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April 27, 2016


Ben Russell in conversation with critic Robert Koehler following the screening!


7:30 PM


8:00 PM


Automata Theater
504 Chung King Ct
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Yanai Initiative logo_edited.jpg
Yanai Initiative logo_edited.jpg

One  of the most singular and unpredictable artists of his generation, Ben  Russell has over the course of dozens of films consistently worked to  reorient established modes of cinematic expression while training his  lens on people and places of underrepresented distinction. Combining  experimental ethnography and speculative nonfiction with surrealist  imagery and rhythmic overtones, Russell has fashioned a unique corpus  which engages all the available senses in a full-tilt push toward  transcendence. His two most recent medium-length films, Greetings to the Ancestors (2015) and He Who Eats Children (2016), utilize dream logic and myth-making as narrative markers  through which to examine realities both immediate and imagined in remote  regions of South Africa and South America, respectively. Tonight’s  program bookends these two shapeshifting works with Daumë (2000)––one of Russell's key early films and a spiritual precursor to He Who Eats Children––and  a live performance by the filmmaker in which modular synthesizer and  audio-responsive 3D emanations are coupled with randomized outtakes from  his Garden of Earthly Delights trilogy.

~ Join us for a post-screening reception at General Lee's: 475 Gin Ling Way, Los Angeles, CA. 90012


Daumë (200o, 16mm; 7:00)

He Who Eats Children (2016, video; 25:00) –– Los Angeles premiere!

Greetings to the Ancestors (2015, video; 29:00) –– Los Angeles premeire!

The Marvels We Now Enjoy (2015, video; 20:00-30:00) –– Live performance for modular  synthesizer, audio-responsive 3D object, and randomized outtakes from  the Garden of Earthly Delights trilogy, with text by Levi-Strauss.

About the films:

Daumë (2000)

“One  of the strangest films I have ever seen; its characters come and go as  if they’re ‘primitives’ posing for the camera, either obeying or  fighting an ethnographer’s controlling eye.” - Fred Camper, Chicago Reader

He Who Eats Children (2016)

“...and  we Antilleans, we know only too well that––as they say in the  islands––the black man has a fear of blue eyes.” - Franz Fanon, Black Skin White Masks

Greetings to the Ancestors (2015)

Set between Swaziland and South Africa, in a region still struggling with the divisions produced by an apartheid government, Greetings to the Ancestors documents the dream lives of the territory’s inhabitants as the borders  of consciousness dissolve and expand. Equal parts documentary,  ethnography, and dream cinema, herein is a world whose borders are  constantly dematerializing.

The Marvels We Now Enjoy (2015)

Taking its title from a line in Claude Lévi-Strauss’ Tristes Tropique, The Marvels We Now Enjoy is a live performance in conversation with the global(izing) present,  one that seeks to create a wholly embodied audio/video convergence via  chaos-theory, 3D-modeling, modular synthesis, and a randomized stream of  outtakes from a utopian-minded trilogy of films shot between Greece,  Malta, South Africa, Swaziland, and Vanuatu.

[One] of the more significant American avant-garde filmmakers working today.

- Eric Kohn, Indiewire

Ben  Russell’s field studies of transfiguration invoke the magic of cinema  with fearsome lucidity...Structuralist in their conceptual clarity and  analogue poetics, the films take ontology by the teeth: Russell’s  designs on embodiment require that ideas be performed and the camera  taken up as a risk.

- Max Goldberg, Cinema Scope

Ben  Russell’s long-standing interests in cinema and animism have yielded an  eclectic range of works incorporating performance, experimental  ethnography, psychedelia, and, most salient, the histories of film and  its apparatuses.

- Claudia Ise, Artforum

[Russell]  has consistently explored ritual and transcendence in various  forms...[examining] both the fundamental impenetrability of other  people’s psyches, and the fact that ‘the varieties of religious  experience’ are comprehensible to others only as a set of signs. At the  same time, Russell’s films are engaging with a kind of visceral  movement, a phenomenological chiasmus between bodies and forms, that is  absolutely irreducible to language.

- Michael Sicinski, Keyframe

[Russell]  explore[s] a participatory ethnography with both real-life characters  and us, the viewers, drawing deeply from the elemental in order to shake  us from our viewing habits. Bound by the structures that inevitably  dictate our lives, it's easy to forget that the world is vast and ripe  with possibilities, and that we should probably attempt a few alternate  modes of existence before we leave this Earth behind.

- Andrea Picard, Toronto International Film Festival

(Available to download after screening date)

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