The Underground Film Studio: An Interview in 12 parts. Part 6: Film Panic Magazine

Our Week With The Underground Film Studio
July 3, 2018
Podcast 15: Diversity Capitalism: Walter Benn Michaels on Neoliberalism and Equal Opportunities.
July 13, 2018

Bradley Tuck

Let’s keep a notebook. Let’s keep a notebook of curiosities and thoughts. In that notebook everything will exist together from the greatest insights to the meagre list, and nothing will feel out of place. In its structure it will mimic the conscious life of the living subject, not fixed and focused like a treaties or tome. Instead it captures life caught in the turmoil and flux of the living present. It cannot be said to be a book in any finished sense, just the tangle of knots and notes that entwine themselves together and, at points, fall apart. It may be possible to slander this notebook. It is not a book. This not-book, this knot-book, is simply the crashing debris of human thoughts collated on the page. If the slanderers were to get hold of this notebook they may reveal all kinds of inconsistencies, and charge it with the most obscene hypocrisy. Yet we do not see hypocrisies, but instead the journal of an adventurer, whose journey takes them always to unexpected places. Their only crime is the hypocrisy that is called living.

 

In this fifth part of our interview with The Underground Film Studio, Bradley Tuck discusses the ideas behind Film Panic Magazine with its creators Daniel Fawcett and Clara Pais. We discuss contemporary filmmakers, issues facing filmmakers in the contemporary world and what books Daniel and Clara like to read in their spare time

 

To Read PDFs of Film Panic or purchase paper copies visit their website here.

 

The Underground Film Studio is a collaboration between Daniel Fawcett and Clara Pais based in the UK and Portugal, where they make both long and short experimental films, as well as editing and publishing their own magazine ‘Film Panic’. Throughout 2018 they will be collaborating extensively with Exploding Appendix as resident artists and, alongside this interview, will be collaborating on events, screenings and film projects.

 

Daniel Fawcett & Clara Pais

Daniel Fawcett & Clara Pais

 

BRADLEY: At the end of Issue 2 of Film Panic you write something that seems to grasp at what is magical and ritualistic in the magazine. “What is Film Panic?” you ask. And you reply:

 

The shock of each moment of still being alive.
The siren call from the self that says it is time to wake up.
FILM: Cinema, motion pictures, the images that play in the mind.
PANIC: The screams of the midwife when faced with creation,
And the songs of monsters that live in the woods.
FILM PANIC is as much dark as it is light,
Grasping at sensation with words and images,
It reaches towards the creator’s limits
And it is a hand that beats against the walls that surround us.
PANIC is the fertile ground of creation,
FILM is that thin layer we call reality through which we seek to burst out and be reborn.
PANIC is erotic, it seeks to create.
FILM is a coat we wear as we move towards the unknown,
A membrane to protect us as we face the beauty and horror of existence.
PANIC is not passive but it is receptive,
It is the moment of realisation that the earth beneath our feet has turned to clouds.
FILM is that which flickers, the illusion of reality,
The mask we wear as we participate in this game of existence.
FILM PANIC is an echo that resonates through the history of humankind.
It is the voice that screams ‘yes yes yes’.
It is desire. The desire to create and the desire to know and the euphoric acceptance that after all is said and done one cannot hold in their hands that which is ungraspable.

 

I repeat it in full here because I think it is useful at revealing what Film Panic is. It is almost like a kind of ritualistic initiation ceremony, whose intensity, whose ‘panic’, opens up the doors of perception. You may simply be recommending a movie, or interviewing a filmmaker, but only in the same way that in a religious service sermons and songs serve another purpose. Underlying it all is a kind of fascination with the frenzy of creativity. It is a process that is at once ecstatic and erotic, creative and transformative. It acknowledges both the horror and beauty of the art making process. Film Panic approaches, through the exploration of film, a kind of overwhelming religious conversion that manifests as a kind of evangelical cry ‘yes yes yes’. Whatever happens in Film Panic, however ‘everyday’ it may appear, something else is brewing under the surface.

 

The first issue of Film Panic came out in the summer of 2013, not long after you finished editing One+One. It is a fantastic issue and a beautiful tribute to the filmmaker Jeff Keen who had recently passed in 2012. It includes your own piece on him, an interview with him and his wife Jackie, an interview with his daughter, Stella Star, and one with William Fowler from the BFI, many short pieces by friends and collaborators, and a list of book publications, CDs, DVDs and other ways to access his work. It also strikes me, reading your opening essay that Jeff Keen brings together a lot of your interests and was a great influence on you. First of all, you point out that

 

His work is best understood not in terms of the genres, styles and movements it most resembles (it clearly has connections with underground cinema, Dada, Pop Art and Surrealism) but it is best read in the context of art as myth-making.

 

In your account Keen, like Carl Jung, is a myth-maker exploring archetypes of the collective unconscious. These archetypes, however, appear to be predominantly drawn from Hollywood and pop culture. There is a real love of Hollywood and popular culture in his work and it is tempting to link it with Pop Art, but as you point out these signs and symbols are meant to capture something transhistorical. The historical specificities of pop culture become an avenue to explore those collective images that transcend it. You go on to add,

 

The imagery of popular culture is a collective language, and therefore it is very much fed by archetypes in the same way that myths are, or as psychotherapist Carl Jung put it, the archetypes ‘are the magical representations collectives which underlie the slogan, the catchword, and, on a higher level, the language of the poet and mystic.’ The images of popular culture are the temporal forms, specific to our culture, through which the archetypes manifest, and they make a bridge between the collective and our everyday personal lives.

 

Here we see a re-emergence of a theme that runs throughout your own work, and we talked at length about it in our discussion of Splendor Solis (Part 5), that is, film as a kind of personal therapy. Films, even films that don’t obviously appear to be ‘mythical’ (in the sense that we often associate the mythical with a bygone age), are mythical! And by drawing upon this collective unconscious language cinema, becomes a kind of therapeutical spiritual journey.

 

Secondly, Jeff Keen was a creative and technical innovator who pioneered many techniques. Duncan Reekie points out that Keen was using techniques often associated with American Avant-gardists such as Kenneth Anger, Stan Brakhage, Stan Vanderbeek, Jack Smith, Barbara Rubin, Robert Breer, Carolee Schneeman, the Kuchar brothers, Bruce Connor, Jonas Mekas and Andy Warhol. Reekie points out that Keen was pioneering techniques associated with all of them, but he was based in Brighton in the UK. He adds “If he had been working in New York he would have been acknowledged as one of the key experimental filmmakers of the 20th century.”

 

It is also hard not to spot Keen’s influence in your technical experimentations. Like you, he persistently experimented with play and spontaneity, and like Splendor Solis, some of his film footage was created by simply filming friends and family meeting and spending time together. All your films, at some level, seem to have thrived on this playfulness, even Savage Witches, which, whilst the production process was more organised than Sacrificium Intellectus and Splendor Solis, certainly uses play with the actors and this process penetrates the film.

 

Also, in terms of the post-production of Savage Witches, Keen is certainly there. You write about

 

…the cut-out and collage animation sequences in films like Irresistible Attack (also known as Artwar 3) (1995), Kino Staccato (1999) and Omozap 2 (1991), which use mainly images from magazines and comics that are continuously cut up, ripped to pieces and burnt into revealing the next image. This technique appears also in earlier works, such as Cineblatz (1967). It does not happen only in two-dimensional form; Jeff also burns, melts and rips apart props, drawings and other objects in his films, transforming them into revealing new forms. Drawings and paintings especially are treated as if they can never be finished, and in the films they are continuously painted on and drawn over again.

 

Many of these techniques seem present, or at least an influence, on Savage Witches especially.

 

The rest of Issue 1 focuses upon other underground, low budget and quirky films. There are interviews with Michael J. Weldon, who edited a magazine called Psychotronic Video covering many unique underground movies, and the underground lo-fi filmmaker Kelly Hughes. With Greg Smalley from 336weirdmovies.com discussing his favourite 5 films and your own discussion of movies such as The White Room (1989), Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan (2011), Black Moon (1975), Amateur (2011), films about Bruce Bickford, and Marwencol (2010), the latter half of the issue has an underground and lo-fi feel that seems indebted to a kind of film journalism associated with the likes of Michael J. Weldon and Psychotronic Video. This is underground video journalism, sometimes with an emphasis on the weird, sometimes with an emphasis on the lo-fi, primarily with an aim to turning you on to new unexpected curiosities of cinema. This second half definitely has a low budget b-movie film fan vibe and certainly seems influenced by the likes of John Waters, George Romero and David Lynch. These are the sort of films we associate with midnight movies and video nasties. It strikes me that whilst this could simply be read as a ‘curiosity shop’ of underground videos, it is continuous with your Film Panic vision. The fascination with underground and lo-fi cinema is simultaneously a recognition of the liberating power of the amateur, freed from the constraints of the cinema industry, who uncovers a new language, an intoxication of compelling and unusual images that unleashes a ‘panic’ unveiling something else embedded in the film experience. Just as Keen found the mythical within the pop culture iconography of Hollywood, you uncover the mythical in the amateurs, the hobbyists, the underground and the auteurs. Through their work you seek new psychic powers and potentials.

 

Film Panic Issues 1 to 5

 

DANIEL & CLARA: Thank you for this wonderful overview and introduction to Film Panic, you have summed up the key interests and concerns of the magazine very nicely. We consider the writing and publishing of the magazine to be the research arm of our work, it is where we explore the work of other filmmakers that interest us, by writing about them it gives us a discipline to focus, integrate and spend more time looking at their films but of course research and creativity are not separate activities so they overlap and intermingle. At first when we started the magazine we didn’t really know many other contemporary filmmakers who we felt a connection with so our aim was to use the magazine more to explore films of the past and at the same time to try and reach out and find others with similar interests. As time went on the focus has shifted and now we are almost entirely using the magazine as a platform for writing about contemporary filmmakers and documenting their creative processes. Since Issue 2 it has become a place to publish manifestos, production diaries, texts about making films, and interviews with fellow filmmakers. The magazine is very personal and our aim is to use it to explore things that interest us, the central regulating force is us, whatever we feel drawn to writing about and exploring through words is what goes in and for this reason the magazine will continue to mutate and change as our needs and interests change. Thinking about it now, it is amazing how through Film Panic we have met a lot of incredible artists who we have become such close friends and collaborators with, it really has served the purpose of connecting us with other people and helping us carve a niche where our work can fit in within the wider world of cinema.

 

BRADLEY: Yes, it is certainly very personal and very creative. I like the way it can sometimes break out of the traditional magazine format, or, at least, play with it. Issue 2 certainly does that. It is a highly creative and experimental issue. It was published in April 2016 (three years after Issue 1 and a year after the release of your film Splendor Solis). It is entitled ‘The Quest for the Cine-Rebis: A Manifesto for a New Art Cinema’ and written entirely by yourselves. It is written as a manifesto and is accompanied by a film on DVD. A script version of the film appears within the printed pages and the film can be seen as an extension of these printed pages just as the printed pages could be seen as an extension of the film. It strikes me that this is continuous with your idea of the phantom film. The written manifesto presents the film as a kind of phantom, purely as a script, whilst the film adaptation of the script adds an extra layer to that which is presented in the manifesto.

 

If Issue 1 is written in the spirit of the underground film zine placing emphasis on lo-fi, hobbyist and underground experimental films, the second, whilst not entirely breaking from that, seems more in the spirit of the history of 20th century art cinema and the artist manifesto. In the film version you reel off a list of filmmaking visionaries and influences that includes Griffith, Eisenstein, Lang, Tarkovsky, Keaton, Chaplin, Junge, Jarman, Welles, Dietrich, Antonioni, Rivette, Godard, Keen and many others. It brings to mind the whole history of film and those figures that pioneered it. It is also written as a manifesto, and brings to mind the avant-garde artists of the 20th century who responded to the political, social and technological upheavals of their time by writing manifestos with challenging visions for the redeployment and reinvention of art.

 

In part 7 of this interview series I want to engage with this issue in more detail, especially exploring the ideas put forward and broader content of both the written piece and the film, so I don’t want to go into too much detail here. Nonetheless, this wasn’t simply a manifesto published independently from Film Panic. It was published as the second issue, so, whilst we can understand it independently from the rest of the issues, it is also part of the series. In light of this, I think it would be useful for you to explain what you were trying to say and achieve with this issue and how this connects with Film Panic as an ongoing project.

 

Suggestive Gestures (2013, dir. David Finkelstein)

Suggestive Gestures (2013, dir. David Finkelstein)

 

DANIEL & CLARA: Since making Savage Witches we had been gathering a pile of notes on our desks with various thoughts on cinema, filmmaking processes, creativity and the role of the artist. Originally we had planned to compile these into a book that offered a personal philosophy of cinema as well as fresh new ways of investigating every aspect of filmmaking from a 21st century artist’s perspective. As we began our period of intensive dream study between 2013 and 2015, this pile started gathering also quite a few thoughts relating to dreams, mythology, alchemy and the tarot; studying these subjects helped us develop and refine our theory of the film psyche and also widened our exploration of narrative structures, as well as informing a wide philosophical framework for thinking about the various dimensions of practical filmmaking. So the pile of notes was becoming larger and more complex as months and then years went by.

 

Then in 2015 after Splendor Solis was completed we felt a personal change had come about, we were ready to move out of our introspective studying phase, we decided to make two new feature films inspired by the material from our dreams and did a small crowdfunding campaign to get us going. The films were The Kingdom Of Shadows and Black Sun and with this started a period of great activity for us. As a part of our crowdfunding, we made short videos for our sponsors as a thank you for supporting us, these were experimental works in themselves, offering visual experiments and musings on cinema in the language of image and sound, and many fragments of those notes from our book on cinema ended up being used as voice overs on these shorts. In just over two weeks we made 27 of these ‘thank you videos’ and by the time we were done we realised that somehow the images and sounds we had created in these films were expressing exactly that which we’d been trying to put into words all this time, and we needed to do something more with them. Everything clicked, and our original idea of the book then transformed into the Film Panic issue with its various components, five written parts and one 25-minute long film. It became a manifesto, a way for us to articulate the kind of vision we have for cinema today but it also felt like the accumulation of everything we had discovered over a long period of gestating and testing ideas. In a way it became a mission statement for all the work we made during 2016/2017.

 

It also marks a shift for Film Panic, from looking back at past filmmakers and past history of cinema to looking at our present situation and contemporary filmmaking. We think it is important to look back and engage with the history but it is also important to treat our present endeavours with respect and allow them to be our teachers and not hold the past on a pedestal. The manifesto is published in Film Panic not so much as a definitive statement on cinema, but as a part of a creative process and our continuous investigation and engagement with cinema. We hope it is like a gesture that opens up the conversation, hopefully offering some fresh new perspectives or ways of thinking about the medium and the processes of filmmaking that are relevant to now. Since it was published we have received a great number of positive responses, especially from other filmmakers who feel we have managed to articulate many of their thoughts and feelings about where cinema is now. If we can contribute to someone feeling more confident about pursuing their own unique vision of cinema then this makes us very happy.

 

The written part of the manifesto has now been republished twice, an excerpt of it was included in ‘Aberrant Intervals’, the fifth issue of hambre magazine, and it was included in its entirety in the book Luminous Void: Experimental Film Society Documents, edited by Rouzbeh Rashidi and Maximilian Le Cain.

 

The Green Mind (2013, dir. Toby Tatum)

The Green Mind (2013, dir. Toby Tatum)

 

BRADLEY: The publication of Issue 2 certainly seems like a turning point in Film Panic. It is a moment where you really shift your focus to contemporary film and set out to define what you like and don’t like about it. Central to this is your emphasis on images over ideas, fantasy over realism, irrationalism over rationalism, poetry over facts, mythology over information. You are certainly highly critical of documentary realism and art as social commentary, and you seem to be attempting to reconnect with a more romantic emphasis on feelings, irrationality, mythology, uncertainty and creativity. It is as if you are attempting to revive something of this romanticism, updated with flourishes of the 20th century avant-garde, and applied to 21st century filmmaking. This romantic tendency runs throughout Film Panic and The Underground Film Studio generally and these are themes that follow into Issues 3, 4 and 5. In these issues, ideas from the manifesto seem to shape your engagement with contemporary underground and experimental filmmakers. The very filmmakers you pick to interview and engage with, seem, at some level, to chime with themes raised in the manifesto. As you yourselves point out in the introduction to Issue 3,

 

On first glance it may seem that these filmmakers have little in common, and on a superficial level this may be true, but when looking at their films side by side, considering their working methods and reading what they have to say about their concerns and interests, it becomes clear that they are all participating in creating films that are very much an expression of the age we live in. The aspirations, dreams, fears and concerns of the modern world are expressed equally by them all, the form and style in each case is quite different but they are all part of expressing the contemporary psyche and all important components of the current cinema landscape. This is especially evident when we consider how each of them has rejected the conventional working methods of industrial cinema as well as what have now become the conventions of experimental and underground cinema, and instead have found ways of making movies that are suited to their particular concerns and personalities. These are not filmmakers who have simply accepted that cinema is this or that and must be done in this or that way, they have sensed there is more still to explore and each ventured into the unknown, following a trail of their own questions. We would argue that, even though their work is rooted firmly in cinema’s history, these filmmakers could only be creating these films now, in this way, at this particular moment of the 21st century.

 

The relevance of these film-makers in this current moment of time would seem to chime with a crisis that you diagnose in the manifesto. In the manifesto you related this crisis to an existential crisis of society at large. “If we have a genuine lack of confidence in the arts,” you write in the manifesto “it is because our footing as a society is so unsteady. We don’t know who we are, where we are going or what our purpose is any more.”

 

So, for you, society is experiencing an existential crisis, and because society is experiencing an existential crisis, art is too. In your account this manifests as an attempt to re-assure ourselves, and find certainty in security. This leads to a tendency to treat art as a platform to assert our beliefs and make crude political statements, which is less about interrogating things and more about feeling secure in ourselves. You therefore turn to filmmaking as a way to offer a kind of solution and offer a way to reconnect, rediscover and confront ourselves. Returning to this theme in Issue 3 you write,

 

In an age where everybody seems to have an opinion on everything regardless of whether they know what they are talking about or not, these filmmakers are not limiting themselves to commentaries on current affairs, instead they are concerned with investigating and expressing their individual experience and perspective.

 

It seems like, for you, these filmmakers are a solution to a kind of “know-it-all” culture that seems all-too-ready to offer answers rather than reflect upon themselves. In their withdrawal from the overt statements and dialogues, these filmmakers, for you, seem to offer a new psychological, psychic and personal way to counteract this tendency. In this respect, the manifesto is not only a manifesto for your artistic practice, it shapes the themes and editorial choices that shape later issues of Film Panic.

 

Before we turn to discussing these filmmakers and these publications, I would like, however, to rewind a bit and ask about where these ideas came from. Throughout our discussions we have indirectly touched upon your research in psychology, mythology, cinema and art history. At certain points we have talked directly about Jung or the tarot, but I wanted to take this opportunity to approach these influences broadly and directly. Who are your intellectual influences? What were you reading when you started recording your dreams? How did these ideas culminate in Film Panic Issue 2?

 

DANIEL & CLARA: The ideas that are presented in Film Panic Issue 2 evolved over a long period and were developed from everything we were doing during that time, they were certainly influenced by things we read and our encounters with art works, cinema and music, but mostly from our experiences of being in the world as artists and our daily experiments and engagement with the medium of cinema. Creative work has its own authority and we are not interested in illustrating any particular theory or anyone’s ideas, not even our own, sometimes the films themselves do not necessarily illustrate our film philosophy, they might even contradict or expand it beyond where we had previously reached with words. Our writing is always an attempt to catch up with ourselves, understand what we are doing and find clues of where we might be heading next.

 

We do read a lot, and many books have been very inspiring to us. Books for us work in the same way as any material we encounter, they serve as keys in the doors to new possibilities, so when reading we take whatever is relevant to us at that moment and it is ingested, digested and integrated into our thinking in a way that in the end we aren’t able to say where the book ends and we begin. In some sense you could say we are quite disrespectful readers, we don’t respect any authority of what we read, this isn’t a conscious thing, we just take everything so personally that we can’t seem to perceive them objectively anymore and can’t extricate what we read from what was triggered by it. But saying all that, we can certainly talk about a few writers and books that have been inspiring and important to us in our work, in which we find resonating ideas about cinema and useful ways of questioning and articulating what happens instinctively in our practice.

 

Apart from Jung, there is another Jungian psychologist that we have read more extensively and whom we sometimes even prefer to Jung, that is Marie-Louise von Franz. Many of her lectures are transcribed to books, and her language is usually much more accessible than Jung’s. She wrote on the interpretation of dreams, fairy tales and myths, how their structures and elements are related to the structures of the psyche, her writings became our first guidelines to going deeper into our dream material. She was also Jung’s main collaborator in his studies of alchemy, she translated most of the Greek and Latin alchemical manuscripts that informed Jung’s research, and her book Alchemical Active Imagination was one of our entry points on the history of alchemy, its relationship with Christianity and its parallels with analytical psychology. Through Von Franz we first encountered the Splendor Solis, the Aurora Consurgens and other alchemical texts.

 

Then there’s Joseph Campbell – many people might hear of him as the author of The Hero with a Thousand Faces, which was one of the inspirations behind Star Wars, but we were first introduced to him through a book of collected works by Carl Jung, which Campbell edited and wrote an introduction for. He was a scholar of Comparative Mythology, his books offer an examination of mythology across history and civilizations, with an emphasis on how certain themes and motifs reoccur, revealing a unity to the inner experiences of humankind in spite of the infinite variety of forms and relationships through which they manifest. As well as the books, there are many of his lectures available as audiobooks and videos, he is a wonderful and passionate storyteller, and through him we reconnected with one of our favourite myths, the tales of the Arthurian knights and of the Fisher King and the quest of the Grail.

 

We’ve already spoken of our great admiration for Jeff Keen. Besides making films Keen also created a huge body of work of paintings, drawings, publications, sculptures, assemblages, sound art, performance, poetry and every conceivable crossover and space in between. But no matter what medium he was using the language of cinema permeated throughout his work, which is what makes it so inspiring for us, it is an endless source of contemplation for us on what cinema truly is. His books of poetry are especially interesting in this aspect, his poems are filled with radical examples of cinematic narrative, the very rhythm and sound of the words, the images they evoke, the thought process and emotional responses they provoke, it radiates with the essence of cinema. Through it, as through a prism, we glimpse iconic images of the history of cinema, but they are never simply referential, they are a part of an absolutely personal mythological system which makes use of them in urgent and essential ways.

 

In general the books we get most inspiration from are ones that either feature extensive interviews with artists or that are written by artists themselves exploring their practice and theories and examining the medium of their choosing. Reflections from a Cinematic Cesspool by George and Mike Kuchar is one of our favourites, it is in part an autobiographical account that chronicles the development of George and Mike’s passion for cinema and filmmaking and their experiences as a part of the exciting American underground film scene, first in New York in the sixties and later in San Francisco. To us the Kuchars are an example of unstoppable creativity, they are so devoted in their love of cinema, so sincere and unpretentious in their melodramatic expressions, so dedicated to their very personal no-budget creations, never bogged down by obstacles or limiting themselves for reasons of taste, theories or decorum! They taught us that there are no excuses for not making the movies that exist within, no matter what. In their films there are many moments of pure genius, and in their book, which also serves as a reflection on the art of filmmaking, there are many gems for the filmmaker seeking for creative freedom.

 

Another artist whose writing has had a big impact on us is Andy Warhol. Though he is often still seen by many as being an inarticulate empty shell, his book projects reveal more sophistication than one is led to believe from the image he has created of himself. Even though his famous quote says “If you want to know all about Andy Warhol, just look at the surface; of my paintings and films and me, and there I am.” the truth is nothing about him should be taken on face value but the quote helps us know that to go under the surface we must not ignore the form. His books are incredible works of art filled with humour, intelligence, wisdom, practical advice and deeply truthful portraits of human beings. Often co-written with other writers and the use of his tape recorder to capture conversations, these books open up interesting questions and insights into how creativity really works and how the artist interacts with the world and the people around them.

 

Possibly one of the more direct influences on helping us structure and shape our ideas into a manifesto form was The Empty Space by Peter Brook. This key text for theatre makers and actors is Brook’s personal exploration of theatre, which examines four types of theatre with different perspectives and aims: the Deadly Theatre, the Holy Theatre, the Rough Theatre and the Immediate Theatre. Amongst other things he reflects on the work of the performer and the director, staging, costuming, devising scenes, interpreting texts, and delivering the performance from the perspective of each type of theatre. He also gives his views on the impact of the audience, the critic, commercial concerns, history and location on the quality and success of a play. His concern is always with how to keep the theatre vital, what does it really have to offer as an art form, and what kind of experiences can and should exist in the theatre. Even though this book is focused on the theatre, all of the ideas he presents are easily transcribed to the world of cinema.

 

One final thing we should mention in regards to how our personal philosophy and approach to writing has developed is gardening, both the inspiration we have gained from the practical act of growing vegetables and reading about permaculture and other sustainable farming techniques, in particular the book The One-Straw Revolution by Masanobu Fukuoka. Fukuoka was a microbiologist and agricultural scientist who, in the late 1930s, rejected both modern western agricultural science models and centuries-old traditional agricultural practices to pursue a kind of Zen type of farming, one with the least amount of interference, no tillage, no fertilizing, no pesticides, closest as possible to natural processes, seeking for the highest productivity without any wasteful effort. His book is not only a practical guide to the natural farming technique he developed but also a philosophical manifesto which challenges fundamental cultural values in relation to food, health and work, ultimately it asks what is the value and goal of life and how can we rebuild our way of living from the answer to those questions. It offers ways for rethinking our relationship to nature, to ourselves and to each other, rooted in a deep respect for the wholeness and balance of the natural world, seeing humans not as separate from nature but as a part of it.

 

Sleep Has Her House (2017, dir. Scott Barley)

Sleep Has Her House (2017, dir. Scott Barley)

 

BRADLEY: Thank you for this. This is a really interesting collection of books that give us an insight into your work and how all your ideas interrelate.

 

Maybe one of the most interesting and unexpected influences comes from gardening. It is not often we consider there to be a link between gardening and cinema, but, I think, whenever you have an ethics, a set of values or an intellectual raison d’etre these things seep into your whole way of life and your whole practice. It doesn’t matter if you are growing food, making a film or going about your daily activities with friends, those same thoughts and processes are there. It sounds like there is a strong ecological strand to your work. How has this influenced your film practice and your writings on film?

 

Peter Brook’s The Empty Space is a good book for thinking through how all your interests come together within an artistic vision. Like Brook there is an attempt in your work to avoid stagnation. There is a wonderful sense that Brook’s vision for theatre, like your vision for cinema, is an attempt to remain vital and dynamic. One of the things I like about The Empty Space is that it is even critical of the practices it seems to favour. Brook seems extremely aware that those attempts to free up theatre like, for example, the happening, can equally become a set of clichés and customs that, to paraphrase Brook himself, assault you into apathy. (Peter Brook, The Empty Space. Touchstone: New York. 1996. p. 1966) Brook is always aware that everything, even the seemingly vital and dynamic, can become deadly and stagnant.

 

In order to vitalise the theatre Brook turns to the holy and the rough. Through Antonin Artaud, Brook approaches the holy. Antonin Artaud’s approach and ideas about his Theatre of Cruelty provides a way to explore the expressive and spiritually intense moments that we often associate with religion. Like yourselves, Artaud and Brook are keen to rediscover gesture, rethink gesture and capture its intense religious and emotional dynamic. It strikes me that your Sacrificium Intellectus is very continuous with this approach. It too seems to be a way to capture the ‘holy’ through the gestural.

 

Through Bertolt Brecht, Brook approaches the rough. By rough Brook means to evoke “Salt, sweat, noise, smell: the theatre that’s not in a theatre, the theatre on carts, on wagons, on trestles, audiences standing, drinking, sitting round tables, audiences joining in, answering back: theatre in back rooms, upstairs rooms, barns; the one-night stands, the torn sheet pinned up across the hall, the battered screen to conceal the quick changes” (The Empty Space, p. 78). By turning to Brecht, Brook draws out the political potential of this theatre that can distance us from psychological identification and rouse this bawdy environment with a political provocation, but it isn’t limited to that. Isn’t there something rough about the films of the Kuchars and Keen? As Brook says,

 

The Holy Theatre deals with the invisible and this invisible contains all the hidden impulses of man. The Rough Theatre deals with men’s actions, and because it is down to earth and direct—because it admits wickedness and laughter—the rough and ready seems better than the hollowly holy. (The Empty Space, p. 86)

 

This roughness runs throughout Film Panic. There is a constant exploration of those ‘trashy’, low budget, cult films that seem like the cinematic decedents of theatres on horse-drawn carts and wagons, a cinema that seems rough and ready, unpolished, but exciting because of that. On the other hand, Film Panic is a spiritual and mystical exploration that readily evokes Jung, Von Franz, tarot, alchemy and so on. In Film Panic the sacred and the vulgar co-exist in a provocative dynamism.

 

Issue 3 is a brilliant exploration of contemporary filmmaking. Except for the introduction and news section, it is entirely made up of interviews with current filmmakers. Thus, unlike Issue 2, this is mainly other filmmakers’ visions, but you also get the sense that as different as these filmmakers are, there are parallels with your own artistic visions. In this issue you interview Rouzbeh Rashidi, David Finkelstein, Toby Tatum, Hooroo Jackson and Gurcius Gewdner. Could you tell me a little about these filmmakers? How have they influenced you? In what way do they overlap with your artistic vision, and in what way are they different?

 

Pazúcus Island of Vomit and Despair (2017, dir. Gurcius Gewdner)

Pazúcus Island of Vomit and Despair (2017, dir. Gurcius Gewdner)

 

DANIEL & CLARA: Maybe at first the influence of gardening on our work seems unexpected but on closer inspection there are lots of connections between gardens, gardening and nature in all of our films. There would have been a time when we would be surprised to think that growing vegetables and flowers would be creatively significant to us but looking back it somehow seems like it was inevitable. The action of Savage Witches mostly takes place around a magical garden filled with bright coloured flowers, bees and there is even the character of Philip Cyril who is a wizard gardener. Splendor Solis begins in a multicoloured garden, and the mythic paradise gardens are referred to in nearly all of our films but maybe most of all in The Kingdom Of Shadows, our story of Adam and Eve and their descendants.

 

Flowers are often present and have various symbolic meanings which we use to hint at and conjure the meanings of the scenes. In Savage Witches we have yellow mimosa, which is a direct reference to Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita, and it also echoes back to Daniel’s first feature film Come On Thunder, which has similar yellow flowers present in the first scene. In Bulgakov, they have an association with madness and suffering, the suffering the main characters go through for breaking out of the pattern and following their dreams, but the sight and scent of mimosa becomes almost a motif of daring and triumph beyond reason and sorrow, an annunciation of liberated feminine magic, and this is how they became significant for us. Yellow flowers are highly energetic, their presence brings brightness and energy to a scene, they don’t have the passion or danger of red, instead they have a summer’s optimism and charm, they are directly related to the sun and all the symbolism that carries with it. Flowers have a long history of being used in art both with symbolic meaning and as a source of colour, we draw upon this history and add our own personal inflections.

 

So the natural world in general is very present in our work and the garden is of particular interest, gardens are private spaces for interacting with natural processes and cultivating a relationship to the earth and the systems of life, especially in regards to our experience of time and life cycles. The act of spending time planting, growing and caring for plants has a very direct impact on the way you think and feel about yourself and the world around you. One of the most tangible ways gardening has influenced our approach to writing and making films is how we now think of each work of art or creative project as a living organism that has its own particular needs in order to grow and flourish. Plants all require different amounts of food, light, water, soil types etc. Some are born quickly and die quickly, some flower in the winter, some in the summer, some give fruit, some have protective mechanisms such as thorns, some are slow growing and live for centuries, some only flower once every few years – our films are like this, we make many kinds and each one has its very own life cycle and conditions, there is no way we can control them, we can only be like gardeners trying to understand their needs and serving them. Gardening for us is not about control but about cultivating the right conditions to support the life-forms and to help them thrive, and our approach to writing and making films is similar.

 

Coming back to Peter Brook, something we love about his writing is that he doesn’t believe there is a single answer, he doesn’t offer a method anyone should follow, he offers more a way of thinking about and questioning things. He is a fascinating artist, we adore his books and his films, unfortunately we’ve never had a chance to see his theatre work. Something which isn’t overtly mentioned in The Empty Space but that once you know it you see present in all his creative decisions and ideas is the fact that he is a practitioner and leader of a work group following the teachings of Gurdjieff. To understand that here is an avant-garde artist whose entire process rests on a bedrock of a disciplined spiritual practice is important to us and resonates with our own ideas about what it is to be an artist and how, fundamentally, creative work is spiritual work.

 

The first interview issue we put together for Film Panic grew from our personal investigations into what is happening in the world of film now, the interviewees presented are some of the people who we found interesting and felt had some connections to our own work and situation. We didn’t want to just interview people that were very well known, we wanted to seek out some interesting people making films independently from current trends and systems, to see what they were doing and see if what was happening related at all to our own interests and ambitions. The interviews gathered here were some of the people we stumbled across that we wanted to find out more about. We never just interview someone for the sake of it, it is always motivated by a need to know more, to want to get under the surface of their creative process. Our approach to interviewing was also a way of speaking with filmmakers in a way that put them and their interests first, we have sometimes been interviewed and found interviewers can come with many preconceived ideas that just try to fit you and your work into pre-existing categories of cinema, art and theory, which often stops the artist being able to express themselves fully and what is really of value in their work becomes hidden. So our approach was to try to engage with their work by accepting it on its own terms, to ask questions that would enable them to share what is central to their work and respect the way in which they wish to communicate this.

 

Gurcius Gewdner is a Brazilian filmmaker who has a deep passion for cinema with a particular love of monsters and horror movies. We first met him when he sent us his film BOM DIA CARLOS! – a wild and hilarious short about a man called Carlos tormented by voices in his stomach, he is so scared of them that he doesn’t want to take a shit as he thinks it will kill him. He holds it all in for so long that shit starts coming out of his mouth! The film is shot around the city of Florianópolis in Brazil and features actor Marcel Mars running around the town spraying multicolour vomit in the air. It’s simultaneously grotesque and beautiful and has an amazing scene where the main character meets a sort of witch/goddess/nature spirit in the forest. He followed the short with a feature film Pazúcus: Island of Vomit and Despair, which is equally as wild and full of insanity and delight, it features more vomit, more shit and also we get to see the inner workings of Carlos’ stomach. To some maybe this sounds totally mad but Gurcius is a very serious, intelligent and dedicated artist, and his films, even though they are low budget and low-fi, are serious works of art that express something especially pertinent to our age, that is, our relationship to nature and to our bodies, and the realisation we are having as a species that what we have done to the planet we have done to ourselves, that our bodies, our whole psyche is connected to the planet and the centuries of believing we are separate could possibly be the reason for our demise. From looking at the work of hundreds of contemporary artists this seems to be the most dominant reoccurring theme in recent years but no one approaches it quite like Gurcius Gewdner!

 

American filmmaker and comic book artist Hooroo Jackson also made a film with an apocalyptic setting. Aimy In A Cage was adapted from his own comic book of the same name and stars Crispin Glover and Disney Channel star Allisyn Ashley Arm. The film is the story of a young girl imprisoned in a house with her oppressive and dysfunctional family, while the world outside is ravaged by a virus epidemic. Aimy fights and struggles to maintain her freedom as her family sets about a mind-altering procedure that they hope will bring her into their control. Watching it is like falling into an intense, chaotic and claustrophobic hallucination of someone who has spent a lifetime watching kids shows, adverts and MTV. Underneath it all this is a film about the fight for creative freedom and the complex web of images, forms, behaviours and language that one must dismantle in order to move towards this goal.

 

British filmmaker Toby Tatum’s central interest is nature and the landscape, his beautiful and mysterious films show us grottoes, coves and shadowy corners of woodlands, he subtly pulls back the veils of our modern eyes and allow us to glimpse the magic lurking just out of sight in the British countryside. We adore his films, we screened a programme of his shorts and they work so wonderfully watched as a group, they are like peering through a magic lens into that ethereal place between reality and dream, somewhere we’d certainly like to get lost in and wander for days!

 

New York based David Finkelstein’s career started in theatre but in 2000 he began making films and we thank the gods of cinema that he did because we absolutely adore his films! All his films start as filmed improvisations by performers, very often himself and another, which he records on camera. They perform a sort of poetic stream of consciousness improvised dialogue that rests strongly on the theories of improv David has developed himself over 30 years. From this filmed improv he then creates the musical soundtrack which he also writes and performs himself. After this he begins work on creating the vivid and dreamlike images that drift across the screen, adding layers both visually and in terms of meaning to the words. His process is fascinating, that he starts with actors speaking, then music and the visuals last is almost the opposite way to which we work, the results are incredible and totally unique to him, there’s nothing else quite like it. We first saw his film Epistolary Fusillades when he submitted it to the film festival we ran in 2013, after that we kept in touch and in 2017 we screened his first feature film Suggestive Gestures. We have plans to collaborate together when the chance arises, if we didn’t live in opposite sides of the Atlantic ocean it would have no doubt happened already!

 

Rouzbeh Rashidi is a dear friend of ours who we have been collaborating with since 2015. He is the founder of the Dublin based company Experimental Film Society and has himself directed over 30 feature films. For us he is one of the filmmakers who we feel the greatest affinity with, that is not to say our films are exactly alike but we share a huge amount of very similar processes and ideas about production and exhibition. His films are really fantastic and over the course of the last 18 years he has been continuously investigating, breaking open and putting back together the conventions of cinema. Like us he has a passion for all cinema, everything from every country and every era is of interest to him and whenever we are together most of our conversations are impassioned ramblings about various films and filmmakers that we are excited by. We would recommend checking out any of Rouzbeh’s films but two of our personal favourites are Ten Years in The Sun and TRAILERS, these films are the first two parts of his “black box trilogy” which presents the mind-melting visions of humankind and planet Earth as seen by aliens if all they had to understand us was cinema. The films are entirely sensory experiences, filled of course with many ideas and intellectual stimuli but their full meaning comes to you through the eyes and ears, crawls over your skin and penetrates one’s entire body – they are cinema audio-visual-bodily transmutations. Ideally these films should be seen projected thirty foot high in an old beautiful cinema where the history of all the films past lingers in the air!

 

Our collaboration with Rouzbeh began around the time he was making TRAILERS, we invited him to play the role of the Inspector in The Kingdom Of Shadows and while on set he also shot a couple of short sequences for his own film. If you look closely you can see three moments in TRAILERS where the world of The Kingdom Of Shadows seeps in, and in The Kingdom Of Shadows there is one scene where TRAILERS seeps in, those two films will be psychically tied forever! Since then our collaboration has continued, we have worked on publications and screenings together and are in constant exchange of ideas and making plans. Last year we spent two weeks on location in Ireland playing the lead roles in Rouzbeh’s latest feature film Phantom Islands. We play a tormented couple adrift on the wild rocky coast and wandering the countryside in a state of despair! We had an amazing time filming and it was wonderful to be performing in someone else’s work, this experience has helped boost our confidence as performers and definitely encouraged us to be more present as performers in our own films. There are more collaborations ahead with Rouzbeh, the Inspector will return plus we have something we are working on at the moment which should be announced in the not too distant future!

 

Daniel Fawcett & Clara Pais in Phantom Islands (2018, Dir. Rouzbeh Rashidi)

Daniel Fawcett & Clara Pais in Phantom Islands (2018, Dir. Rouzbeh Rashidi)

 

BRADLEY: Issue 4, like Issue 3, is a brilliant collection of filmmaker interviews. In each interview it becomes clear that you and the other filmmakers have shared interests and preoccupations. Throughout this issue, themes such as mythology, alchemy, rituals and landscape converge with an avant-gardist experimentalism that burrows into a range of artistic practices, technologies and techniques. In this issue you interview Sarahjane Swan & Roger Simian, Marnie Weber, Scott Barley, Atoosa PourHosseini, Janja Rakuš and Susu Laroche. Could you tell us a little about these filmmakers and how they relate to your own interests and preoccupations?

 

DANIEL & CLARA: We adore Sarahjane Swan & Roger Simian, they are two deeply passionate, dedicated and creative individuals who inspire us very much! Like us they are a collaborating duo, and we share with them interests in 20th century art movements, performance, storytelling and mythology. All of their films are delightful visual extravaganzas, filled with colour, texture and the sense of great pleasure and delight at the very process of making images. Not only do they write, make the props, costumes and music themselves, they also often star in their own films. Recently they have been working a lot with Super 8, hand-processing it with various home-made chemistry experiments. We’ve been involved in a few collaborations already, we’ve screened each others’ work and one sunny afternoon we performed in their short Super 8 film In the Arbor of the Bitter Orange. We are definitely planning more collaborations together in the future.

 

American artist Marnie Weber’s short films grew out of her performance pieces featuring fairy tale type characters very much shaped by her own vision. The spirit of dressing up and playing is very much alive in her work but this childlike fantasy world is experienced through a lens slightly tinted with a tinge of melancholy and maybe at times a sinister presence. Some of her films feature a fictitious girl band called The Spirit Girls, a deceased group who come back to communicate from the beyond. Often using Super 8 and miniDV cameras, we feel as if her films are home movies made in a fantasy land, these are not plot driven stories but moments of another reality captured for us to peer into.

 

British filmmaker Scott Barley shares our interest in the landscape and in particular the relationship between the landscape as a subject for painting and for the moving image. His first feature film Sleep Has Her House is an incredible experiential work of cinema. Like Gurcius Gewdner, who we mentioned earlier, Scott is instinctively responding to and dealing with our current relationship to the Earth and our bodies, but unlike Gurcius who wonderfully draws upon the rich history of genre films and performance art to express a sense of despair, Scott offers us an equally intense but subtler meditation on our emotional response to this situation. Sleep Has Her House is a night journey through a forest, there are no characters present on screen except the forest itself and some of the creatures that live there. Presented in an eerie green shade, one feels as if what we are witnessing is a world dying and as we move through the journey of the film we are washed over with a sense of mourning. This very sensory cinematic experience reaches deep into our psyche, touching on a wound as if activating the need to heal. He doesn’t offer us any answer but he helps us acknowledge that emotionally something needs to be done.

 

Dublin based artist filmmaker Atoosa PourHosseini’s background is in painting and fine art but her interest of recent years has been on working with celluloid film, both found footage and her own filmed footage, which are then used as a surface for mark-making and drawing, creating possibly some of the most beautiful celluloid crafting we’ve seen. To her moving image practice she carried the sensibility of a painter, an extraordinary sense of composition, rhythm, colour and texture that is entirely her own, but she has also an acute understanding of the possibilities of editing and of the relationship between sound and image. Her films often play with repetition and disruption, both creating a highly sensory experience as well as drawing the viewer’s attention to the mechanics of filmmaking.

 

We were instantly intrigued by the films of Janja Rakuš when we saw the title Alchemy on the Amstel and a short clip featuring a boat on a river at night under a glowing red light. This film, and the rest of the trilogy which comes under this title, is her personal meditation on the nature of water both as a visual and symbolic element. Her work is very much informed by her interests in art history, cinema, alchemy, philosophy and poetry. Alongside making films she is also an excellent writer, her avant-garde novel Voodoo Waltz for Epileptics relates strongly to her moving image work, blending images, text, quotes and online clips that somehow seem to express the journey of an individual carving a spiritual pathway through the contemporary world.

 

London based filmmaker and photographer Susu Laroche makes stunning short films shot on 16mm that burst across the screen and almost disintegrate before your eyes. They often feature scenes of young women in states of rapture or turmoil and despair, their exaggerated screams and actions echo across to the surface of the film itself, which is scratched and feels like it might just rip apart and fall into pieces at any moment. Her films are very short, sometimes only 1 minute, but in that short space of time they pull us headfirst into a frenetic visceral dimension that is unique and inspiring.

 

Daniel Fawcett & Clara Pais in In The Arbor Of The Bitter Orange (2017, dir. Sarahjane Swan & Roger Simian)

Daniel Fawcett & Clara Pais in In The Arbor Of The Bitter Orange (2017, dir. Sarahjane Swan & Roger Simian)

 

BRADLEY: Issue 5 is a passionate intervention aimed at liberating cinema from the shackles of convention and invigorating the filmmaking of the future. Like Issue 2, this issue has a manifesto-like quality to it, but unlike Issue 2 it brings together voices other than your own. Maximillian Le Cain, Rouzbeh Rashidi, Scott Barley, Sebastian Wiedemann, David Finkelstein, Sarahjane Swan and Roger Simian, along with yourselves, all have essays included. Also, unlike Issue 2, there is little emphasis on alchemy, mythology and therapy. The central concern of this issue is filmmaking and the new technologies that are helping transform it. The issue is entitled The New Visionary Cinema and it proposes that those filmmakers involved with this issue (and many others too) are part of a new movement of cinema.

 

One aspect of Issue 5 deals with the way new technologies are transforming filmmaking. There are two facets to this. One concerns the increased affordability of digital film equipment, which essentially serves to make filmmaking a viable activity for many people who wouldn’t have had the access or means to make a film in the past. The second concerns the internet, which potentially makes it possible to network, view a huge plethora of cinema (and other mediums) and find new avenues to distribute films. There are certainly business platforms attempting to gain a monopoly over the internet, but, for the time being, the internet provides a way to circumvent the traditional gatekeepers of the arts. These two aspects taken together do not necessarily result in a new visionary cinema, but they do provide the possibility to create one. They allow many people to create films and they allow people to come together from very diverse locations, share these films and build a network around them.

 

A third facet of new technology that seems worth mentioning is the rise of automation. It is not simply that technology is more readily available, nor that technology makes us more interconnected, but that many of the traditional skills associated with filmmaking are becoming increasingly obsolete. In a context where a computer can photoshop your image or adjust your film it is worth returning to those questions of what we want from cinema, what does it mean to be a filmmaker, and what is the function of art. In a context where the filmmaker’s skills and techniques risk being usurped it is worth contemplating that which isn’t yet usurped: the artist’s vision.

 

This leads us to the other aspect of your essay in particular, what you call the new visionary cinema, which has emerged within the above technological context, but reaches out beyond it. You outline 11 key characteristics of this new visionary cinema. These are expressed under the headings: 1) Visionary, (“A tendency” as you say, “to pursue the unknown, the radical, the unfathomable, that which is beyond description, and pursue it in a highly personal way”.) 2) Experience over Message, 3) Love of All Cinema, 4) Improvisation & Exploration, 5) DIY High Craft, 6) No Hierarchy of Medium, 7) Experimental Narrative Forms, 8) All Art is Artifice, 9) Immersive Experiences, 10) International, 11) A New Chapter (here you situate the New Visionary Cinema, not as a blueprint for cinema, but as a new chapter in a long lineage of cinema that seeks to “create an arena where our visions and expressions can exist without censorship.”).

 

These themes run throughout the issue. At the heart of the issue is a personal and explorative dimension that reaches beyond what is directly fathomable in order to create a cinema that is both compelling and perplexing. Rouzbeh Rashidi tells us that “the more you try and express and explain the film the more shallow and decrepit the film becomes. Films (at least the ones I want to make) must be completely impenetrable, inaccessible and beyond the faculty of comprehension.” This is not an easy or comfortable cinema, it is a cinema that pushes us to go deeper, to explore more.

 

These essays are often highly experimental and often beautifully poetic. Sarahjane Swan and Roger Simian discuss their pursuit of a total art that draws upon the emotional, the subconscious and the mythical. Sabastian Wiedemann develops a philosophy of film through the metaphors of deserts and waves. Film, in this context, as different as the approaches may be, is always a process of exploration.

 

This explorative dimension often manifests as something unplanned. David Finklestein describes some of his techniques for improvisation using physics as a metaphor or imagining the scene already exists. Scott Barley tells us,

I always begin a film almost like one would keep a diary. I have no idea, or agenda to make a film […] Once these connections are established, a narrative – through images – begins to germinate.

 

By leaving things open to chance an open-ended exploration is embarked upon. One that serves to take us upon a journey where we are never completely sure what we will discover.

 

This journey is simultaneously a journey to revitalise the moving image. Maximillian Le Cain explores “the paradoxical invisibility of the moving image in modern life.” How the moving image, through over-saturation, has lost the power to conjure intense experiences in the viewer and how cinema might be reinvented to respond to this. Throughout Issue 5 there is a persistent attempt to restore to cinema a vitality and dynamism that appears lost.

 

This brings me to political cinema. You yourselves point out that the New Visionary Cinema tends to avoid making overt political statements. You tell us,

 

The dominant value system within festivals, funding organisations and film criticism circles favours films that comment on current socio-political situations, ideally delivered in a digestible or accepted form, where the content is easily identifiable and relatable to current affairs. This is no doubt an attempt to address and try to understand the catastrophic situations we have been facing in the last decades and the even gloomier predictions of what the future holds for the current civilisation. The New Visionary Cinema is sensitive to these questions and fully living in the present moment, like anybody else we are directly affected by social, political, economic and cultural conditions. But our instinctive gut reaction is not to make statements about these things in our work, but to give value to personal thoughts and feelings, to delve deeper into our own dreams, fantasies, shadows and nightmares, in an attempt to deal with them directly.

 

Here I think you hint at what might be a strange tension at the heart of contemporary political filmmaking. The proliferation of political films in no way entails the vitality of the political film. It is often the case that the political film lacks the explorative and visionary dimension that you champion in the New Visionary Cinema. The emphasis placed on political statements can easily tend towards sincere, but superficial messages that privilege sentiment over structural change and could be at home in any ‘Human Resources department’ or superficial political campaign. We (at least on the left of the political spectrum) desperately need a daring counter-culture making provocative and subversive cinema once more.

 

Our very language for thinking about cinema politically seems stultifying. On the one hand, we seem to have a generally accepted political semiology for film interpretation, but each image seems overdetermined. We know how to interpret film. Every image can be decoded and judged on its merits and shortcomings. Through the language of film analysis we are provided with interpretive devices that can help us understand the scene even before we have seen it. There is no question of multiple interpretations, no attempt to explore the phenomenology of the scene, or the context of the film, or even how, empirically, people in their actual life tend to interpret it. Ironically the success of the political film has stunted its growth. In a context where we have suited our film analysis to a world of ‘codes of conduct’ and ‘policy and procedure guidelines’, we have deprived political cinema the power to investigate, to envision and subvert. If political cinema is going to respond to the issues and problems of today I believe it would have many overlaps with your new visionary cinema. It would not seek easy answers to reassure itself that it is right, but attempt to grapple with the problems we face, interrogate them and force us to confront them with sincerity and bravery. Whilst not all of my work is overtly political (some of it is, some of it isn’t), I do, nonetheless wish to avoid retreating from the political. It strikes me that today we need a new visionary political cinema that could run alongside your new visionary cinema, one that is equally challenging, explorative and willing to excavate its subject matter with renewed vitality. Such a cinema, however, may equally struggle in the face of festivals, funding organisations and film criticism.

 

Maybe my interest in the political film sets me slightly apart from this New Visionary Cinema, but this does not mean that I am not enthused about the ideas that shape the pages of Issue 5. Quite the contrary, I hope that this bravery and explorative spirit might seep into more avenues and approaches to filmmaking and cultural production more generally.

*

Finally maybe you could tell me what else is forthcoming from Film Panic and where you see it going in the future.

Film Panic Issue 5 The New Visionary Cinema

Film Panic Issue 5 The New Visionary Cinema

 

DANIEL & CLARA: The next issue is almost ready to print and should be published sometime in the next couple of weeks, it is dedicated to the making of Rouzbeh Rashidi’s latest film Phantom Islands, in which we play the lead roles. This issue will contain excerpts from the diaries we kept while on location for the shoot plus several articles about the film and a new interview with the director. We also have another interview issue in the pipeline which will follow in the coming months. Beyond that we have lots of ideas and a few issues in their early stages. The magazine will no doubt continue to transform and we are not precious about where it goes, for us Film Panic is our public journal and workbook, it is a place to gather our research and document the projects that excite us, so as our work as filmmakers evolves the magazine will too, and it could take us anywhere!

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