack added only later, while some require the

"intervention" of text - some original text and some quoted - some read live and some recorded. Some need the eye of a designer, some the ear of a musician. Each child is its own world with its own character and needs. When you look at Dance it should trigger your visual sense, your musical, rhythmical or groovy sense, your dramatic or emotional sense and so on. It doesn't matter whether this is achieved by adding or subtracting elements (a production in silence could stimulate your audio sense as much as one bombarded with score from beginning to end, for instance) but one needs to address these many facets of a visible, live art. And take into consideration that it is meant to be seen and experienced by an audience. So indeed, it is multidisciplinary in nature. It is crucial that it extends beyond being the mere personal expression of its creator to being a performance work meant to engage others. That is a shift I see many artists failing at achieving. It's interesting to think that although dance and movement require no language and are the most instinctive and


basic things the human body does from birth, there is still a hesitance from the form as one that is highly challenging to understand or comprehend. In my work I am interested in re-recruiting audiences' sense of adventure, sense of humor and empathy and letting them forgo "comprehending" in turn for experiencing. With that in mind I have most recently created NABA which is an interactive dance work set in a museum, which allows audiences to choose their own soundtrack for the piece using museal audio guides. How did you found the Dana Ruttenberg Dance Group? DRDG is a project-to-project based group, with each project collecting around itself the relevant performers and collaborators for that specific work, with many of the performers re-appearing in several works. The idea of a "group" signifies our interest and desire to collaborate with one another over the span of years. I enjoy collaborating with the same people again and again, as

much as I enjoy discovering and meeting new creative forces. When I came back from my studies in NY in 2003, where I had also started a group (The Red Hill Project) I was completely new to the local scene and it took a long time until I felt I was finally meeting my so-called artistic "soul-mates". It still is rare, I have to say. I hope in the future to also find a studio home for the group, but for now in the unstable political climate in Israel it seems like its not the right timing for that just yet. Perhaps it will happen somewhere else, who knows. ScreensArt is a series of dance art works for the screen under Oren's direction, premiered at Fresh Paint in Tel Aviv .Oren, how did you get started in filmmaking? I originally studied theater and acting. Parallel to that, as I was making my way as a young actor, I felt I was missing a more creative and active role, one that would allow me to take initiative and express myself beyond working off of a given text.




I began by shooting a short independent film titled "There Are No Small Parts" which ironically deals with the grey reality of being a B-rated single-line actor. The experience of writing and shooting this film, though still very rough and raw, reinforced my gut feeling that this was something I wanted to follow up on. Interestingly, most directors I come in contact with come from a background of film studies, and their field of expertise is the visual aspect. Since I come from theater, I am interested and focused on the work with the actors and performers on set, which if you think of it is crucial. The visual side has many "parents" on set from the DOP through the designers and multiple assistants. The performance aspect, however, is solely upon the director to shape and direct. My work in TV began with a long period of assisting in which I was able to observe others and learn and later I began directing myself. The work on Dance Film happened in parallel to that, through meeting Dana and our two worlds colliding - cinema and movement. At first we were very hesitant about the possibility to create a succesful two dimensional dance work that would do justice to both genres, but later found that when done

right, dance and film actually compliment and enhance one another beyond imagination. Dana, in an interview conducted by Ayelet Dekel, you say "Our lives are choreographed, little girls know what it means to be feminine; gender is choreographed". Can you better introduce our readers to this concept? Behavior is choreographed, it's not a concept I invented. Gender is choreographed: think of how one smokes a cigarette or struts down a street, even the way we make love is choreographed. One can "act his age" or "through like a girl" or "be sexy" on command, without realizing they actually know what that should look like. We make ourself ‫״‬recognizable‫״‬ through the choreography we perform. I would say most of our behavior is not an intuitive manifestation of our true self but instead a set of learned subconscious "moves'. We pick these up through various means - in media, in interaction with others, and we unknowingly embrace these choreographies. When we stray away from our intended '"dance" we might get


feedback from our surroundings signalling us we are off "the track". We love artists crossing the boundaries of cinematic genres. We have previously mentioned the greatest German choreographer Pina Bausch. Indeed, it would be interesting to compare your films to the surreal atmospheres of Die Klage der Kaiserin. Can you tell us your biggest influences in art ? Pina Bausch is undoubtedly a major influence on us. Bausch gave voice to the human existence, and showed people on stage. Yes, they were at times virtuosic creatures, but always human. Her mind worked simultaneously as a choreographer, as a director and as a sociologist or anthropologist. She, for one, was extremely invested in exploring societal choreographies and bringing them to the stage. And she always made room for humor as a tool to first invite us in and then throw a pie in our faces. Another big influence is the Israeli playwright and director Hanoch Levin, perhaps the most influential voice in Israeli Theater. Levin was interested in man as an absurd,

flawed, childlike creature, whom we can all identify with on the most basic levels. His characters cry and pass gas and have sex and yearn and envy, they are wonderfully imperfect and most of all - they are a reflection of us. Humor, again, is a big part of his work. In film, most lately, Wes Anderson is someone whose work we follow closely. His immaculate attention to detail and his visual style, symmetry and again - humor, make watching his films a multi-faceted adventure. The drama occurs at once in the story line and in the visual sphere. His realities are so "designed" that you can never place them here or there. They are not fantastical or part of an imaginary world but they create a hyperrealistic world in which every detail - word, object, move - get our attention. Thanks for sharing your time, Dana and Oren, we wish you all the best with your artist career. What's next for you? Have you a new project in mind? Our next project is in the works. We are expecting two boys in a few months. So our next joined film will probably not happen until 2016. You can follow us at: www.screensart.com or www.drdg.co.il


EXPERIMENTAL CINEMA WOMENBIENNALE/15

neža agnes momirski “


Neža Agnes Momirski is known for her unique visionary imagery. Her cinema mixes traditional notions of surrealism with a deep interest in complex psychological models, revealing a sophisticated understanding of the mechanisms of identity formation in the digital era. Her film Affinit delivers a highly original vision blending sci-fi elements and metaphysical themes. Neža’s mix of art house and science fiction is a one-of-a-kind experience that leaves you speechless: through a sapient use of lighting and a masterly condensation of film narrative she creates seductive and surreal atmospheres, reminding us of the films of Alain Robbe Grillet. Neža, we want to take a closer look at the genesis of your film: how did you come up with the idea for Affinit? My research in general focuses on the juxtaposition of material and virtual realms, which was a starting point for the film concept. I was interested in the formation and the nature of our relationships at present, and their general social implications and effects on perception of self. There is a prevailing feeling of traveling and working a lot, lack of time and consequently more communication apps, dating websites and services. I wanted to create a film in which the sense of physical distance in the realm of communication was examined. Starting from there, I used language and behavior patterns from communication apps to write the film dialogues. The interaction between the main character (Ben) and three female characters, which happens in real space, breathes the sense of formality, the need to reach out, unresponsiveness... Rendering the notion of physicality as a dimension out of reach. Another aspect of relationship patterns, and their fleeting nature notable from apps such as Tinder, relates to individual's perception of self and others. That's the anxious gaze into the screen, to keep oneself in the circle of online presence. It resembles the anxious gaze into the crystal ball, and the desire to see into another dimension. Both contain a promise that there is more to see, giving access to images and information, while indicating a concern and anxiety over the future, one's self online etc... Speaking of the future, there's also an increasing demand for

sustainable products, but the term sustainability is becoming so overused and is often utilized just as a smart marketing strategy. In all fields of human activity including politics, relationships and one's self, levels of anxiety and concerns over regulation are increasing. The story itself is about two business men (Tom and Ben) who create Affinit, a product that offers its users a sustainable lifestyle. The device makes the “effect” of any matter or body omnipresent by means of documented images, and instantly becomes a success. Ones past and future can now be selectively defined and regulated. The story then splits into two directions, Ben's involvements with women and Tom's endeavour to cover up a murder, while depicting life inside the “effect” where the sense of time and space dissolves. The film humours the idea of one's self as a collection of archived images, and the quest to make it “sustainable”. Your work mainly focuses on the perception of reality and self-identity. Could you introduce our readers to these peculiar aspects of your films? I'm interested in language, narrative, communication and mechanisms of functioning and how different mental states, from memory to virtuality and ideology, affect or relate to physical reality. Time and space are perceived in relation to online presence, which somehow alters the perception of physicality. Virtuality creates a different dimension, from which we look back towards the physical. There are dualities in the act of perception that happen due to different dimensions of existence. It's important for human beings to feel connected. The worse horror represents exclusion, from the narrative or life we are a part of. But that possibility is always there, things slip from understanding, just as they do in a dream, and one's identity that's inherently dependent on that understanding, is subjected to transformation. Film can feel like watching a dream, where meanings dissolve and objects and situations gain new ones. With film, it's easy to evoke a sense of juxtaposition between mental image and physical reality. I like to depict the


Photo by Paul Vernon

functioning of mental grids/patterns that connect things into a notion of narrative, and transformation of reality and identity when things slip out of that narrative. Despite the cold setting of Affinit, a combination of terrific direction and cinematography makes the drama terribly raw and human. Your seems to take at heart the teachings of Maya Deren "The task of cinema or any other art form is not to translate hidden messages of the unconscious soul into art but to experiment with the effects contemporary technical devices have on nerves, minds, or souls". How did you get started in experimental filmmaking? The most natural way for me to explore the effects contemporary devices have on their minds, and with that the relation between virtual and material, is through film as a time-based medium. We percept ourselves through linear time-lines, yet in the end it's only the effect that remains, a sensorial impression of that time-line. I decided to start with experimental filmmaking to further my research on the

psychology of characters, behavior, communication and narrative. Film is a great way to experiment with effect, with its inherent tool - the cut – that makes it a trigger for associations. It involves a lot of layers of production, from writing, to costume, set and directing and postproduction. The focus on details is strong, through which different layers of cognition can be addressed. We would like to explore now your earlier film Looped Alphabet, an absurdist drama revealing a highly original and consistent vision of time and space. Could you introduce our readers to this work? Looped Alphabet is a short film depicting an enclosed pseudo world, exploring the idea of continuous presence in the flow of information. The story unravels in Sharing space where communication devices are staged as architectural elements of the fictional interior. The film is highly staged in all aspects, acting, and cinematography – reaching quite an absurd level of artificiality. It addresses the sense of hyper-visibility of information and


interaction, so it was important to get varied and highly stylized references as a mix of eras and styles, as a mix of sci-fi and fashion, future and past. The clothing is by Vivienne Westwood, the hairstyles by Pall Mall Barbers. The objects have a sci-fi look of a futuristic product. The film represents a kind of maze of information that simultaneously coexists in the virtual. It depicts space as a pool of information, where personal stories feel misplaced in artificial interpersonal interaction. The narrative is based on the dialogue, which explores verbal expression being increasingly shaped/replaced by the textual expression. A lot of the dialogue is spelled out, as if automated. Specific terms from visual fields of geometry and art history are used to describe the social order in the Sharing space. The language use is imagined as visual, spatial and tangible. As if the Sharing space is a visual representation of linguistic machinery, to which the language is subjected. Which standardizes subjectivation and effaces polysemy. The characters use the geometrical/art terms

to define their relationships, themselves, and the Sharing space, and seemingly stay within its linguistic and spatial choreographies. Seemingly because there's a sense of conflict between subjective perception/poysemy and the order of Sharing space. There's a sense of going back and forth between physical and abstract, virtual and real. Their personal experiences with each other are indistinguishable from the formal arrangement of the space, and prevent any type of intimacy but the staged one. To sum up the story: the main character endeavors to reveal the Alphabet, which would restore conduct in the Sharing space by bringing back the notions of real space and time that got lost in language and communication matrixes, when he finds himself involved deeper and deeper in a hypnotic circle of gossip, news and schemes. This narrative is build from smaller narratives that never reach a conclusion, and becomes a hypnotic experience. As is virtuality, the internet, an endless field of possibilities calling for more and more visual and textual feed to


keep the circle of information spinning, and the notion of connectedness alive. We appreciate the clinical and refined cinematography characterizing your works, whose symmetrical patterns and elegant colors remind us of Alain Robbe Grillet's art-house film Eden and After. Who among international artists and directors influenced your work? There were many works of art, films, music and fashion pieces, that touched me and therefore influenced my work. Some are lost for me to recollect, most of them I don't remember anymore. I kind of take them in and forget about them. I'm mostly influenced by literature and films that are based in dialogue and word plays, which offer me a challenge to be resolved or completely take me out of this world to reveal a different reality. Or they create that feeling with brilliant visual craftsmanship. Fashion can be essential in illustrating a specific time and space, sometimes a surreal fantasy and sometimes displacement from the context. I'm inspired by plays and movies, where psychology of

characters plays an important part of the story, but also by new media, new technologies and design, animation and graphics and various digital compositions of moving image. You are a multidisciplinary artist: besides filmmaking, sculpture is important to you: could you explain the role of architectural elements in your cinema? Looped Alphabet and Affinit are films in which the object plays an important role. The objects in Looped Alphabet were incorporated into the film set as architectural elements of the interior. They're techno-linguistic devices, spatially defining communication of characters. As metaphors for the nature of interpersonal relationships, they turn a pattern of forming a dialogue into a spatial entity. A kind of visualization of communication. A kind of indicator of distance yet closeness – they're matrixes for exchange of meaning. Film happens in space, and that space is important for how we percept the story. I


think of communication and dialogue and social mechanisms of functioning in a very spatial way – and then also portray them spatially. Sometimes these mechanisms are so transparent they saturate the space with distance or closeness or different ways of relating, invisible but so present. You can almost feel them physically transforming the space, drawing invisible choreographies inside it. Communication device and Affinit, are both objects that in a different way interpret behavior formed around digital technology. Communication device is a table at which one forms a dialogue with another person, but not really. Physical and eye contact is restricted, yet there's a keyboard and a speaker on each side of the table. Affinit, device in the form of a crystal ball, serves as an image archive into which the gaze is turned and enables immersion in the effect produced by these images. Our social communication is adapted to certain matrixes. The film objects render mental architecture conditioned by those matrixes as external and spatial, and the aesthetics of product design which these objects imitate, furthers the idea of disintegration, distance and restricted

subjectivation in the sphere of personal interaction. Despite the futuristic setting, references made in the film still set the action in the twentieth century. We have been really impressed by the balance the have been capable of achieving in this work between classical sensibility and pure experimentation. From the first scenes, the viewer enters into a dreamy filmic mystery. Defining your artistic vision, the topos of labyrinth is no doubt a starting point of your filmmaking. Can you comment this aspect of your cinema? Yes, specifically in Looped Alphabet, I used an intermittent narrative structure to portray the idea of being inside an indefinable space saturated with information. Discontinuous sequences of narrative, dialogues crossing between each other, information is just there but doesn't lead anywhere except into a spinning circle that's feeding on itself. I like to start out with an idea, and then make it into a story that doesn't really have an ending. The story is not still but




continues to evolve through associations, visually and textually, portraying the allusiveness of reality. There is no map especially in Looped Alphabet. It deliberately confuses the viewer, with the use of language and terms that appear out of their context, to bring a sense of abstraction into the notion of time and space and interpersonal relationships. In the beginning of Affinit, a dreamy sequence visually reveals the genesis of the device. It starts with the notion of mortality, its stillness, and then presents a product that can regulate it. The sequence is accompanied by music of Sontag Shogun, who composed the soundtracks for both films, Looped Alphabet and Affinit. The film story is a complex labyrinth of references to situations and social behavior, which all somehow have a sense of mortality underneath.

The gaze, the selfie, importance of a personal narrative online, anxiety to stay connected, circular body muscles where life energy/information flows in and out, sustainable development, circle as a symbol of life and death, etc. Topos of labyrinth allows to associate, and switch between, different fictional and real dimensions of existence, which is why I use it so often in my work. Thanks for sharing your time, Ne탑a, we wish you all the best with your filmmaker career. What's next for Ne탑a Agnes Momirski? Have you a particular film in mind? Yes, I'm writing a script for a short film, and developing other projects, while being busy preparing for exhibitions. It's too early to reveal more at this time, but new updates are soon to be on my website www.neagmo.com.


Drawing from semiotics, philosophical, sociological, psychoanalytic theories, my work reflects upon the influence of language, objects, visual aesthetics, and cinematic narrative structures on perception of reality and self-identity. My projects are self-contained fictional worlds, displaying the intertwining of collective and personal within the psyche. Through absurd film narratives and works in forms of installations, drawings and sculptures, I address notions of internal and external forces exchanging in shaping of one's reality. External forces, conditioned by objects, architectural and narrative structures, by means of integration into the Symbolic intertwine with the inner forces, based in man's neurosis over the split in continuity. Intimacy becomes artificial, exposing deeper laying anxiety in the

contemporary society. Works that result from my research portray dualisms inherent to shaping perception, between the physical and virtual, the Real and the Symbolic, public and private. Objects and signs defining fictional orders take the center stage of the narrative, conditioning forms of communication, memory, use of language and behavior patterns of characters. As architectural elements of the interior or hybrid terminologies, they indicate transformation yet cause it at the same time. In my work I form an immediate visual language and employ a combination of classical craftsmanship and modern mediums, with an interest in new technologies and design. N.A.MOMIRSKI

www.neagmo.com.


DANCE / CINEMA VIDEOBIENNALE/15

sabine molenaar “

Sabine Molenaar's works are a whirlwind of provocative imagery, tantalizing storylines, and nonlinear structures. After sold out and awardwinning performances in Europe over the last year, she has prepared a cinematographic version of her virtuosistic play “That’s it”


videofocus/15

Sabine Molenaar's works are a whirlwind of provocative imagery, tantalizing storylines, and nonlinear structures. Former Peeping Tom dancer, she founded Sandman (BE) in 2012. That’s It, the first solo piece from Sandman company, aroused great interest in the contemporary art scene and won the award for Strongest female talent at Theater aan zee in Oostend, Belgium. After sold out and award-winning performances in Europe over the last year, she has prepared a cinematographic version of the play, in collaboration with the talented cinematographer Lisa De Boeck. That's it is a film marked by a stunning balance between dreamlike atmospheres and natural environments. Sabine eschews traditional storytelling and opts instead for an associative, almost surrealist methodology: in an Art Deco room we see her body as a series of fragments dangling on the string of the inner sensation of self, and lacking the wholeness that the Self-Other relationship would produce. Sabine, we want to take a closer look at the genesis of your film: how did you come up with the idea for That’s It? I've always been fascinated by dreams. As I remember many of my dreams and as well have periods of bad sleeping which makes me wander on the border of reality and fantasy I question sometimes what is actually real. If maybe we are constantly looking in a haze. Or that we're all just projecting on our private screen what we are seeing, but that there's maybe something behind that screen. I am interested in the expansion of the time and that of space that often occurs in dreams, these disorders zones carry within them the seeds of all metamorphoses. Both in the play and the film, the viewer is not asked to meditate on the action in progress decrypting a series of hidden symbols, but to follow the

logic of sensation. How did you get started in performing arts? As a little girl I was already jumping and asking for dance classes so i started at age of five. When i was ten i continued with a classical pre-education for eight years and after that i finished 4 years at the Modern Theatre Dance at Amsterdamse Hogeschool voor de Kunsten. After those twelve years of education, i quit dance. I didn't seem to get inspired by the possible paths that were to follow from there and I went for a long travel in Asia were i started to develop my interest for the yoga philosophy and practice. I see that period as very important 'reformatting of my system'. I learned to work with my body in a different way and to be more aware about transformation of energy and about what i would like to share. After a couple of month I came back with the wish to dance again but with my aims and visions sharpened. I moved to Belgium and started working for Peeping Tom. A wonderful company in which I did feel artistically free and where your individual, authentic strength was supported and got the playground to deepen it. In your film the isolation of the female figure at the center of the frame is a way of cutting it out of any narrative relation that would ascribe to it a fixed meaning. In this sense, the contrast between the interior architecture and the human figure assumes a fundamental role in your work : can you comment this particular aspect of the cinematographic version of That’s It? I was very lucky to have a residency, given by the 4Culture Association (Bucharest) Jardin d’Europe, Culture Programme of the European Union, in a studio of the amazing theatre of Bucharest: Sala Palatului. The whole atmosphere and the space inspired me for the dramaturgy and it gave the possibility for some stunning images. As I was working with different perception of time and space, for example,


Sabine Molenaar / That’s it Subtitolos, Photo by Nauan Barros Photo by Lisa De Boeck, All rights reserved


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Photo by Paul Vernon

the immense empty theatre was helping to make the creature in a state of wandering around and being lost and the small elevator was creating a more suffocating situation. All was emphasizing the surreal atmosphere in the dreamlike world in which the character is wandering around. Also the character enters different levels or states of mind so i found some great elements in the space that for me were connected with that specific state of mind. We used the elevator as an indicator of changing level or state. Finally the character is stuck in the elevator which for me is again referring to the non-control, or timeless space. I love playing with time. As my favorite scene where the character is also 'hanging in space and time' like a statue and the camera spins around. So it was very inspiring for both camera and dance work. The space just invited to have the one-point perspective shot,

which Lisa de Boeck likes to use as well, and as a result gave wonderful pictures. It's an invitation for the viewer to surrender to this associative fantasy world. In That’s It drama is stripped down to its essential elements, achieving an astonishing fluidity in storytelling. You work like a jeweler, carefully carving out incisive, measured rythms and structures. Could you take us through your creative process when starting a new project? I quote my dramaturge Gina Șerbănescu (Romenia, Bucharest) that wrote about my performance with the title ‘The body as a state of mind’: “(...) the body presented in her performance is not the flesh-and-blood entity opposed to the immaterial soul or to the impossible-tobe-physically-perceived mind. The


corporeal reality is turned into a mode of existence that transfigures it into something very similar to a state of mind, in fact the body itself acts as such and therefore we can no longer fix our perception into the field of separations between the physical substance and the thinking/feeling one.� When I'm working around a certain theme, there is several ways for me to get to some expressions. The sub themes will make me come up with a (theatrical) situation or action or a certain emotion that i want to represent, which puts me in a certain state and the body will express a certain movement. It could be a very simple or small movement, but then it's all about diving in there and exploring it and tripping on it. Also I like using images. Images that I search which connect or represent for me somehow what I have in mind and those images trigger movement. But most important is that you really

become that what you want to represent. That's why it's so important for me to work with state of mind and then the body follows. If your mind is connected with your body you can dive deeper and project further. We have recognized a touch of Francis Bacon in your surreal imagery. Can you tell us your biggest influences in art and how they have affected your work? I deeply appreciate Francis Bacon and I see why you link it to my work, because I use the distorted body in my work a lot to create this surreal imagery. Although I can't say that I'm influenced by him. I'm more influenced by cinema for example (eg Andrei Tarkosvky, Bergman, Lars von Trier, David Lynch) In dance, my biggest influence was Peeping Tom. They were the first one for me to like my unusual


Photo by Terri Florido


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body and to offer me tools and a playground to research it differently and also to have a more intuitive approach of creation which I found was more organic and fitting with my own nature. And, even though I unfortunately have never seen a live show, i love the work of Pina Bausch. We had the chance to watch at 42nd International Theatre Festival of la Biennale di Venezia Peeping Tom's internationally successful 32, rue Vandenbranden: how did your early work differ from what you're doing now? What progression or changes have you seen in your performances? What I feel is that my direction goes more and more away from form. Meaning, I never start by searching for a beautiful movement or form of the body, but always from a state of mind. For me, the mind and body is 2 different things, but go hand in hand together. As I said, I like to trip on a certain state, which can maybe give small movement, which then later i pull to the extreme. It just important where it came from, then the rest will follow. For example if my mind has trouble to arrive in the state that I would need to be to do certain material, my body would have problems to achieve the movement, because I demand a lot from my body. I love to work with distorting the body because I like playing with this reality and illusion. If you think you understand the image, to deconstruct it or to transform it in such a way that the mind is confused. I definitely like to confuse the rational part of the mind, because I believe then you need to surrender to a more intuitive approach. I try to apply it on myself as well as on the public. You are currently preparing ‘Touch me’, which will premiere on the 17th of March 2015 at Festival Cement. Could you introduce our readers to this solo? "Touch me" gives us a unique view into a dreamlike universe of a familiar, yet anonymous being. It seems it has come to terms with itself, but it continues to be conflicted with itself. In a bizarre series of images, burdened slowness as



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well as tranquil explosions of energy are depicted.

shows the opposite of things, and flirts with the borders of illusion and disillusion.

The many facets of “intimacy” are the guideline: the tenderness, the hardness, the vulnerability, the loneliness, but also the beauty and the solace of it. What does intimacy do to yourself, to your body, to your self-image? And what happens if your intimacy clashes with someone else’s? "Touch me" sketches that quest in a chain of metamorphoses. Or the search(ing) itself as essence, in the fringe where you dance with your shadow, and where being naked flows seamlessly into being masked. In no time atmosphere, image, time and space switch. A non-taboo play with form and content that is contagious and mind-blowing at the same time. This way, “Touch me” also

Thanks for sharing your time, Sabine, we wish you all the best with your artist career. What's next for you? Have you a particular project in mind? After the premiere I will be in Montreal to start a research project with a video artist from there, Olivia Boudreau. We are one of the pairs of MIXOFFs taking place in the 2015 OFFTA and Ailleurs en Folie Mtl/Qc and will finish the project in Mons (BE) in september. But next to that and performing the 2 solos, I will again make a movie version of the new solo. Because I really feel the drive to continue with making dance films.


INDEPENDENT CINEMA WOMENBIENNALE/15

vinnslans collective “


The hallmark of Vinnslans talent resides in their acute sensitivity, their absolute sincerity. The Icelandic company refuses the traditional kinds of dramatization, reminding us of Jan Svankmajer's approach to filmmaking, according to whom imagination should first consist in the pleasure of filming, like the creative freedom of the brush on the canvas. We are pleased to present Vinnslan (one of the directors María Kjartans) for this year's Videofocus Edition. Vinnslan is a multimedia company, when did you first know that you wanted to create a film? For the last 3 years, before we made Rof, Vinnslan had been creating performances, video art and installations, exploring the boundaries between the art forms and finding a way to create using all mediums equally. As Vinnslan members we all have our unique talents from different art backgrounds. I had been doing photography and a few experimental short films with my partner and Vinnslan musician, Biggi Hilmars who also work as a film composer. Vala Omarsdottir and Gudmundur Ingi Thorvaldsson are both directors and actors with backgrounds in films and theatre and Harpa Fönn Sigurjónsdóttir is a lawyer who creates documentaries and music. So using the film as our medium at this point came very naturally and is just one form or a technique to work with our concept. We had been discussing doing an artistic short film, a visual sound piece, when Gudmundur Ingi told us he got this summer job, guiding people inside of a volcano called Þríhnjúkagígur (Three Peaks Crater). His stories about the colors and landscape down there were mesmerizing. We knew this was a place we had to see for ourselves. Iceland is one of the most active volcanic regions in the world, with eruptions occurring every 3–4 years on average. This would give us the chance to capture many of the most amazing scenery

Iceland has to offer – a great mixture of nature, history and adventure. This was late August 2013 and there were only few weeks left of the summer season, as all the equipment had to be taken down before the winter. Thankfully, Gudmundur Ingi got an allowance to invite us to go down and check it out. Going 120m (400 feet) inside a volcano in an open cable lift, that’s normally used to carry window cleaners, was pretty amazing. The colors and rock formations are out of this world and every geologist’s dream. The thrill came though when we were finally standing at the bottom seeing this phenomenon and without a doubt gave us the impression we were inside of Mother Nature’s womb. Lying down on the rocks and looking up at the raindrops falling nearly 200m at you was something else! We knew instantly that we had found the location for Vinnslan´s first film. ROF is a surreal cinematographic journey. How did you come up with the idea for this film? Vinnslan doesn’t work from scripts. For us it’s all about the process. We believe in improvisation, thinking on our feet, creating in the flow, throwing the ball between us and to make ideas happen in the flow. After our first visit to this unique location we knew our film had to be about nature in one-way or another. We had all recently moved back to Iceland, hoping for some balance after a rootless live abroad, so it was easy to get all wrapped up in wanting to connect the dots again, finding our roots and making a film about man connection to nature. Entering the Earth was such an important link in the process at this point, literally touching the ground where it all started, where life started and to remember that everything is made by nature and we are not separate from or above it, we are one. This whole experience felt a bit like the journey of being born, having the guidance wisdom and unconditional love from someone and then wanting to


Photo by Paul Vernon

disconnect, cut the cord and walk away from this person who gave you live. Most of us in Vinnslan have a child, and Vala had recently given birth to her daughter so “birth” was something we could all connect to so without that being the narrative, we did use it as a guideline in the making.

small we are and how powerful nature really is. The film deals with this connection, between man and nature and the energy we are all made of. I suppose we had to remind us that we are supposed to be a part of nature, not above it. After all it’s nature that is the mother, we are just the babies.

The natural settings Vinnslan have chosen are expansive, while the stories that you film are very intimate. It is as if you were searching constantly for a confrontation between the exterior and interior of things. Can you comment this peculiar aspect of ROF?

What was the most challenging thing about making this film?

By entering this enormous cave and see it in the context with us, the human being (to put it in context, the ground space is equivalent to almost three full-sized basketball courts planted next to each other and the height is such that it would easily fit full sized Statue of Liberty into the chamber), we definitely sensed how

The most challenging thing I would say time. When we got the idea, there were only few weeks until the equipment to lower us down into the volcano would be removed for the winter. It was a gut feeling, we new we got an entrance to this magical place so we had to think fast. Shooting a film inside of a volcano is not easy though, this is no Hollywood. It´s raw nature at its best. The volcano is not on a beaten track, no roads lies to it and there is about 1 hour walk, with the equipment’s on our back, camera, food


etc. to get to the place. And upon arrival there are definitely some gut needed, as we had to descend 120 meters/400 feet to the bottom of the crater in an open cable lift. When you come down, you are in this gigantic hall. It is hard to imagine how big it is, as it was impossible to capture its real size on film, but its big. You loose completely sense over size. Inside it is very humid. The strata filters ground water through the rock wall so there is like water constantly dripping down. You wouldn’t be expecting it to be raining inside a volcano. The ground down there is very uneven to say at least. Big rocks scattered everywhere, you can’t find a flat ground so it became hard to get the tripods steady. It is also difficult to walk without slipping, but despite of all that and being wet and freezing cold, the actors, Gudmundur Ingi and Hera Lind were doing amazingly well and didn’t complain. Actually everyone was so

passionate about this project, I never heard anyone ever complain. Volcanic passages continue down from the main chamber, to a total depth of about 200m/700 ft. The first scene in the film was shot in a narrow, dark passage in about 170 m. depth. Gudmundur Ingi prepared us very well and informed us about all safety procedures and of course we were all wearing helmets and harnesses. We were only four of us who could go down as it is to narrow for more people to fit in the tunnel. We didn’t expect to stay very long, but after about one and a half hour the rest of the group, who stayed in the main chamber, became very worried and started to shout and scream trying to get an answer from us. As the size of the cave is so huge it’s hard for the sound to travel, so we didn’t hear their shouting’s. When we came back around one and a half hour later tired but happy with the shooting it was very surreal to realize that in these circumstances, in the dark


tunnel, we had completely lost sense of time. How long was the project? The preparation, and shooting took us a very short time. As I talked about earlier, from the day Gummi told us about this place “Þríhnjúkagígar”, and until the shooting was all done there were only few weeks. We went down to the volcano for preparation 2 times. Gudmundur Ingi first took me and Biggi down to the chamber, then he went back up with the elevator and left us alone down there, witch was ok, but then he shut off the lights! It was such an amazing experience. While the lights were warming up again you would se the green colors of the cliff being formed and then the yellow, and orange, red and purple, it was magical, like a rainbow forming in front of you. Biggi was singing, and clapping and the acoustics down there are amazing, its

like being in a huge church so he started working on the music and I on the imagery. In the following week we went back down there with the crew, did some experimentation and Vala and me started working on the story. Few days later, the shooting was done in only one day, as you can hear this happened very fast so I believe we did pretty well due to the circumstances and the situation. ROF has been realized by virtue of the collaboration of the Vinnslan group. Can you introduce our readers to this very interesting artist collective? Vinnslan wich means “Process” is collaboration between friends who met in London. When we all moved back to Iceland at the same time we felt that something missing in the Icelandic art scene. We are artists collective as we all come from different backgrounds in


art and together we create and curate interdisciplinary art projects. We have produced several of our own interdisciplinary art projects apart from Rof, the last one was called Strengir, witch means Strings, witch is a mixed media performance piece set up behind the scenes in a Theatre setting. As we started working in Reykjavik, we felt the Icelandic Art scene needed to be challenged and opened up so we created a new platform called Vinnslan event to encourage collaboration and co operation between artist in various art forms and for the audiences to influence a work in process. In only 3 years we have put up 8 of these events. We have been impressed with how the film’s striking use of light and color depicts emotions, as well as the very beautiful positioning of figures within the frame. How did you develop your visual style?

I believe every artist develop their stile through experimenting and learning from each project they create. I have been doing photography since I was a teenager and I can say each project teaches me something new, brings something new to the palette. Especially when shooting in nature, as it is constantly changing and there is always something unexpected. It´s like you become a hunter when searching for the right frame. Always with your eyes alert, looking for the perfect light, color and form. The walls of the chamber are covered with amazing colors and lava forms, so it wasn’t hard to find beautiful frames. Regarding the positioning of the figures, we wanted to show the intimacy, what it means to be a human being, but also the magnificence of nature, the greatness of the Earth. We felt small in these settings, but powerful at the same time being able to expose this magical place



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to others in the world through the filmmaking. Did any specific director appeal to you? When we saw ROF we immediately thought of Kieslowsky and Svankmajer... I can only answer for myself when I answer this question, but no, not really, I cant think of any, apart from perhaps, Benh Zeitlin and his film Beasts of the Southern Wild, but I absolutely love that film and his approach to use visuals and sound in a new and interesting way. I would rather say books did influence me, as I tend to read a lot when working on a new project. To name a few, authors like Shirley MacLaine and her book “The camino�, witch is a story of a journey and was both an intense spiritual and physical challenge for the author, and Anastasia,

by V Megre, tells the story of an incredible girl who lives in a forest in a close encounter with nature. And the Icelandic Nobel Price author, Laxness, specially his book Independent people, witch is a story about a farmer in Iceland in the determination to achieve independence in the early twentieth century. I really liked it as it tells us in details how it used to be living in Iceland this long time ago, and how much more connected to nature people used to be. Thanks for sharing your time, Maria, we wish you all the best with your filmmaker career. What's next for you? Have you a particular film in mind? Coming up in May is Vinnslan 3rd birthday, so it will be a great party and a premiere of Rof in Reykjavik at the same time. We have also have started planning Vinnslan #9, witch will take place as a


weeklong residency in Húsavík, north Iceland. And as we produced our largest performance piece last last year called Strings, we plan to develop it further and hopefully tour with it to Europe in the coming months. If we feel like it we will make a new film. Perhaps Rof will expand and become a performance, art installation or a theatre production who knows? When your projects are always a work in process, there are no strategies, all doors are open and everything is possible. ABOUT VINNSLAN

Vinnslan (e. process) is a thriving Icelandic artist collective, who creates and curates interdisciplinary art projects. Vinnslan has has in it´s short time (since 2012) completely broken up and challenged the Icelandic art scene.

How? - By opening up a platform for emerging Icelandic artists of all artforms to work together – to collaborate, to share, to connect and to create! Vinnslan especially celebrates interdisciplinary arts, dialogues, collaboration and methods – visual, music, theater, performances, audio, photography, dance, installations, etc. Already the Collective has produced several of their own interdisciplinary art projects, including Strengir mixed media performance, and ROF, a short film. Few times a year Vinnslan also opens up to other emerging artists, by organizing a week long multi- disciplinary workshop and residency for all forms of arts. Vinnslan has already put up eight of these week long residencies, and invited around 30 other artists and artgroups of all kinds each time to join and exhibit and perform their own work in a joint resulting exhibition and event called Vinnslan event.


INDEPENDENT CINEMA VIDEOBIENNALE/15

ben woodiwiss “ ”


Ben Woodiwiss cleverly subverts horror genre clichés in his debut is a feature surreal, meta-cinematographic journey. Its labyrinthine structure is worthy of Robbe-Grillet: the film contains the seed of an attempt to set up new relations between sign and meanings in terms of what we call cinematic language. We are glad to present Ben Woodiwiss for this year's Videofocus Edition. Ben, how did you get into filmmaking? I’ve been creating narratives my whole life. As a child we never had a camera, so I used to write stories, and my brothers and I would put on plays, even to audiences of no one. As I got older I’d get occasional access to cameras, and would immediately use them to make films: VHS, 8mm, whatever. From ’99 onwards I started getting work in films as a technician, but it was an unsatisfying role because I didn’t want to work on films, I wanted to make them. Eventually I dropped out of that and moved into Screenwriting, which was better, but the same issue is there too; you’re not making films. Then in 2010 video cameras reached a level of quality that I was satisfied with. I’m obsessed with a high visual quality, and had always wanted the 35mm look, but had been unable to afford the 35mm price. So when I saw what was going on with video and DSLR cameras I decided that I could do this. I made my first short, You Look and You Think: a manifesto of how I would work, a statement. The reception it got was small, but overwhelmingly positive. And after that everything began falling into place. You are known for non-linear narration and know how to do it in a creative and innovative way. In you reject the descriptive function usually allotted to the cinema. What’s your writing process like?

I’m trying to reduce everything down to the bare essentials all the time. Like a good soup, or a Munch woodcut. I don’t like to spoon-feed an audience, I want them to be alert and active and engaging with the film. And I want the film to be primarily made of images and mood, not words. And I do this by thinking the film out in nodes, like a transport map. I think that’s how life is: we look back at our lives and we remember them, or tell our story, in key moments, important stops on our journey. But we rarely focus on the full details of what happened in-between those events. Of course, I make sure to include quiet moments too, which other films tend to skip over, because everything is vital, everything works towards making our stories complete. In fact, a lot of what makes us who we are is developed inside ourselves in reflective moments, and never actively communicated to anyone else. So nothing is insignificant. Could you tell us a particular episode which helped the birth of There are so many things I could mention, but I’m going to pick this one: many years ago I was involved in a workshop where we had to get into groups and answer a questionnaire. Normally when you’re doing this kind of thing it’s easy to tell which answers you should give to get the best results, but we had no idea what the overall point of the exercise was. So I just answered my questions as truthfully as possible, and then at the end everything was revealed. It turned out that it was all related to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and the purpose was to show how universal this concept is and how it applies to everyone. And true enough, although everyone had answered the questions in slightly different ways, the results were all the same; they all followed Maslow’s theo


Subtitolos, Photo by Nauan Barros


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Photo by Paul Vernon

ry of development: the idea that you consolidate issues of safety and essential survival requirements before working on self-realisation. But I’d done everything in reverse. I’d begun with the starting point of ‘realisation of self’, and built the entire pyramid upside-down, and that’s honestly how I feel. How can you progress in life if your very core is dissatisfied? Does it matter that you have a home and a secure job if you’re empty inside? Not to me. Previously I’d always thought that this must be something that everyone thinks, but I learned a big lesson that day. And that’s one of the myriad aspects that feed into Benny Loves Killing: turning conventions on their head. I wanted to make a film which put forward very difficult questions, and had its own will, like a living being. The things that motivate you and are important to you are not important to Benny Loves Killing. It doesn’t care, it works from the inside out. You have a peculiar sense of time and rhythm that harkens back to an older tradition of European filmmaking.

How did you develop your filmmaking style? I’m consciously rejecting a lot of what is happening now and working to create films which are both contemporary and classical. I like to impose restrictions on myself as I feel that restriction builds creativity, and there are certain aspects of filmmaking which feel like cheating to me, or which are not what I’m looking for, so I rule them out. Second unit photography, repeated use of non-diegetic music, very low ASLs (average shot lengths): these are all aspects which I was rebelling against with Benny Loves Killing. Anyone can cut quickly from one image to another and drench everything in beautiful music, and the effect will be pleasant to watch. But why do this? To make something pretty? To make an audience feel happy? That’s not cinema to me. To me cinema is antagonistic, and without tricks. And that’s the style I’m working for. I prefer to put people in the moment that they’re watching, and I don’t want things to be easy for them. I want to use cinema to


create genuinely emotional moments, with the cast and crew immersed in what they’re doing. I don’t want plastic, I want films of flesh and blood. Regarding tempo: a lot of films give me the feeling that often there’s no confidence in the image. We’ve fallen into a need for a shot to simply communicate a specific piece of information, and as soon as the audience has it we cut and move to the next image. But what if we hold? What if we ask the audience to confront something and to find a number of possible meanings in it? What happens if you keep looking? What happens if you look closer? What happens inside you during this process of looking? I think there’s something magical to be found in those questions, and this is where the style is coming from. Throughout the film, you create a sense of compression and claustrophobia through a sapient use of tight shots and dramatic lighting like in . Moreover, your cinthe ematography seems to be deeply influenced by the emotional potential of

color. How did you develop your visual style? I have very strong myopia, so my experience of the world is in close-up, through a macro lens. If I inspect a scar on my skin, it’s done in extreme close-up, with all those colours and textures coming to the fore. So my life is far more concerned with watching an insect crawl across my fingertips than huge vistas, and that shows through in the films. The colour aspect has been important to me since I was just writing scripts. I plot a film out in colours before I start writing the script. Sometimes I’ll be dead set against something purely based on the colour I’ve given it, and it gets cut or changed on that factor alone. So the colour theory starts in the script. Hence, Benny Loves Killing starts with earthy colours before becoming richer and more vibrant, with Benny eventually burning up to brilliant, angelic whites. That’s the holistic view. But inside of that there are scenes and characters that need particular hues. I became very




interested in Art for many years, and have a tendency to lean towards flat images constructed of colour. I’m more interested in Rothko than Constable, for example. And a lot of the use of narrow depth of field creating planes of colour can possibly be traced to this. What camera did you shoot on? What lenses did you use? It’s a 5D MKII. The 5D is my favourite of the DSLR cameras, I just love how the image looks. But you need to use prime lenses, you can’t be using a zoom lens, otherwise you’re not making anything close to the maximum potential of the camera. So the lenses we used were a 35mm, 50mm, and 100mm, but very little of the 35mm made it into the final film. I like to limit the number of lenses I use as, like I said, I enjoy the creative freedom that restrictions impose, they force you to keep thinking about what you’re doing. I also want to attain an overall visual cohesion for the whole film, and using fewer lenses helps with that. Can you explain how you directed your actress?

I’ll say this to begin: Pauline is an astonishing actress, who really understood what I was doing and thought deeply about the role. That made everything very easy for me. So there’s that. My process for working with actors is to do all the talking up front. Before we start shooting I drown them in words. When we rehearse the scenes I’m mainly looking for blocking and mood, although this is something I’m happy to change up once we’re on set, but I think it’s important to consider these things ahead of time and see how the scene feels and what kind of movement is possible. I’m not looking for them to be able to remember all the dialogue without the pages when we rehearse, that’s my lowest priority. Then, once we’re on set and shooting, it’s all about building a mood within them, and so I start to talk very little. I think more words creates more intellectualising, and I want them to feel the moments, not just understand them on a theoretical level. Most of my notes will consist of one or two words: ‘slower’, ‘with love’, ‘it’s difficult’ and so on. I don’t show them what to do, and I avoid giving them marks and cues if I can. They’re professionals, and I trust them, and


they respond very well to this. I don’t use actors as tools or props to hang the story on, for me they are the most important part of the filmmaking process. You can think as much as you like about your film, and have it be as beautiful as you want, if the actors aren’t into it everything is over. was awarded at prestigious festivals like Portobello Film Festival and Oregon Independent Film Festival. How did your experience making that film, and its subsequent success on the festival circuit, influence the way you approach your future projects? I think about this a lot. I’m strongly aware of the ‘difficult second feature’ concept, the idea that after you’ve made one feature film, it becomes more difficult to make the next. Additionally, there’s the self-imposed paradox that I don’t want to repeat the same formula, but at the same time I want to keep one foot in Benny Loves Killing territory because I think it’s important to go forward with an awareness of what came before. There’s also the fact that your first

feature enters the room with no expectations placed on it at all, but as soon as you’ve been commended on one film, expectations emerge about what the next will be like. When we first started touring with Benny Loves Killing some people spoke to me as though I didn’t understand what the formula for filmmaking was. They were confused as to why I’d made a film with such a difficult central character. I think people understand now that I know what I’m doing, and that I’m deliberately playing with commonly held concepts of how a film should be. I feel like I’ve dealt with many of these issues by making Look at Me Now, a short film which is, for me, the ideal stepping stone to move onto the next feature from: something which cements the obsessions, retains the provocation, and puts me on a path to continue from. Something that I’m excited about now is that because there’s an expectation for what kind of film I make, I can ramp it up a bit, take things a little further, go deeper. What was the most challenging thing about making this film?


There were several, but I don’t describe a challenge as difficult, per se. It’s like playing chess with someone who’s better than you: you need to think carefully to find the best move. So with that in mind, one of the more interesting challenges is that you’re talking to a lot of people about something that doesn’t exist, it only exists in your head, and you can’t show it to anyone. And you’ll find, repeatedly, that no amount of describing and talking about the film makes it real for most people. Even if you manage to communicate what one scene is about effectively, all you’ve done is illustrate a single jigsaw piece. It’s still not possible to get people to see the finished puzzle. If you’re an Architect you can show people a drawing, if you’re a Musician you have sheet music, but there was no way to show people Benny Loves Killing before it was finished. Sure, you have the script, but if you think you can get people to read this and see the film in your head then you’re mistaken. As a young man I used to find this

frustrating, but not any more. It’s all about getting people into the right mood and tempo. Having the music to play on set helps a lot with this. Once you have mood and tempo set, and people trust you, trust that you know the shape of the whole, everything becomes much simpler. to From Fellini's Paul Mazursky's films, metacinema has always been a filmmaker's obsession Can you introduce our readers to this peculiar fictional device? How did you choose this narrative form? Metacinema is cinema about cinema. Sometimes meta is not strange at all, like if you’re writing a letter to a friend, you’ll probably talk about the act of writing a letter. You’ll say something like “Well, I’ve been writing this for an hour now, and I don’t have much more to say, so I’ll sign off”. Metacinema is the same thing. It’s a film which talks about the fact that it’s a film. Most films don’t do this, because it gets in the way of the narrative flow, but to me it was anathema to con-


sider making something that didn’t address the fact that it was all a construct. On top of that, I’m obsessed with cinema to quite an extreme level. I believe that film is life, not just entertainment. It’s a storytelling device that also (and perhaps more importantly) tells us something about who we are underneath all the pretence and mask wearing, which is hilarious because cinema is all pretence and mask wearing. For me there was never an option, if I was going to make films then they needed to be about how we look at films, what films are, and what this dialogue can teach us about who we are. On top of that, I became fascinated by the cage that female characters are inside in narrative cinema: they’re simply not allowed to move in certain ways, to play certain roles, and what’s more we all recognise this, but continue the charade because… well, I don’t know. So I wanted the form of my films to juxtapose that framework by letting my women go anywhere, and do all the kinds of things that women aren’t allowed to do without their gender getting in the way. There’s also the genre play: Benny Loves Killing plays

with horror because horror is the genre that gives women more freedom of movement, albeit one which has a lot of complicated gender issues tied up in it. So I needed all of this stuff to come together, and the only honest way I could do it was inside of a film that not only talks about film, and discusses the making of film, but is also aware of itself as a film. We have previously mentioned the Dogma95 manifesto: who among international filmmakers influenced your work? I’m constantly avoiding discussing direct influences because I don’t think my influences are evident on the screen. Perhaps I’m wrong. People often tell me which filmmakers the film reminds them of and, hand on heart, I haven’t consciously had any of these people in mind while making Benny Loves Killing. I have heard Polanski, Cassavetes, Aronofsky, Ferrara, the Dardenne Brothers, Bergman, and even Dryer, to name a few. Hugely, hugely flattering names, but none of their films were in my head when we were making


Benny. Of course, it could be a subconscious thing. The only filmmaker I was watching a lot of in the run up to shooting was G. W. Pabst and his two Louise Brooks films, Diary of a Lost Girl and Pandora’s Box. Those lenses, with their shallow depth of field in close-up, they give me chills. I also think it’s pretty easy to see my Louise Brooks obsession. You don’t get any points if you spotted that. What I will admit to is attitudes or practices which I was actively using: Herzog’s guerrilla, craftsman attitude, Von Trier’s imposition of rules and restrictions, Buñuel’s rejection of the traditionally beautiful, Altman’s actor centred process, Lynch’s concept of ‘a wind is blowing’, Morrisey’s idea that the film is for ‘grown up’ children. There are no real references to these filmmakers in the film, but I had all of these concepts in mind. Thanks for sharing your time, Ben, We wish you all the best with your filmmaking career. What's next for you? Have you a particular feature film in mind?

Yes, I’ve long been working on a psychological thriller script called Watch Me All the Time, it’s about an aging model who’s not dealing very well with how soon her flickering candle of youth will go out, and so she does something terrible. But it’s tricky to do that script on a low budget. So I’ve written two other features: one a horror film about sound, and the other a drama about time. At the moment I’m leaning towards the drama, and writing it under the working title Effortless. It’s something manageable, which offers a lot of textured creativity, and is also in the world of Benny Loves Killing whilst going somewhere new at the same time, like I said, that’s something that’s important to me. At the moment I’m quite taken with Griffith’s assertion that cinema needs to show ‘the wind in the trees’, and I think this film is very much concerned with that. And, of course, all of these films place atypical women at the centre, and all of them are very concerned with the image. I think that’s somewhere I’m going to be living for quite a while.



INDEPENDENT CINEMA WOMENSBIENNALE/15

elena walton “


Elena Walton's films are essential for those who conceive cinema as an anthropogical tool to explore the incommunicable: in her dark thriller Tripped she takes to heart Robert Bresson's lesson “Rendre visible ce qui, sans vous, pourrait peut-êre jamais éévu “(Make visible what, without you, might perhaps never have been seen). Elena, how did you get started in independent film? I would say I am still getting started, it's ongoing. But the interest started somewhere else. I was an avid reader from quite a young age reading everything fiction, non-fiction, it didn't matter; I enjoyed the written word. I started writing short stories, poetry, prose and so on in my early teenage years. Most of it was not good, as you can imagine, but it helped me to get feedback and develop this skill more. It also confirmed that I enjoyed and was somewhat capable in this field. I took up photography in college and did some work as a photography assistant to learn more. I thought I was going to pursue photography at that time as I was getting great results and really enjoyed it. By the time it came around to going to university mind was noisy with possibilities and I went in a totally different direction, pursuing a more academic subject majoring in Anthropology and minoring in Media. It was here I started to meet people who were writers and filmmakers and seeing their worked motivated me to do more. Being in this circle of likeminded people I was able to try my hand at screen writing and develop that skill. At this point, I had all these interests and passions I wanted to pursue and studying something like Anthropology it changed the way I think and I needed an outlet for all of this mental energy. Cinema is a very complex medium because it stems from so many art forms, and so it al-

lowed me to channel a lot of my interests, which has been amazing, cathartic even. Human experience is always the starting point of your filmmaking. What draws you to a particular subject? A lot of ideas come from nowhere in particular - you can be standing in line at the post office or buying coffee, having all these small interactions with strangers and it triggers something. Anything really, even the very mundane can become an inspiration. But it’s definitely people that keep me inspired. This is obvious I guess, since so much of our lives revolve around our interactions and relationships with others. Some people you meet leave you with certain feelings, or inspire certain conversations, emotions, whether it's positive of negative I try to turn that into a narrative. Eventually you collect these clues, these conversations, these ideas and it forms a screenplay. Tripped is the first film you had not only directed but also produced yourself: this has been made possible by the support of your team: today, talented filmmakers know that cooperation is the winning formula for independent projects. Could you describe this collaborative experience? In London, there's a wealth of resources online to find the right people, so bringing together actors happened relatively quickly. It took a while longer to find the right crew as the budget wasn’t a lot and I was trying to find this combination of people whose work I admired but who would also be willing to work with me (for free). When it came to shooting we were all practically strangers who had agreed to make this script come alive.




I think I am still developing my visual style, I’m not a very experienced filmmaker and the way I work is very sporadic. There’s parts where my vision is vivid and parts where it’s less precise and as I go along things happen and it starts to represent what is in my mind. It's collaborative as well; Pedro gave a lot of input, especially in scenes where my vision wasn’t the clearest. When I graded the film I wanted to keep the tones and colours as true to the reality as possible. All of these things, light, tones, colours, I try to think about these elements in relation to the story, how it relates to the characters, their state of mind or feelings. I think about colours and contrast a lot; I think from being in dark rooms and developing photographic film, you start to pay attention to those types of details. The script is already has this slight magic realism in it and I think to add anything unnatural visually, high contrasts or saturations would have

made it too over the top for what I intended. It could seem a specious question, however we have to do it, Elena: what's the future of independent cinema in your opinion? I think a lot of things have changed in cinema in the last 10 years. In fact, what is possible right now for independent filmmakers, certainly wasn't the case even 5 years ago. With platforms for distribution online and crowd sourcing made possible, there's a lot of opportunity to create. Being able to access a medium like cinema at relatively low costs has indefinitely changed the way we think and approach culture. It has changed the hierarchy because it is no longer renowned directors, in big studios, with corporate second of imagery that screams intenstruments gave me a really good sense of intuitive eyeballing for space and time, so I keep


There's always this fear, at this stage, that people working with you don't know if you're wasting their time or not. Having such a small budget means relying on a team to offer their time and commitment in the hopes of good return. I can only aspire to bring my film into festivals and to be seen by audiences but a lot of this low budget indie filmmaking is a matter of trust. Could you tell us a particular episode who has helped the birth of this dark thriller? I had an idea I was playing around with in my mind of loneliness, and how people can experience that even when they are surrounded by friends and acquaintances. It’s an internal loneliness. I think that was the conceptual starting point and the fragile relationship between Regine and Noel became a platform for that. So I wrote Regine as being emotionally isolated, large in part due to this accumulation

of experiences, enhanced further by hallucinogenics. It was driving through San Francisco for the first time that impressed on me a lot of the sentiments in the film. It's a very small but encompassing city and driving through Golden Gate Park and that coastline, there's something really magical about that city but at the same time there's a sinister vibe to it as well, which I think inspired some of the darker aspects in the story. It was an experience that definitely left me wanting to turn it into a narrative form. Tripped has been filmed on a Canon C300, a highly flexible tool, especially for exterior shot. Pedro Ribeiro's refined composition and cinematography highlights the contrast between neutral colors in exteriors and warm tones in the interior scenes. How did you develop your visual style?


going with the project even though it feels like it will evaporate into nothingness. I know that these moments are nothing to be proud of much, but those are my simple pleasures and comfort blanket at cutting down my anxiety during production. We have previously quoted Robert Bresson, even though your filmmaking style is very far from what is generally considered 'academic'. Who among international artists and directors influenced your work? I feel like with film I am very new to it, I only really started actively watching films in university. But I mean really watching films, where you try to understand what's happening in a story in a more in-depth way. There's been over a century of cinema at this point and although I watch a fair amount of films and obsess periodically

over certain bodies of work, there's a lot for me to still explore. Of the bodies of work I've really enjoyed I would say Wong Kar Wai, Jacques Audiard, David Lynch, the Dardenne brothers and Stanley Kubrick are very stimulating, I get hopelessly engaged. I've recently discovered Xavier Dolan whose work is just mesmerizing, there’s this stark honesty to it. It's inspirational to see what someone from my generation is bringing to cinema and how there are still these poignant and untold stories waiting to be heard. Thanks for sharing your time, Elena. What's next for you? I am working on a series of short scripts that may form a web series. I am also working on feature length material. But things can be quite unpredictable so let’s see what the future holds!


The idea for Tripped was conceived out of the desire to explore a certain set of human interactions and reactions using relatable themes such as grief, love and friendship. Though the surreal twist in the narrative, came to me in a not-so-exciting moment where I had been stuck in traffic whilst entering into San Francisco on a short road trip. A combination of waiting in traffic in a beautiful city and an overactive imagination, lead me to write what finally became Tripped. This is the first film I had not only written and directed but now also produced myself. I managed to bring together a team from a number of online resources and sheer good luck as the budget was so low it really required commitment and dedication to the project. Everyone who worked on this film donated their time, skills and enthusiasm voluntarily and it would not have been possible without them. Largely funded from my own pocket, and with the kindness of Feral Equipment, who offered us a discount, we shot it on a Canon C300 in August 2013 and completed the edit in June 2014. The original score and track for the film were kindly and ardently composed by Lee Childs This project began and ended as a real labour of love and I couldn’t have done it without the wonderful people who dedicated their time and energy to being a part of Tripped.

ELENA WALTON

Stills from Tripped and OCD


INDEPENDENT CINEMA CANNES /15

albert choi


In Albert Choi's cinema the fantastic and the absurd are rendered in clear, precise images. His work is marked by a strong effort to destabilize the traditional storytelling: drama is stripped down to its essential elements to introduce space, gaps and temps mort, in which the viewer projects his own emotions. His film , tells the story of an ambitious scientist who becomes patient zero. We are glad to present Albert's work for this year’s Videofocus Biennial Edition: Albert, could you introduce our readers to Lost My Way? This is a short film I made for Cuushe’s unrelenting track “Lost My Way”. It tells a story of an individual carrying on with a decision that has significant repercussions. With such mesmerizing and haunting vocals, I felt a need to balance that by providing some breathing space visually. Instead of being parallel and didactic, I chose to, as you put it, destabilize the structure while amplifying tones of loss and isolation. I think temps mort is the closest to stopping

time, and it enhances the entropic theme . We want to take a closer look at the genesis of your film: how did you come up with the idea for Lost My Way? I sometimes fantasize about being the only person left on the planet. But I realize a day will come when even that existence will eventually expire, whether engineered by design or by mistake. Your film is rich of references: the theme of the scientist reminds us of the films by Robert Wiene, can you tell us your biggest influences in cinema and how they have affected your work? Wow, Dr. Caligari… it’s been a while. As for influences, I’m not sure I can list them all here! But I will say this, there were films that almost made me quit filmmaking altogether. I remember being completely shell-shocked after Werckmeister Harmonies, Code Unknown, and Rosetta. After the credits, I peeled myself from the theater seat and thought, “Game over man… game over.”


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has been filmed on RED, a highly professional and flexible tool, especially for interior shots. David Ethan Sanders's composition and cinematography highlights the contrast between the refined scenography and a peculiar Dogma-like experimental style. Since the first scenes, the viewer enters into a dreamy filmic mystery. How did you develop the visual style for this film? Camera’s only good as the person behind it, and David’s been solid. We’d visit, tech-scout, and re-visit various locations while constantly talking about best practices and maximizing visual impact. He understood why I wanted to shoot anamorphic, handheld, high fps for this particular project, and how that would ultimately affect the viewer (with specific compositions and lighting strategy). While testing rigs, setups, and lenses I’d fill his inbox with mood boards, storyboards, research and references.

How did you get started in experimental cinema? Growing up I was lucky to have an artistic older brother because I had access to creative materials early on. Academically, this led me on a path of Illustration, Photography, Fine Art, and eventually Film. Professionally, I cut my teeth in TV by wearing multiple hats: producing, writing, shooting, editing, directing, etc. A lot of the first projects were run-n-gun documentaries, where I learned how to land on my feet, like a cat, and adapt to whatever was unfolding in front of camera. Talented filmmakers know that cooperation is the winning formula for independent projects. Could you describe this collaborative experience? I’m extremely fortunate to work with talented, capable professionals who are also close friends. Many moons ago, David (Cinematographer), Kris Matusoka


(Prod Designer) and I attended Art School together. Once I have a passion project in a good place and find it worth executing, I then open the creative dialogue and we finish the last bit of pre-production together. By the time production comes around, most of the heavy lifting is done and everyone’s raring to go. We have been really impressed by the balance you have been capable of achieving in this work between classical sensibility and a futuristic vision. Could you introduce our readers to this work? I was really interested in using light, color and space to hypnotic effect while dramatically transforming an environment. One approach was LED lights, and Orlando Hernandez (gaffer/lighting) built seamless rigs that created surrealistic atmospheres. Narrative structure wise, I used a simple frame story. And for the scientist, played by the ethereal Alex Essoe, the inspiration was a self-inflicted,

reverse-Galatea, where Pygmalion and sculpture were the same being. What draws you to a particular subject? The mundane? The human condition? Moral ambiguity? I’m afraid I don’t have a satisfactory response for you. In terms of content, I like films and stories where you’re led to reflect on what you’ve seen… something that allows for repeated viewings and new discoveries. Where you’re left with questions rather than answers. Thanks for sharing your time Albert, we wish you all the best with your artist career. What's next for Albert Choi'? Have you a particular film in mind? My pleasure. I recently finished a short film “The Latecomer” and hope to share it online soon. In 2015, I plan to shoot a documentary and squeeze in another passion project.




INDEPENDENT CINEMA VIDEOFOCUSBIENNALE/15

brian philip katz

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Brian Philip Katz takes at heart Maya Deren's idea of film as a composition over time, rather than within a space: a reflective, interior style of filmmaking closer to the stream of consciousness of literary models. In his feature film Roman Buildings, Brian explores a world inhabited by haunting memories, transforming figures and places into a time-space continuum. From the first time we watched Roman Buildings we were astonished by its distinct style blending everyday images and fantasy: the American filmmaker often uses prosaic, everyday moments to build lyrical tapestries of pure visual poetry. Brian, we want to take a closer look at the genesis of your film: how did you come up with the idea for Roman Buildings? I had been working on a long poem, A Commentary on Self as Someone Else, for quite some time. The poem itself was becoming unwieldy (and/or unreadable) as a whole. Segments of the poem have been published over the years – sections that could almost stand on their own – but the entire piece felt un-publishable

Several years ago I was in a rut – between academic positions, facing my 40th birthday, poorly managing some health issues, and feeling like a complete and utter failure. In need of direction, in need of revitalization, I began to think of Commentary as less a poem and more an excerpt of a life, my "imagined" life, many lives of men just like me… struggling middle-aged artists who never realized themselves, their potentials (assuming “potentials” existed); or if they did, never knew it. The poem started to almost feel like a story – a disjointed narrative of failure. The act of writing the poem and knowing that it would probably never be published was, to some degree, a futile exercise; but I kept working on it. And then the poem and my continued devotion to it needed to be imagined in a different light: A film – the story of a failing, middle-aged poet. My wife is a filmmaker and many of our friends are filmmakers. Initially, I was inspired by their creations. The idea for the actual film came to me on a rainy fall afternoon – I would turn the poems into dialogues and voices as processed and understood by the Poet: the voices of his


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family (specifically, his wife (played by my actual wife, Maria), his child (played by my daughter, Aleda) and his inspiration, or lack of it (as represented by Sarita Choudhury). Before I really even knew how I was going to make this film, I asked my friends for help; and they, being supportive, never balked. So, I took apart the poem, assigned segments to Michael Connor (the Poet), Sarita (the Muse), and Maria (the Wife) and I planned each scene as the performers memorized the verse. No one, not even my cinematographer, Ethan Mass, knew what to expect, what the plot was, or how the scenes were to be performed. For them, everything was discovered in the moment; for me, I had vaguely painted ideas of what I wanted to develop. When schedules aligned, we met at a location (like the subway), covertly filmed a scene (guerilla-style), grabbed coffee to discuss what just took place, and went about the rest of our days until our schedules realigned… usually several

weeks later. It took us three years to shoot the entire 67 minutes. Simply put, my idea was to take my poem, tease out a narrative, and create a filmbook. I had no sense of audience and no idea what to do with what I was doing… and in many ways I still don’t; but this is my long poem, retitled Roman Buildings. We appreciate your peculiar use of single shots reminding us of Robert Bresson's films. How did you develop your filmmaking style? The sections of the poetry are very specific. I wanted many of the scenes to be representative of uninterrupted verse; hence, the many single shots. Ethan Mass was working with one camera and I wanted each segment to be original to the moment – the light, the sound, the shaking of the camera (its pulse), the mistakes... I was uninterested in shooting scenes from different angles which would


further muddy the moments; and I knew that I was already asking way too much from an audience (whoever they are… if they exist) with the language; so, the clearer the image, the easier it would be to experience the moment. Maybe this is not unlike Bresson in some ways. Certainly, I share some of his themes. Take Un condamné à mort s'est échappé ou Le vent souffle où il veut – the portrait of the isolated man (within and without) and the social and religious rage. If I were knowledgeable enough, I would suggest that Bresson was/is an influence. Instead, I was reliant upon what I wanted – absolute moments, not actorly, but natural and in the process of being discovered by everyone involved as it was being filmed. Poetry can sometimes be very refined, very plotted. I wanted the expression of the film and its scenes to be reflective of inspiration (good or bad), not managing or mismanaging formulas.

I can always tell when art is forced – my own forced art is always awful. I didn’t want these scenes to seem forced, overly prepared, and obvious. A recurrent characteristic of many of your artwork is experience as starting point of artistic production: in your opinion, is experience an absolutely necessary part of creative process? It depends. Before Roman Buildings, my experience as a filmmaker was limited to supporting my wife as her actor, cowriter, and even craft server; but unlike my experience writing poetry or making sculpture, my collaborators significantly guide me and the process. So, in this case, vision and inexperience are supported by brilliant collaborators. But my idea of what I wanted was/is firmly based on experience. Young poets tend to experience life (and art) in extremes; and their reactions to the “extremes” tend to guide their lives (and


art). Being a bit older now, I’m less inclined to be reactionary. Not unlike what many artists experience, I’m better at what I do now, as technician and communicator, than I was 10, 15, 20years ago. For me, experience may not be necessary, but it helps… a lot.

Kushner), but to use verse to capture the poet in context. Verse isn’t the manner in which the script was created. There is no script; this is thought process, poetry and conversation; and sometimes conversation that becomes verse – language that is often very self-aware, but isn’t here.

The words for Roman Buildings have been lived and relived, written and rewritten, and finally realized in this experiment of verse and film.

Inspiration may spark the need to make art and write poetry; but inspiration doesn’t always burst from mysterious places into consciousness. Inspiration can also be found in the mundane, the humdrum. There are a few little epiphanies in the film; but mostly the Poet experiences poetry through either routine or mild gloominess or contemplation.

In Roman Buildings you are not trying to illustrate a poem but to create an encounter between film and poetry. Could you introduce our readers to this fundamental aspect of your art research? There are many great narrative and experimental films that employ the language of poetry, but none, that I can recall, that actually try to use verse not just as a means to communicate and relate the lines (like Shakespeare and

Fundamentally, there was only one question: Why not? Everything else seems to end up on film, why not poetry. We have previously mentioned Robert Bresson, even though your filmmaking style is very far from what is generally considered 'academic'.


Who among international artists and directors influenced your work? I can easily list artists I admire: From Edward Hopper (who influenced the setting of the scenes in Roman Buildings) to Walt Whitman’s rambling inquiry of self in his surroundings to Terrance Malik’s meditative discoveries… from directors Antonioni to Von Trier to video artists like Jesper Just and, of course, as you mentioned, Deren. Really, the extent of my appreciation is deep and wideranging. But there are a few artists, poets and writers who guided me; and although my work is nothing like theirs, they influenced me through their responses: The poets, Alfred Corn (one of the more versatile writers alive and responsible for the title of the film) and Alvin Feinman (one of the great little known poets of the 20th century); the composers, Amy Williams and Dorit Chrysler (who both composed and performed music for the

film); and my wife, Maria, who helped to carry this project with her own experience as a filmmaker and artist. My budget of “nothing” compounded with the cheapness of the technology demanded that the film lend itself to experimental imagery and long, single shots. In many ways I was influenced by lack of budget and all those who also try to make art with very little financial resources, either by design or poverty. Whoever did it before me, also did it for me. Your film is also a visual document of corporate gentrification: could you comment this aspect of Roman Buildings? Aside from a few moments in Vermont and Brooklyn, the bulk of the film was shot in the East Village, NY – formally known as Alphabet City. The history of the neighborhood is well known and what it


has become is appalling. There is literally a neon-blazing 7-Eleven on my corner! But this is “gentrification,” right? This is what happens. We tried to capture a few neighborhood monuments, but I didn’t want to overdo it with shots of obvious landmarks, with markers from the past. In some ways, Roman Buildings is an attempt to capture what is left behind – the artists and their families who aged here and some of whom still live here… for now. In your refined film we can recognize a masterly work of cinematography: what kind of technology have you used in producing it? Ethan Mass. He’s the cinematographer and my docent. He is willing to try anything, and, through his lens, take me anywhere. Ethan employed his own camera, a Canon 5D MK 3, and his many, many lenses. He has a range of lenses, some culled from

old cameras and made to fit his 5D. He’s like a mad scientist, rooting through his camera case for the right lens, in a state of “Nothing else will do.” He sees things; things that I can’t see. For example, in the first vignette, the “Office Scene,” Michael, the Poet, began to nervously move his fingers. Ethan caught this, zoomed in on Michael’s hands in the middle of his performance, and Michael’s fidgeting became, consistently, part of his character… but Michael was just doing his thing; Ethan discovered a natural element to the performance. In general, Ethan has an uncanny ability to see so much more than what I imagine. My daughter, Aleda, 11-years-old at the time, filmed the “Toy Scene.” I needed a child’s perspective, set the scene, and she just went at it without me being in the room. The entire scene is through her eyes. I had nothing to do with what came out. When it came to the cinematography, I was more audience member than maker.


You eschew traditional storytelling and opt instead for an associative, almost surrealist methodology: can you describe this process?

Thanks for sharing your time, Brian, we wish you all the best with your filmmaker career. What's next for Brian Philip Katz? Have you a particular film in mind?

I’ve tried to tell traditional narratives and I’m god-awful at it. I have neither talent nor patience to produce linear, plotted, and/or formulaic stories. Believe me, I’m not knocking those who choose more direct approaches – I just can’t do it. Never could.

My next project, Beach Houses, will have a similar structure to Roman Buildings, but located in one spot (a small New England beach community and its summer rentals) and shot over two weeks.

Roman Buildings was not, is not a clearly defined story. My cast, cinematographer and I teased a vague narrative out of the design of the scenes, the lines of the poetry. This just happened.

The film will explore class distinctions and familial dynamics… in conversation and verse. In what is probably a mad mix of styles or ideas, I’ll am looking at John Cheever’s stories and Thomas Eakins’ paintings and photographs to help inspire and build this project.

On the whole, however, I’m not convinced that this “film” is what it is. I don’t feel like the film ends or, necessarily, begins; but rather could be experienced at any point. For the sake of the format there is a beginning, middle, and end; but I don’t experience the film in such clean terms and I hope audiences don’t either.

Stills from Roman Buildings



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