New York independents in Berlin


A pair of years-in-the-making experimental narratives from independent-minded New York filmmakers were among the highlights of this year’s Forum. The Time We Killed, by accomplished shorts director Jennifer Reeves (Fear of Blushing), burrows into the restless perspective of an agoraphobic poet (Lisa Jarnot) confined to her Brooklyn apartment. Reeves shoots the housebound scenes in uninflected DV and assembles the memory montages from beautifully high-contrast 16mm images. (The dialectical approach means that choosing outdoors over indoors, community over solitude, also represents a vote for film over video.)

Jem Cohen (Benjamin Smoke) premiered his first narrative feature, Chain, previously shown as a multi-channel installation in New York. Berlin’s Wall-to-mall Potsdamer Platz provided an ideal context for this movie about corporate creep and architectural anonymity—I saw it in the bowels of the Sony Center, a building that actually appears in the film, along with airport hotels, theme parks, strip malls, and mixed-use complexes from four continents. Most of the locations are pointedly unplaceable—they could be anywhere, and are everywhere. Cohen weaves his footage into a global-sprawling “superlandscape,” against which he sets the voice-overed stories of a Japanese executive in America (Miho Nikaido) and a young New Jersey transient (Mira Billotte). An Arcades Project for the age of globalization, Chain, at its best, has the oneiric power and fierce political intelligence of a Chris Marker cine-essay.

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