Thursday, 16 December 2010

10 from '10

10 films we've had the pleasure of screening this year, a rundown in no particular order, with accompanying future poster quotes and links. get a bag of popcorn and settle in.

Xiu Xiu - House Sparrow by Jason LaRay Keener

This is honestly one of the most original, and disturbing, uses of the music video format we've ever seen, its missing child distress theme matched only by Jason's resourcefulness and the technical imagination displayed in transforming his own neighbourhood into a surreal rolling news nightmare. The finest Reining Nails production yet.

Marriage by Tom Moore & Garry Sykes

Two regular screeners at Pictures nights teamed up this year to move things on a level and produce one of the classic boy meats girl stories, their two distinct styles weaved into a marriage made in heaven.

Heaven by Rita Ribas

Inspired by the death of her family dog, Rita made the film in Abney Park cemetery, a series of snapshot portraits of dogwalkers and their dogs. The owners speak from interviews about whether pets go to heaven and life after death, made all the more poignant by the Hackney beauty spot graveyard setting. As with all of Rita’s films there’s a sense of things passing from physical, familial presences into stories, memories and video.

Romanticulticom IV by Becky Lawn-Darte

Becky strikes out from Bang Wash Productions to produce a romantic comedy about market forces and being hit by a van to a bleached out Righteous Brothers cover. A mystery that's like holding your head underwater in a bath of the sweetest summer syrup.

Pilgrim, Your Heart is a Ball of Light by Molly Allis

Molly's politicised animation (where there's hats there's politics) is more alive than most films, a claustrophobic trip through paranoia town and out the other side, moving further and further towards some hopeful destinations.

Plantagenet 3 - Theme From An Imaginary Western by Charles Chintzer Lai

Post apocalyptic mutant goths Andrew Milk, Rachel Aggs and Quiet Carriage shamble through the landscape and stumble on a mysterious sealed box - an impressively styled video from Charles (who also produces Upset The Rhythm TV and the Trash Kit Cadets video), the bleak tone perfectly fitting the imaginary western soundtrack.

Favourite Songs from Musicals Trilogy 3: Mr. Banks Mashup by Jack Barraclough

The third and best part of Jack's 'Favourite Songs From Musicals' trilogy, hilarious and unexpectedly touching for all it's lo-fi foolish simplicity. The soundtrack from Mary Poppins really was excellent, and only improves with added ketchup gore.

They Look Their Best From Above by Christina Millare

As well as spending much of the year co-curating screening nights as part of the excellent Video Is The Only Constant series, Christina showed this film, an ode to personal biology built around direct visuals, narrative asides and abstract images. Her overview on the qualities of breasts is witty and insightful, a unique perspective.

The Midnight Pen Pal by Emmaalouise Smith

Emmaalouise shoots only on film, processing and editing her super 8 reels by hand to give them a unique sense of craft and authenticity. The Midnight Pen Pal centres around a short poem, the words matched by lyrical colours, kitsch grain and spliced memories. Emmaalouise also runs the Short Film Sessions programme at Rich Mix.

Still Corners - Wish by Lucy Dyson

Dreamy double exposure 16mm sees an apparition of singer Tessa walk through the band and around golden fields, inviting all to join her in ghostly bliss. The sun drenched clip stands as a whistful reminder that another summer has passed by, and to save some nostalgia for next year.

10 - 10 = 0
to show your film at one of our nights in 2011, get in touch.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Rita Ribas

makes mystery documentaries, short time capsules of clues and artefacts that unfold enigmatically through the duration of the films, arriving at the spectres of answers to their own intuitive questions. They’re full of ghosts and and family tales captured on video for posterity. They feel old in the sense that they feel wise, rooted in family history and old painted portraits and maxims from generations past. The films are about religion, ritual and affectionate details of living, death and memories and relations.

Rita’s first film Tia is about her Portugese grandmother, shot in her home as she lays in bed recovering from an unspecified operation, then goes through her house singing, reflecting, telling stories. There’s a sense of wonder in the house and in Tia, as she eats from a box of chocolates named for planets in the solar system or sings about suffering. You get the sense that these details we see and the tales she tells are at the surface of a much deeper pool of memories, and that the house is filled with old and hidden things. Tia opens a secret door and enters a dusty room where a locked case contains her mother’s wedding dress. She takes out the dress as if it’s the answer to the riddle of the film, and holds it to camera - a still portrait that feels more like a painting than a photograph. It has that much more weight.

Both Tia and Being Mother revolve around women in Rita’s family, and both films are composed of interviews and observations. Both films look at the details in the way their subjects live, picking out decorations and crockery, the routine of making tea. Being Mother begins with a wall mounted painting and then Rita’s mother discusses the purpose of her life. She jokes about being constantly busy. Both films are touchingly affectionate, light-hearted even, but at the same time in both there are hints of illness and inescapable reminders that time is passing away. The family dog needed an operation to remove a giant tumour. The father is prescribed pills. Rita’s mother talks about a ritual in which wax replicas are made of a person’s body parts where afflicted by disease or injury, and that the wax models are then kept so that their bearer is healed through faith. She presents a pair of wax hands, but whether these are esoteric curiosities she has come into, or that they belong to herself or her husband, is left open ended and unknown. We get the impressions of stories and of the past through pieces of evidence that speak only for their own existence and their being kept, held on to. Like the wedding dress, the hands feel like an answer, but it’s a subtle and intuitive one that completes the portrait of the film’s subject, and not a central point or big reveal.

The Fire is Rita’s longest film to date at 15 minutes, building on this technique in a much more ambitious way. Through fractured, non-linear footage of a family gathering at a farm in Rita’s Portugal home town, the film tells the story of a huge fire that tragically led to the death of a baby. The film opens again on an object – a lamp that has a small burn hole on its shade. Shots of the generations of the family are again suggestive of painted portraits – in The Fire, some of the family are filmed next to old family paintings (this paralleling of the film screen and canvas is revisited in Rita’s Still Films series of atmospheric landscapes). Photographs and heirlooms are picked out around the house. The rich sense of history lying in the individuals in Tia and Being Mother is multiplied into a whole extended family with pets and children and reminisces. Elderly relatives take turns at telling the story of the fire as children play outside. The film fades to black frequently so that often only their conversation or laughter is heard. The story can only be brought to life when all are assembled here. There is a strong sense of ritual – the family are very religious – in the atmosphere, storytelling and the invocation of the shared memory of that traumatic night. The documentary captures and evokes it perfectly.

Religion and belief are central to Heaven, Rita’s first film not to focus specifically on a single family, although it is equally funny, personal and emotional. It was inspired by the death of her family dog. The film was made in Abney Park cemetery, and is a series of snapshot portraits of dogwalkers and their dogs. The owners speak in voiceover from separately recorded interviews about whether they believe pets go to heaven, how they feel about their dogs. Almost all say they feel like the animals are family members, and their loss would be just as devastating. They meander off into reflections on lost loved ones and life after death, made all the more poignant by the Hackney beauty spot graveyard setting. As with all of Rita’s films there’s a sense of loss, things passing from physical, familial presences into stories, memories and video.

THE PICTURES: What drew you to filmmaking, and documentary filmmaking in particular? Would you say you have any strong influences?

RITA RIBAS: My earliest connection to filmmaking were my father's home-movies and slideshows. Whenever we went on holiday he would make these strange films that were more like experimental/art videos - they always focused on random details, and didn't make much narrative sense - but managed to capture the moments, that often go unnoticed, in a very special way. I guess this is where I started to form my appreciation for observing the world around me and understanding the camera's power to capture the sensations of atmosphere and memory.
Other influences: Werner Herzog (his choice of subjects and approach to documentary), Ulrich Seidl (his juxtaposition of real-life comedy and horror), Errol Morris (specially 'Gates of Heaven' and 'Vernon, Florida') and David Lynch (what would a documentary look like in his hands?). And one film that's recently stuck in my mind is Nikolaus Geyrhalter's documentary 'Our Daily Bread' (for its hypnotic depiction of industrial food production and surreal Kubrick-esque cinematography).

TP: How do you choose the subjects for your films? Do you have a concept in mind and then find a subject, or is it more organic than that?

RR: The film itself is rarely clear in my mind when I'm starting out. It's always a process of feeling in the dark. It starts with an interest in a subject, place or person (things I come across in my everyday, on travels or on the internet), and expands through observation and interaction. Often I only start to make out where the film is going and how it will be shaped after I start interviewing people. So in a way its a bit of a scary process but also very rewarding - I like feeling like a detective, connecting bits and pieces together to make a story - and learning along the way. There is a good quote by Errol Morris; "If you know exactly what you're going to say before you say it, why bother?"

TP: There's a lot of humour in your films, as well as a lot of quite touching elements. They're a lot more emotional, in a very personal way, than a lot of documentary films can be. Where do you think that comes from? Would you say that personal element is really important to your work?

RR: My films explore subjects that are close to me and represent my own perception of the world. I am less concerned with creating an accurate representation and more with evoking the subtleties of lived experience - the sensations and emotions - so this is quite a personal take on documentary and sometimes means 'reality' is treated in a malleable way. I think there's a lot that documentary can learn from fiction. The process of filmmaking is also very personal - discovering new places, meeting people and observing different ways of life - this is what I enjoy the most about making documentaries and I think it shows in the type of films I make.

TP: Your films started off quite small (i don't mean this in a negative way at all) and intimate and have expanded in scope. Was this your intention? Do you find it comes naturally? Where do you hope to take things in future?

RR: My work has definitely evolved - previously I made films that only involved my family, but now I've been engaging with other people - people I don't know. There is so much you can get away with when you're working with family - you know they'll forgive you! Those earlier films were almost like my 'training ground' - I felt safe to experiment with ideas and now I'm ready to go out into the world. But I don't want to loose that sense of intimacy - its something you have to work harder at when you don't initially know someone, but I think its something that comes across when you really care about your subject.

TP:What are you working on at the moment?

RR: I've just received funding from IdeasTap to make a short documentary in my hometown in Portugal. It's about people's devotion to a 'saint' that is not officially recognised by the Catholic church. I will be spending a lot of time in the small shrine where the saint's body is displayed and where people go to pray and to give offerings. Amongst many other things the shrine has received over 6,000 wedding dresses donated by people praying for happy marriages. I'm interested in why they feel the need to pray to the saint and what they get out of it, and I'm also interested in the atmosphere of the shrine.
From The Pictures #4

Sunday, 17 October 2010

PICTURES 2010 06: we're back

With the opening of the new Bardens Cafe (above the old Boudoir), our Underground Film Club is going above ground and following a far too extended summer break, we're rearing to go...

THIS MONTH (it's our second birthday but shhhh)

special feature documentary:
(Bruce LaBruce, 2010, 45 mins)
See what happens when Gaspar Noe visits his friend Korine in Nashville, Tennessee and the two embark on a night of mayhem - visiting a firing range, bothering tourist boards, digging through junkyards and wandering through the Nashville scene. We meet and are treated to performances by all manners of musicians, comedians and local talent, including some familiar faces from Korine's films, but the real attraction is the hilarious rapport between the two enfant terrible directors - a great comedy double act if there ever was one.

As an added bonus, we're chucking in one or two rarely seen HARMONY KORINE SHORTS too.

live music!
A miasma of geometric colour.
"Dwelling in South London, he admits to an affinity with the hauntalogical / glowave that currently gets blogs writing themselves, but hopes it is less 80s in inspiration. He’s not wrong – as titles like ‘Old Garlands’ suggest, his music is darker than mere whimsical nostalgia to a life imagined in faded Polaroids." - theQuietus

This night marks the London launch of issue 4 of our zine, a documentary special featuring interviews with the legendary Frederick Wiseman, the lovely Ondi Timoner (DiG!, We Live In Public) and the amazing Rita Ribas, plus new releases, art, society pages etc.
FREE COPIES FOR FIRST 5 ATTENDEES, half price thereafter for tonight only!

DIY Movies, musicals and musings with and by
& more

as ever, FREE POPCORN and the new cafe serves food too

Wednesday 3rd Nov, 7.30-11
BARDENS CAFE (above the old Bardens Boudoir), Stoke Newington Road, Dalston N16 7XJ
Doors at 7.30, films start at 8pm PROMPT
of course FREE ENTRY

feels good to be back kids.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Frederick Wiseman

From The Pictures #4, available now / photo by Gretje Ferguson

“The end result has to feel like a gift to the public that they can receive without explanation.” – Executive Committee Member, La Danse

Frederick Wiseman is the greatest documentary maker in film history. If you don’t believe us, that only means you haven’t seen his films. In his almost 50-year career he has trained his film camera on institutions ranging from mental hospitals (Titicut Follies), welfare departments (Welfare), courts (Domestic Violence I & II) and hospices (Near Death) to New York Central Park (Central Park) and the Paris Opera Ballet (La Danse, UK released last month). In each film, through a series of stripped down, self explanatory scenes, he explores the minutae of life within an institution or system, taking in the activities, conflicts, distress and triumphs of the people who reside in and occupy the place. His films are marked by their complete lack of narration, title cards, interviews to camera or discernable characters, but are filled with situations, stories and drama and fragments of lives. In the same way the ballet dancers in La Danse are taught to place all significance on every minute movement of each individual muscle, each movement contributing to the dance as a whole, these fragments and scenes build up into a complex, immersive portrait of their subject. The presence of a filmmaker in any of these scenes is invisible, and the openness and intimacy on display is almost unmatched in documentary. No-one is acting up, nothing is staged, no complexities are removed for the sake of offering explanations to (patronising) the audience. The films feel honest and disarmingly real in a way that few documentaries (any film even) ever do. A film by Frederick Wiseman is a perfect document, taking the viewer inside the subject matter, letting us experience a place first hand as if we’re standing at his side.

In spite of his relative obscurity, Wiseman’s influence is widely felt. He is often called the godfather of documentary. The Wire/Treme co-creator David Simon describes himself as “working in the tradition of Frederick Wiseman”. Wiseman’s film about the marine corps, Basic Training, was taken, near shot for shot, as the basis for the first half of Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket.

His first documentary was instantly banned. Titicut Follies (released 1967) is bleak, a study of an American hospital for the criminally insane, the title taken from the macabre annual talent show put on by the residents. The film opens at this talent show as a group of patients, on stage and in marching band uniforms, wave pom-poms and sing “Strike Up The Band” in nervous flat unison. Wiseman’s camera moves in to look at the faces of the singers and each man is revealed, conflict written on every fascinating face. One is a mixture of nerves and distraction, nodding to himself as he counts his choreographed dance moves, still practising the dance as he performs it. One is a dead ringer for Fred Astaire, putting his heart into it. The sunken eyes of another man beam with pride as the song concludes, he smiles, oddly childlike with his cap tipped backwards, and the singers take a bow. A suited man, presumably one of the wardens, takes the stage and tells a couple of jokes before the next act, to roaring laughter from the crowd. The film cuts to a patient, skin and bones, undressing for examination.

The talent show is a sorry sight no doubt, but the men performing are not shown up as a sideshow spectacle, nor are they our characters - this is not the beginning of their journey to rehabilitation, we learn nothing more about them. This film is not their story. We see the men as part of the institution, and we can both identify with them and feel repulsed in this moment but, denied any continuity or development and onto the next one, moments are all we have, moments collaged by Wiseman into a deep and lasting impression of the film’s real character – the institution itself. We’re not here to pass judgements or draw conclusions on individuals, we’re here to experience every intimate corner of the big picture. There’s no linear progression and no talking head justifications distract us. Through his alert and wide open eyes, Wiseman simply presents us with the reality of the situation as he observed it, and that is enough. His great talent is in making us feel that we’re right there with him. This is documentary in its purest form.

So we see the abusive guards, the overworked doctors determined to help, the inmates masturbating in corners, the scores of sick men wandering in circles around a gym hall, mumbling, shouting, ticking nervously to themselves, building in one seemingly endless scene into something unbearable. Wiseman’s films have a musical quality – the filmmaker handles all of the sound design, and the editing is very deliberate. Hundreds of hours are often lost to the cutting room floor as the director shapes the material into what he considers a fair and authentic representation of his experiences, each film the story of a place. In this way his films are diaries, not unlike those of Jonas Mekas, chronicling his observations of each place or institute and the people within.

For Titicut Follies, these observations were deemed unseemly by the nervous medical and judiciary authorities of the time. Their concerns over the privacy of the patients were matched by concerns (particularly on the part of the institute used in filming) that the material in the film would cause a public outcry. However, while kept from the public, the film was screened in elite academic circles and to professionals with interests in the field, themselves not immune from the feelings of shock and anger that Titicut Follies inspires. The film played a large part in the wide ranging reform of the mental health system in America and, in 1991, by now a historical document, Titicut Follies was eventually cleared for public broadcast.

The film, like all of Wiseman’s documentaries, has been screened in the United States on the publicly funded PBS channel, which is also a frequent funder of his work. From Titicut Follies onwards, all of his films have been rigidly independent, all rights owned by Zipporah Films, his own production company (who kindly granted us the use of their stills archive for this issue) who also sell DVDs and distribute prints of his work, the takings from which fund future films. This strict independence aside though, Wiseman refuses to be drawn on the potential political implications of his films, preferring to present them as self explanatory and leaving any inference to the viewer.

This is an unusual position given the impact of Titicut Follies and the definitive way that many of his films, from his second feature High School onwards, are presented. They are named as definite articles – Law and Order, Hospital, Juvenile Court, Domestic Violence – so that this High School stands for any high school in the country; this Hospital is a representative, almost scientific, example for study, analysis and conclusions to be drawn. Within this wide variety of places, themes and situations often recur – injustice, abuse of power, poverty, suffering and sickness. So in Juvenile Court we’re party to back room barrister discussions and offender’s family conferences. In Law and Order we see police authority misused. Muddled beaurocracies and deliquents in High School. Equally though there are insightful, determined teachers and energised students. There are comic OTT hippies freaking out and vomiting on their first acid trip. There are repentant criminals and tireless nurses and loving marriages, all seen as moments within any system put before the camera.

To see only the altruistic, protest side of the films is to misunderstand Wiseman’s grand project and to ignore the fact that for every Domestic Violence there’s a Model, for every Blind there’s a Central Park. Any sense of discomfort and outrage arising from the films occurs only because it exists to be filmed in the first place, living under and on the surface of any situation or system, waiting to be manifested by a documentary lens. To call Wiseman a political filmmaker would undermine the scope of his work. Just as each scene in his films builds the larger picture of an institution, each of Wiseman’s films is a piece of a much larger picture and a much larger project, to experience and observe civilisation in the late 20th and early 21st centuries by way of its institutions, its shared rituals and its rites of passage. In Near Death, the terminally ill say their last goodbyes. In Department Store, baby boomers flock in their optimistic thousands to buy their own little piece of progress. In Belfast, Maine, an entire town is put in front of the lens.

Often when audiences see his films for the first time they mistake the keen observation and quiet camerawork for something approaching objectivity. But watching Wiseman’s films in a linked light, the similarities and connections become all the more apparent, not just in the rhythms and style of filmmaking, but in the conversations and ideas picked up and noticed by the camera in every situation, in the values that he finds in each location. Seeing the films in this way, Frederick Wiseman is betrayed as the second character, after the institution, in all of his films. We experience his documentary through his eyes, his subjective observations. The fact that these observations are so nuanced, so insightful and relevant is testament to his skill and the harmony between the man and the medium. Wiseman is the silent storyteller, totally dedicated to his grand project. It’s why we call him the greatest documentary maker in film history. The man and the films are indistinguishable - Frederick Wiseman is documentary.

Re: Questions from British journalist

1. Having trained as a lawyer, what made you change course and become a filmmaker? Was it a longstanding interest, were you inspired by any particular contemporaries? Do you see parallels between documentary work and legal work?


2.Do you consider yourself a political filmmaker, in the sense that many of your films present places and situations that many people would not otherwise experience, and so would remain unaware of the issues affecting those places (Titticut Follies being perhaps the most obvious example of this)? To what extent do your personal views influence the context of the films?


3.Stylistically, your films are often labelled 'objective', 'cinema verite' and so on. Would you agree with this? How do you feel about the huge trend in modern documentary making for message-led films?


4.You retain the rights to all of your films and use public funding to make them. Has this ever affected the content of the films, has there ever been an outside, funding related influence in the filmmaking process?


5.How long does a film typically take? Is there usually an adjustment period for your subjects to become comfortable with the filming, or is it an instant thing? Is there anything you yourself particularly do to make people more comfortable with filming?


6.Have you ever had a negative response from potential subjects, even a dangerous reaction to your enquiries? Do you find that, in the modern, internet influenced world, with a lot of people projecting personalities onto social networking sites, image consciousness, that the people you film with are any more self conscious than they used to be, or make any more effort to project something other than their everyday selves?


7.Do you ever develop a relationship with your subjects that continues once the film is completed? Where does Frederick Wiseman's experience end and the film begin?


8.Many of your films, including your latest, are made on 16mm.Is this purely an aesthetic choice?


9.What prompted your interest in the Paris Opera Ballet?


10.What are you working on at the moment?


NB: Wiseman clips are difficult to locate online, owing to his reliance on takings from Zipporah Films' releases of the DVDs to fund future productions (Zipporah is Wiseman's company). Visit for details of how to obtain Wiseman's work.

Saturday, 14 August 2010



Dear Picturegoers,

So, much as we don't want to even think about it, the football starting again is a surefire and horrible sign that autumn's on it's way. The massive upside of this though is that our little film night will be starting up again!

We have a month or so to go just yet, and all details will be revealed in time, but for now we're renewing our CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS for films and videos and any other visual weirdness for screening. Anything and everything you've made is most welcome, or if you have any friends might want to show their work, do send the link along. There's no deadline on this, as nights are ongoing, but for our first night you should probably have your stuff to us by mid September.

we've seen some amazing budding underground filmmakers these past couple of years, and are really looking forward to seeing more of what you've all got. get in touch (either by comment or e-mail)!

The other news is that our new zine is available now (direct from us) and will be in shops over the next couple of weeks. It's our Documentary Issue, has expanded a 4 whole pages on past issues, and features interviews with the legendary Frederick Wiseman (Titicut Follies), the lovely Ondi Timoner (DiG!, We Live In Public) and one of our favourite screenees/new documentary makers, Rita Ribas, plus info on new films, things to watch online, photos, society pages and more. It'll set you back 2 of your british pounds (plus postage if you're in another country), or look out for it in Rough Trade, Donlon Books and other shops over the next couple of weeks.

See you soon!
The Pictures xo

Garry Sykes

By Max Renn. From The Pictures #2, August 2009

Garry's films are like home video artefacts, implicitly viewed from some future (or past) perspective. Dated lo-fi collages of found footage, home documentary and noise, their narrators speak in past (or future) tense and talk in eventualities, influences and paths taken that led to their present, off camera and invisible state. The films display an obsession with recording things that will fade and documenting disappearing moments, be they literal as in 21, contrasting photographs of his grandmother at age twenty-one with footage of his sister at the same age, or more figurative, mental states of optimism and youth that give way to compromise or are abandoned as time moves on. Parallels are often drawn between the characters and movie stars, stars that age and fade and are remembered by their blank younger portraits. The narrators of Karaoke and Camera Lucy are absent presences, talking of the times before they fell away and of the idealism they knew they'd lose.

The elements of the collage conspire to give the films the impression of memory. The soundtracks, noisy adn layered with static become elegaic and warm. Esoteric, fast cut images pinpoint details of locations and times while the larger picture remains evasive. The video itself is aesthetically cheap and constitutes a conscious recording. Garry also produces a poster to accompany each film, again highlighting each as an artefact, an object. The narratives are only related in fragments and incomplete consequences of some unseen relationship or encounter. These narratives are often dark, dealing in power plays that start as romance, acceptances of inevitabilities and defeats and addictions, seduced into losing control and failing to hold on to the very things the film is trying to document and preserve. A frequent reference point is Invasion Of The Body-snatchers. "Here lie some failed revolutions" says Alice Saint at the close of Karaoke, "buried by love".

But they are not necessarily despairing. The elements that compose the collages - dances, fireworks, parties, balloons and magic tricks - are celebratory as well as fleeting. The unstages sequences in the films are often affectionate home movies of friends, diary footage. The staged set pieces feature dancing and costume. Time passing is a constant feature, but even as the characters lose themselves, something is preserved in the images and their repetitions. The dream of city romance never dies even when most efforts towards it fail.

The narrator in Ecstasy, who had a dream about the future, relays a message from that time - that when everyone tells you things will go wrong, they go wrong. In instructing not to listen they voice a rare note of defiance within one of the films while so much else is submission. This defiance is always externally present, in the act of recording moments and in the characters and images as they dance into the dark.

THE PICTURES: What made you want to make films? When did you realise you could do it yourself?

GARRY SYKES: i wanted to be a photographer or writer or in a band, all that stuff, but i'm a mediocre photographer, i have difficulty writing at any length, nothing ever gets finished, and i can't really play any instrument or sing for shit, but making films, these kinds of films, maybe combines what i like about those other things, and just seems to fit. when i saw films by people like Vivienne Dick or Jonas Mekas, the whole thing suddenly seemed really accessible. i liked how you could say things in your own way, like there were lots of possiblities maybe.

TP: What influences your films?

GS: i like lots of those older underground filmmakers. i like how film is a lot like music, the way you can keep digging and find new things, there are always new things. i really like Harmony Korine, Bela Tarr, i like Godard a lot, especially the 60s films, like girls and politics. i like music a lot too, maybe that's more influential than films. maybe i'm just frustrated to be such a shitty musician. and just little things you pick up on that have resonance. all the moon landing stuff lately, and how sad it is we didn't go further. i'm starting a campaign for a manned mission to Mars.

TP: Why the interest in stars?

GS: i really want to have a star system! a better star system. a star system of my very own. i've always really liked the Hollywood star system, maybe when it was a bit more interesting, and Hollywood Babylon is one of my favourite books. and it does still throw up the odd Lindsay Lohan. like, i'm usually not affected at all by celebrity deaths, and haven't even listened to Michael Jackson much since being 15, but when he died it seemed really powerful. he was the most famous man in the world, up there with Mickey Mouse and Coca Cola, and before all the scandal and everything that was just for being an entertainer. that's worth something i think.

TP: How important is music to your filmmaking?

GS: it's really important, but usually the soundtrack is the last thing that gets added, and it's a case of asking a friend who makes music, and lots of my friends make really great music, so there's always something that'll work and then it becomes a part of things. except for Karaoke, we recorded a whole soundtrack for it with the actors and some friends and Daniel Jones producing it. it's a real shame a lot of it got cut out when i realised the film needed to be a lot shorter. we'd recorded three songs and everything but only one ended up in the final version. some people got to see the long version, with all the songs, but in the end i didn't like it. i'd really like to do more original soundtrack stuff in future. i want to make more musicals.

TP: What's next?

GS: there's a couple of things when this zine is finished. everything i've done so far has been a bit limite by the equipment to hand, just a crappy DV camera, which is fine, but it sort of puts a restriction on the number of people who can stand to watch. i'd really like to borrow a better camera from work or somewhere and make something that looks a bit better. i've got a couple of super 8 cameras i've been playing with too and maybe make some proper documentaries, and maybe something longer would be nice too, but maybe that's a couple of years away. there's definitely a lot of work to do.

Monday, 2 August 2010


Following last year's triumphant night at Edinburgh's Bowery, The Pictures is back in Edinburgh for festival time with a night of the deepest, dingiest underground cinema from now stretching back 100 years, and fresh new DIY movies from around the country and beyond, including high and lowlights of the past year of London nights.

Including short films, music videos, skits and visual weirdness by and/or featuring -


plus ***ZINE LAUNCH***
be first to read the new issue of our zine, a documentary special featuring an interview with legendary documentarian Frederick Wiseman, plus Ondi Timoner (DiG!, We Live In Public) and Rita Ribas and loads more. Free zines for first 5 attendees!

plus ***GAMES***
with amazing prizes
& music & dancing til late


Saturday, 31 July 2010

Xiu Xiu - House Sparrow / Jason LaRay Keener

this is excellent - Jason LaRay Keener's new video for the Xiu Xiu track House Sparrow, genuinely one of the most original and distinctive videos we've seen in a long time, disturbing and moving in equal measure. To say more would be to reveal too much, you really need to watch it here:

we interviewed Jason about his earlier shorts back in issue 3.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

We Love Happy Endings

From The Pictures #3

Happy Endings Productions Ltd. is the baby of Eva-Marie Elg (Emie), one fo the most versatile and ambitious filmmakers we know. Emie made her first film at home in Sweden at the age of 7. In 2003 she moved to London and quickly got to work writing, directing and producing a string of short films and animations that have screened at festivals (both in and out of competition) and events internationally.

Emie's first London film, ICHIAI (2003) cast a group of friends and acquaintances in an exploration of loneliness and distraction in a country that is at war half way round the world. She followed this with a short documentary, A Trail of Pictures (2005), that followed London street artist Ben Wilson, viewable on the 4Docs and BBC Film Network sites.

In 2006 she founded Happy Endings to release her own films and to produce work by other filmmakers, returning to writing and directing duties with Recognise Myself (2006), a film about memory, relationships and self that was nominated for Best International Short at festivals in Germany, Poland, Hungary, Finland and the USA, and won the Bronze Clip prize at the German Jugend Medien Festival. The fully fledged production company followed this up with Sleeping and Dreaming of Food (2008), Happy Ending's first foray into animation - a surreal and dreamy collaboration with comic artist Kolbeinn Karlsson - and their most ambitious project to date, Suburban Madness (2009).

Executive produced by Emie and directed by Phllip Figueroa, the documentary was filmed in Brazil and follows the patients of a psychiatric institute as they participate in the annual Rio carnival. Emie produced the project from London while the director was in the field, and the film had its premiere last year at Dalston's own Rio Cinema, receiving widespread praise. In the meantime, Happy Endings have found themselves at Cannes, produced a range of t-shirts, and Emie has been nominated for a major scholarship by the Stockholm Film Festival. To date entirely self funded, the work of Emie and Happy Endings is a testament to DIY spirit and determination which, going forward, Emie has in bundles.

THE PICTURES: When did you start Happy Endings Productions? What is your position within the group?

EMIE: I founded Happy Endings Productions Ltd. in 2006, the same year I was making the short film Recognise Myself. I am the owner and company director. We then collaborate with others in the field of film, art, music and theatre to develop projects within the company.

TP: Did you feel like establishing a group straight away was the way to go? Did you consider working solo, as Emie, before starting Happy Endings?

E: I started out making films on my own, without a company, but in 2006 I felt the time was right to take it to a new level and learn the business side of film-making. One of the things that motivates me the most about being an independent filmmaker is that it's not enough to write and make exceptional films, you also need to be a business/wo/man, promoter, accountant and many other roles. I love the idea of making film independently and Happy Endings is really just an extension of Emie. The two main reasons for starting up a limited company was to separate my money from the company's funds and to become eligible for more funding opportunities. Sayign that, all our projects so far have been self-funded, but I'm hoping to get into the routine of applying for funds before heading straight into production.

TP: Your output so far has been very varied. Do you have a particular style or aesthetic you prefer, or is working in different styles important to you?

E: I think it's important to try different things before people label you as a certain kind of director and you'll find yourself stuck in a genre. I like to surprise an audience with very different films and I admire other directors who take risks and work with different styles, genres and formats. It's normally during the writing process I often see images that I'll later try to capture and these images decide the style of the film. So the style tend to play a big part in my initial idea.

TP: Do you have a favourite out of the films you've produced so far?

E: I'm extremely proud of the documentary I produced, Suburban Madness, which dealt with a very controversial subject in the most colourful and amazing way. As for my favourite film, I'd like to say the short I wrote and spent the summer directing. I'm yet to see the rough cut though, so I can't be certain. The film, the way I see it in my mind, is the best I've ever made but won't know for sure until I see it edited. I quite like letting the editor put together a rough cut first, so that the first time I watch the film I'm completely open-minded to the edit but with my intiial vision of the story still intact. From this point the final cut can be perfected, but I find that watching every take and every phrase of teh editing can be very distracting and it makes you lose focus on the story you're trying to portray.

TP: Sleeping and Dreaming of Food was based on a what extent did you collaborate with the comic artist on the film? How did it all come about?

E: Kolbeinn Karlsso, the comic artist, and I first met in 1998 and we've stayed in touch throughout the years. As soon as I read his first comic I wanted to try to collaborate on a project and luckily he was dead up for it. So we started collaborating by sending things by post, e-mail and over the internet between Sweden and England. Kolbeinn involved the Swedish band Kallioinia to do the soundtrack and it worked out really well! Last week the film received an honorary mention at Uppsala International Short Film Festival in Sweden and the film will screen again at Stockholm Film Festival in November.

TP: Suburban Madness seems like a very big project. How did you become involved in it, and how did you work on it from such a distance? Will there be more screenings?

E: This project was born behind the counter at The Gate Cinema in Notthing Hill, where I worked for many years. Philipp Figueroa, the project's director, was a part-time projectionist and he told me about the Brazilian mental institution and that he wanted to go and make a film over there. Pretty much instantly I got involved as the UK producer. The whole crew, apart from the Brazilian producer, still photographer and sound guy are based in London so they all flew over in time for the carnival with another ex-colleague of ours, Carlos Fialho, who's from Portugal and has a background in journalism. Everyone chipped in to make this film, so hopefully we'll make our money back at some point. We held the premiere at The Rio Cinema here in Dalston and we've submitted the film to festivals, but no more screenings are confirmed as yet.

TP: And what about your new short? When will we be able to see it?

E: My latest short, The Theory, is in post-production but will hopefully be available before Christmas. We'll definitely have a premiere screening, so join our facebook group of ours and you'll get an invite. The film deals with the subject of loneliness amongst grown-ups. We follow a man in his '60s who's looking back at the mistakes he made to end up like this. We set the film in 1975 and late 50s, with great thanks to Nick at fantasticmundane who gathered the antiques and props for the set.

TP: In practical terms, how do you see Happy Endings developing. Like, have you found funding in the past, or are you on the verge of anything like that? Do you even think there's a point where that sort of DIY mode of production ends and 'proper' production beings, or is it all part of the same path?

E: In the past I've always been to impatient to apply for funding once I've got a script ready for pre-production, I rather jump straight into getting the film made. However, I'm currently one of ten directors nominated for a big Swedish scholarship called 1km Film at Stockholm Film Festival. Just the nomination in itself is big, but in the unlikely circumstance that I should in fact win this scholarship, I'd definitely take a big leap towards a more professional career where I might actually earn a minimum salary as a director. Then there's another massive leap to actually earning good money on making films, but that's not something that particularly interests me as a director. The bigger the industry around a production, the harder it is to stick to the original path you followed when you started out. Just look at Michael Moore, the inquisitive average man gone millionnaire filmmaker, who's now made a film about Capitalism, which is bordering on laughable. I hope he turns the camera to himself to make a point, if not it'll be as contradictive as an anti-fur protestor wearing leather. Saying that, I think it's important to hold onto your style, beliefs and origin when you move forward in your career. Especially when you're moving into big budgets. But there's no reason why anyone should earn more money than they can spend in a lifetime. In any business.

TP: So what are you working on next?

E: After the success we've had with Sleeping and Dreaming of Food, me and Kolbeinn are working on another project. This time we won't base it on one of his comics, but make an animation with an original story by Kolbeinn. He's developing the concept and he's told me it'll be a very grey, but also very colourful story. I'm excited to see what he comes up with.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

So it goes

It might've come to your attention that Bardens Boudoir, our amazing home for these past two years, is closing its cellar doors on July 1st.

The closing party is gonna be hosted by Upset The Rhythm (so it started, so it shall finish), with bands playing including The Human Race and Covergirl (Bloody Knees/Trash Kit et al supergroup). Make sure you get down there to mark what really is the end of an era for Dalston and the east. Nowhere else came close, we'll miss you terribly Bardens.

it's not all sad though. in other news:

- The Pictures zine #4 will be available early July from the usual outlets, a documentary special including interviews with Frederick Wiseman and Ondi Timoner among others - we're pretty convinced it's the best issue to date, really going for the next level of this kind of thing.

- The Pictures night is going on a UK (European?) tour this August! Details sketchy at present but keep your eyes peeled for dates in a town maybe vaguely within 100 miles of you. More on this as and when.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

You know what a love letter is?

It's a bullet from a fucking gun.


Wednesday, 19 May 2010


from The Pictures #3 / illustration by Tom Moore

After almost a decade in soul searching cinematic limbo, Harmony Korine returned in 2007 with Mister Lonely. The film was an unexpected departure – at least on the surface – from the nihilistic, fragmented collages of films like Gummo and julien donkey-boy, films that made his name and established his reputation as a cinematic provocateur. Where the previous films were lo-fi and improvised, Mister Lonely was glossy technicolour, location sequences and complex effects. Where his older films were bleak, revelling in carnival grotesquery and desire to shock, Mister Lonely was occasionally hopeful, at times even sentimental. Reaction was mixed, and some wondered if a clean Korine had lost his bite.

Heads were turned, then, with the recent announcement that his latest feature, Trash Humpers, was already completed and would be released imminently. Shot on obsolete VHS and edited in a matter of weeks, the film was prominently billed as “a return” to Korine’s earlier aesthetic, even dubbed ‘Gummo 2’ by one French site. Following the exploits of a gang of elderly anarchists who smash up the scenery, harrass locals, tell offensive jokes, tap dance and, as the title suggests, fuck rubbish bins, the film (and initially, for want of screenings, the film’s high concept) was seen by some as a direct response to the vast scale of Mister Lonely – another intense reaction from an engrained reactionary, a film even more degraded, base and impudent than his early work.

However, just as Mister Lonely was less a departure from the philosophy of Gummo and julien donkey-boy than was at first apparent, Trash Humpers is more a small step forward than back, a minimal production that has more in common with its multi-million dollar predecessor than the films made a decade ago.

Both films have us join up to a gang of outsiders, celebrity impersonators or anti-social OAPs who have cut themselves off from their surroundings. The same could be argued for the earlier films, but there is much more of a sense in those films that the outcast characters belong to a similarly abjected community within the world of the film, a community within which they are accepted and play their roles. In contrast, the central character of Michael in Mister Lonely confesses his confused isolation in voiceovers. The trash humper Herv (the cameraman, played by Korine) delivers a monologue about the despair that lives in the routine of the community around him – going to work, raising families in their image, wasting time. The characters are speaking with the same voice, the same language and tones, undoubtedly the voice of the film’s author.

Michael seeks solace in impersonating Michael Jackson, “being someone else”, while the trash humpers find theirs in chaos and destruction, recorded in one long CKY-as-elderly-psychopaths home video. Between stunts they catch up with other subcultural crazies - a schoolboy preacher who sermonises while hammering a doll’s face, conjoined twin chefs (joined at the head). An alcoholic telling endless racist sexist jokes with no punchlines makes a guest appearance. Often the trash humpers murder their companions, though we only get to see the VHS grained corpses and are not a party to the killings.

The idea to construct the film as a found curiosity - a discarded VHS tape, a film as a time capsule – has echoes of Godard’s Weekend, and like in Weekend, is used more as a device of narrative and atmosphere than a pure concept. The home video looks crude, washed out and slightly decayed, coming across equal parts creepy and familiar. Tracking lines and VCR actions appear on screen, and are used stylistically as well as functionally. At one point, ‘REW’ appears and the tape seems to rewind, though only for a second or two, resuming in a new and unseen position that would not be found on a real tape. And VHS home videos were never played in cinemas. Their format was not intended to be blown up and projected on this scale. In doing this, Trash Humpers is every bit as much a ‘film’ as Mister Lonely.

The blown up VHS picture continually distorts, sometimes phasing in and out of abstraction, sometimes approaching poetic. The continual atonal laughter of the cameraman is unsettling verging on inhuman. The alien lives of the trash humpers are enthralling and repellant. Their infectious sense of freedom almost always gives way to dark manic episodes and woozy inertia. From the home video perspective we join in the revelrie and carnage and going too far. We’re made to laugh right out of our comfort zones and into a much darker place underneath the trash humper’s mask. The video stands as proof, a rememberance and evidence.

In Mister Lonely, Michael finds his utopia in a Highland commune for impersonators, far removed from the world, benign and in all ways fulfilling. Trash Humpers is another film about idealism and idealised worlds – idealism giving rise to rejection, building utopia by destroying. Michael’s dreams are shattered, but those of the trash humpers remain. There are no consequences for their actions within their home video world and it’s difficult to imagine any outside of it – they are totally self contained and self sufficient, and in a lot of ways very American.

Harmony Korine has jokingly described himself as “the most American director making movies today”, and this feels like something that has come to the fore in has last two features, much more so than his earlier, more European influenced work. Mister Lonely was about a man outside of his country, while Trash Humpers is about people who are very much at home, but the concerns in the films are identity and ideals and the search for both. In both films, the clarity of Korine’s voice shines through. The characters are pro-active and even motivational where in the older films they were observed. This nervous energy and compulsion to do something, anything, that brings a greater authenticity, a more intense and true experience into life – is no longer something that Korine just talks about in statement of intent interview questions, but something which, in recent years, has made its way into the fabric of his films as well.

Friday, 23 April 2010

it's a small world afterall

The compilation of Andy Kaufman clips we screened at our night this week. Enjoy!

Tuesday, 13 April 2010


1: LiLo

(from zine issue 3)

When I found out that Lilo was sleeping with Samantha Ronson, I thought: there goes that last remaining barrier. Lindsay likes women. What possible excuse could Lindsay have for not liking me? And when they split up, I had that thought again: case closed. She likes women, and she's single, and she's clearly unhappy alone - the only thing standing between us is the fact that we haven't met yet. This sort of grand delusion could, in a man, seem sad, sinister, dangerous (apart from your garden variety miserable losers and misogynists, you've got crazed stalkers, violent criminals, and let's not forget the would be presidential assassin who did it all for love of Jodie Foster. (Which reminds me, Jodie Foster more than merits a why-won't-she-sleep-with-me column). But I decided that, in a woman like me, it could easily be disguised as whimsical charm. In the attempt to pass off my egotistical Lilomaniac disorder as a lovable quirk, I had three major things going for me. #1 I look, for the most part, nonthreatening. #2 I'm too lazy to take any stalkerlike action in the realm of real life (or anywhere else outside my own bedroom). And the clincher: #3 I didn't actually tell anyone about it.

I've now decided two things is enough. I'm coming clean about LL, and about all the other objects of my desire who couldn't possibly be less obscure. I'm going to tell you about them because the egotistical element of my condition has at least begun to wear off, and I have realised this:
- Lindsay Lohan et al are never going to sleep with me
- there is nothing I can do except whine
- whining is something I really, really can do.

I begin with Lindsay because she really does contain multitudes - she's younger than me, born in 1986, and yet she has been so many women already, and I've found a way, dutifully, painstakingly, to fall in love with each one. Even by the standards of movie stars, even by those of recovering child stars (and ex-child stars should have a why-won't-they-sleep-with-me subcategory of their own [hello again, Jodie]), LL moved in record time from exuberant redheaded strength to Firecrotch faux-trash to half-cracked late-Marilyn blonde (Oh, MM! If anyone deserves a spinoff, it surely must be the ranks and ranks of Dead Movie Stars Who Won't Sleep With Me).

She is so many of my fixations, incarnate. In my mind's eye all those iterations are entangled, messily mapped onto one another, most of all her open, resilient, beaming Mean Girls smile superimposed on those Vanity Fair shots - that breakable woman moving delicately, barely lifting her heavy lids, naked but hidden under layers of impersonation (of Monroe, of herself) or wrapped in wool as if she might freeze, even there on the hot beach. That quality of letting people see too little and too much of her at once is what most makes a movie star. It's why I usually can't fall for someone if she (of he, but they don't make male stars like they used to, so I'll save the boys for my Dead column) is too good an actor. So often with a real star you can look straight through the part and see the woman trapped inside; or she bursts through the script like a movie monster; or the character thins to nothing as the star becomes remote, chills you, endlessly retreats. Each of these can be magical, but none is acting. LL should have been disqualified from this column simply on grounds of competence, but like Marilyn she gets round it because although she really can act, she frequently doesn't (even on those now rare occasions when she appears in films), and those warring LL personae threaten to overwhelm all else.

LL is also one in a long line of my fantasy beloveds with well-documented daddy troubles. Why these should inspire such longings I can't say. Again, this rare small advantage of non-manhood saves me - not only can I make Lilo-in-lingerie my desktop image even at work with barely a disapproving glance, but I can admit to loving her partly for the woundedness without counting myself a predator looking for an easy mark. After all, these lost Hollywood Electras are by definition such a forbiddingly heteronormative bunch - LL's brief conversion notwithstanding - that they'd top the list of stars who don't want me without even trying. In any case, LL's public sufferings, though long years of victim-worship have trained me to appreciate them, to respond with tenderness and renewed devotion, can't stop me missing the old Lilo, the one whose faint image still flickers about every gossip page I see her smeared across. So many Lindsays and yet always one; she's torn to shreds and yet she rises up; she's overexposed and yet unfathomable: Rumsfeld might call her a known unknown. But, godless though I am, I should stop short of blasphemy. Her artifice is all the more beguiling because it isn't quite successful - you can't see where it begins and ends but you can certainly see what it does. Watching her fall, of course, had a force and intensity of its own, and made it easier to imagine she might change her mind and sleep with me after all, but I'd trade that mirage any day for one more movie starring freckled insouciant LL with that hair and the American teeth and the wide-open eyes.

Monday, 12 April 2010

2010 04 Pictures Night

andy kaufman died for your sins / andy kaufman lives


and on that Tuesday you will see:

best known as Latka in Taxi/for being played by Jim Carrey in Man On The Moon/for having an R.E.M. song written about him, Andy Kaufman was a stand-up comedian-cum-performance artist-cum-song and dance man whose impossible to categorise act has won him a huge and well deserved cult following over the years. His exploits are far too many to go into here but career highlights include holding the International Women's Wrestling championship (and touring the country challenging any who thought themselves woman enough to try and take it back), playing the bongos in Carnegie Hall, playing with Johnny Cash, and potentially faking his own death. Tonight we spend some time with the man behind the moon, with (very rare) sketches, shorts and best loved Kaufman performances as well as excerpts from the documentaries I'M FROM HOLLYWOOD and ANDY KAUFMAN MIDNIGHT SPECIAL.


Another great enigma, arguably the first person to ever use a special effect on film, Melies was the celluloid magician, creating visual trickeries that really have lost none of their magic even though created as early as 1898. We pay tribute with a selection of classic shorts.


Shirani of The Super Shirani Nitemare Band returns with a new project, Citizens Of The Universe - moody, emotional and raw pop hooks with nods to Leonard Cohen, Lee & Nancy along the way.


PORTALS by GIRL MOUNTAIN - video by Ambrose Yalley/LIVE SOUNDTRACK by Girl Mountain
The new Girl Mountain video Portals by Ambrose Yalley, with Mr. Mountain himself crafting a live soundtrack. This is a Pictures first, and something we hope to do a lot of. Promises noise and chaos.


Festival warm-up show...incessant gabble and hiss & you're allowed to dance


Lawn-Darte & Steele

Still Corners/Garry Sykes - premiere of the new STILL CORNERS video


our BODYCOUNT GAME bows out with a massacre (maybe) & cool prizes as per




Thursday, 25 March 2010

Sunday, 14 March 2010

2010 Pictures 3


Planting one squarely in Mr. Burton's eye, tonight we take a look at those who've journeyed down rabbit holes and lived to tell the tale. Featuring:

LICK THE STAR (Sofia Coppola, 15mins)
The Lost In Translation director's first film takes us into a world of bitchy high school poison plots and hidden notes in the classroom. Great soundtrack for a short too - Free Kitten, Shonen Knife...

I, AN ACTRESS and HOLD ME WHEN I'M NAKED (George Kuchar, 25mins)
This is REAL underground film, from one of the two brothers Kuchar - camp, disturbing, hilarious and raw, these are two of the finest excerpts from over half a century of Wonderland exploration. A rare treat.

Coming to us from Lewisham where they reside with a ghost and a cat, Columbus & Crusoe meld perfect folk-tinged songwriting (think Bill Callahan, Silver Jews) with your modern city life, and share members with luminaries like Trash Kit, Holly & Jessika, The Madrigals...

POLICE STATE (Nick Zedd, 15 mins)
In Zedd's case Wonderland is a cell and the mad hatter's tea party spells only brutality in this abrasive short from one of the key figures (alongside the likes of Richard Kern) in the Cinema of Transgression.

ALICE IN WONDERLAND (Cecil M. Hepworth, 10 mins)
The very first adaptation of Alice on the silver screen that has, you know, a plot and everything. We might take a look at one or two other past screen incarnations too.

THE ROUNDERS (Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle, 15 mins)
starring CHARLIE CHAPLIN & ROSCOE ARBUCKLE in a rare appearance together, soundtrack selection by The Ludovico Technique

plus DIY shorts by
& more

our ever popular BODYCOUNT GAME, free to play and with cool prizes

and the usual

DJs til late


miss march

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Vivienne Dick

From The Pictures #3

“I feel like we have to do a whole lot of these films, because this is, I want this to be my show. I want… I want everything I say to keep. Like my whole life now is trying to just talk, I just want to talk and get up on a stage and just talk and that’s my show. I want to take photographs too. I want people to take all these chances…”

Beate Nilsen, Guerillere Talks

As a filmmaker, Vivienne Dick is a child of the 60s underground. She took a chance on New York, like many before and since, relocating from her native Ireland in the late ‘70s. There exposed to the underground canon – Marie Menken, Maya Deren, Jack Smith – she found her vocation as a filmmaker, merging the legacy of the old guard with the emergent post-punk No Wave scene, a legendarily intense subculture of anarchists, perverts and revolutionaries that may have been New York’s last wail of defiance and innovation with any scale, the Last Scene.

Her films of the time stand as the epitome of the underground to that point. The bedroom settings, the drawl, the streets, the grain. Vivienne took these aesthetic qualities and made them her own, fashioning new statements from them about women, power, globalisation and identity. Her films are intrinsically political but in the most personal of ways. Both the filmmaker and her subjects care a great deal, are interested and interesting and want to share their positions.

Her first film Guerillere Talks (1978) laid out a manifesto for what was to come. Composed of seven screen test reels, each consisting of one Super 8 cartridge and featuring the likes of Anya Phillips, Ikue Mori, Pat Place and Lydia Lunch (then aged 19/20), the film gives each woman the space to breathe, act, perform, point a camera, smoke a cigarette, talk. Lydia prowls some urban wasteground, alternately speaking into a microphone – “it’s just no fun being a kid anymore!” – and hanging it between her legs as her cock. Beate Nilsen talks dreamily and a little sadly about her ideas and plans for future shows. All of Vivienne’s films are a lot about talking and about performance, communication of intimacies.

She stayed in New York and stayed with Super 8 for another four years, making a series of underground classics. She Had Her Gun All Ready (1978) is a claustrophobic trip through the city streets, following Lydia Lunch as she in turn stalks Pat Place. The relationship between the two women remains unexplained but frought with paranoia and power struggles, climaxing on a frantically shot rollercoaster ride, Vivienne’s camera sat one seat in front of Lydia, the image so shaken it too becomes a ride. Writing about the scene in The Village Voice, J Hoberman commented that he couldn’t remember the last time he saw a shot that was so fun and captured the spontanaeity of the medium so well. Maybe the final scene in Richard Linklater’s Slacker (a film that belongs in the same canon, surely influenced by the same people as Vivienne if not by Vivienne herself), that sees a group of friends jump and skip their way to the edge of a cliff and then throw their super 8 camera off the precipice. The two moments definitely share some intentions.

Beauty Becomes The Beast (1979) again stars Lydia Lunch in a psychodrama setup, thrown between different ages of her life, and Liberty’s Booty (1980) explored life in a brothel, returning to the Guerillere Talks style verite. In the older film we take the part of Vivienne’s camera, and the subjects are talking directly to us. In Liberty’s Booty, again we are the camera, but this time it’s more like we’re part of the group, a friend in the room immersed in the conversation and surroundings, searching through the details of the scene – ornaments, records, notes to self. Vivienne Dick films have real presence.

Liberty’s Booty also features scenes shot in Ireland, to whose shores Vivienne would return, first to make a satirical film about tourism, Visibility: Moderate (1981), then to live, leaving the New York scene but not the underground. Chris Kraus said that the underground no longer exists as a scene or place but instead is in the minds and attitudes of people who don’t know each other. The modern underground is a psychic collaborative project, communicating in images and responses sent out to be decoded by strangers. Vivienne did not leave the underground when she left New York, it remained with her.

Her Irish films of the mid-80s say a lot about a filmmaker living between places, reconciling them where she can and in doing so presenting a fresh perspective on her home country. She began using video and 16mm as well as Super 8 in films like Trailer (1983). Rothatch (1985) was made in an almost pastoral setting, but moves to expose the artifice and construction of the countryside. Like Dawn To Dusk (1983) takes place in a rural landscape, through which the alien figure of Lydia Lunch walks, NYC styled, a past time encroaching. Images: Ireland (1988), a compilation of footage of events and life in early ‘80s Ireland is Vivienne’s Jonas Mekas diary film – someone else who moved to New York and there discovered he is a filmmaker.

In the late ‘80s Vivienne took a chance on another move, to London, and made more films. London Suite (1989) has echoes of Guerillere Talks, being a collection of interviews with and stories told by friends in the city, while New York Conversations (1992) went further by returning to New York and recording meetings with old friends and collaborators after a decade away, exploring the changed rapport as much as the city. It’s easy to be nostalgaic for a scene, especially if you weren’t there at the time, but Vivienne’s work in Ireland and London showed that in the way we see and think of it today - all films and interviews - No Wave was as much Vivienne Dick as Vivienne Dick was No Wave.

Vivienne returned to Ireland in the 90s, teaching and raising a family and filmmaking. In 2002 she realised a film project displayed on multiple screens, Excluded By The Nature Of Things, which shows alternated poetic seasonal images as well as actors and animations and relationships. She followed this with more shorts, Saccade (2004) and Molecular Moments (2005), filmed again in New York. Chances previously taken and new corners turned, it will be exciting to see where she goes next.

For some time, Vivienne’s films have been largely unavailable – a library DVD was available through the Lux, but that was all. I first saw Vivienne’s films while at university, took them to heart, and had sought them unsuccessfully since – it meant contacting Vivienne herself and arranging a screening at our night to see some of them again. A new Lux DVD compiling 5 of Vivienne’s films (including A Skinny Little Man Attacked Daddy (1994), her portrait of her family, as well as earlier and later works) has just been released though, and we can hope for more screenings in future (we’d like more DVDs too please, Lux). The more that people see her films the more Vivienne Dick’s underground cinema will have high risk children of its own.

THE PICTURES: How did you first get started as a filmmaker? What made you want to pick up a camera?

VIVIENNE DICK: I started by wanting to take photos and bought a Pentax camera when I was working in Germany many years ago. Making films did not enter into the realms of possibility until I moved to NYC and started seeing independent film at Anthology Archives, and also saw how everyone around me was doing something creative - many with little experience or 'skill'.

TP: Were there any filmmakers that were an early influence on you?

VD: Yes, plenty - Maya Deren, Marie Menken, Jack Smith, Bruce Baillie, Storm de Hirsch, Ken Jacobs.. it was a revelation to see some of these films .. and in Ireland and France before that I had seen Godard, Warhol, Bergman and 'Fear Eats the Soul' by Fassbinder...

TP: How easy was it to survive as a filmmaker in the beginning, like in terms of finances, getting by? Do you feel like that's easier or more difficult these days?

VD: It was easy because I was working with Super 8. It was just a question of posting it off to the lab in New Jersey. I don't think it can be harder today - the technology has so much improved.. maybe the hard bit is going and doing it. It's a risk and you have to go for it. I think if you worry about what people might think about your work this can become a block.

TP: A lot of film movements, or things which are later labelled movements, come out of a sense of collective, of collaborative groups of people (the obvious example being the London Filmmakers Co-op, but more subtle groups that work on more subtle levels too maybe). Would you say this is true, or was true of yourself?

VD: yes I do think that. My work did not come out of a void.. I was fortunate to be in NY at the time I was there - that is the late seventies - when there was so much experimentation and play and creativity. That environment made it so much easier for me. Had I stayed on in London (or Dublin or Paris ), I would most likely not have made anything.

TP: Watching your films, there's a strong element of personal politics to them. How important do you think things like filmmaking are in affecting politics, zeitgeists? Would you say that underground film, taken as a broad project, has any of these aims, or that you do yourself?

VD: I think if you are making a film - no matter what kind - narrative or otherwise - if it is to have any power it has to be about something you are passionate about. Maybe the key thing about my work - or most of it - is that it is resolutely describing a world from a female perspective.

TP: In terms of your process, and the way your films have that definitely very personal, diary like aspect to them, is that something that you do constantly, filming all the time and then putting a piece together when you feel you have the right elements, or do you usually have a plan in mind and film specifically to that plan?

VD: It can happen both ways. Usually I have some idea or theme in mind. I don't film all the time.. in my case teaching has got in the way in recent years.. maybe I will have to change something. I needed a job for family reasons for a while.

TP: Would you say your filmmaking style and process has changed over time? I'm afraid I'm speaking from a position of slight ignorance here, as aside from the clips on the Lux site, your films aren't so easy to track down - though i see there's a new DVD which i'll look forward to seeing when payday comes... It does sound from the descriptions though that there are a lot of common ties maybe...

VD: I have become a better editor. I made an installation for 3 screens and one for 2. That was fun. And also working out how to get it in sync using a computer and two video cards. A lot of possibilities there.

TP: Similar question, your early films were very much about urban spaces, and then became more about rural spaces when you moved back to Ireland in the early 80s - now maybe there's more a mix of the two? (again, feel free to correct me if this is way off). i find this interesting as someone who was born by the sea, lived in the suburbs for a long time (with many excursions into the north east english countryside) and now lives in London, the urban spaces here i find much more interesting than i ever did the rural ones, but it does feel like it might not always be that way. How do you think, as a filmmaker, changes in surroundings have affected your work?

VD: I am usually influenced by where I am living and the films and contents change accordingly. I know what you mean about the rural city thing. I think the world is changing in that people in rural areas are far less cut off from current culture etc because of tv, internet and cheap air travel. It is not really the same of course as living in the city and I feel very comfortable in the city. In the end it is important wherever you are to be able to give yourself space, to be able to focus. There are always distractions which get in the way. To be honest I have always been torn between the two.. I grew up in a small place so I am comfortable in the West of Ireland.

TP: This is kind of a long meandering two part question, I'm sorry... I wanted to ask something about returning to New York too (New York Conversations) and how films in themselves, especially more personal ones, are about remembering and returning, since it's often remarked on how different New York is now compared to how it used to be. There are levels to this too - like, for someone like a reader of this zine, there's a good chance they've never been to that New York and would watch films from that period, or even further back, Warhol films maybe, and there'd be an element of nostalgia for a time they'd never been to. Is recording times and places in this way a concern of yours, something you set out to do? Do you consciously place importance on that time capsule, memory aspect of filmmaking?

VD: Yes and no. When I was filming in NYC in the seventies / eighties I was not thinking of making something for the future. I was situated right there and what was going on around me was very interesting to me and in retrospect there is all this documentary aspect to the material. I have always liked to mix documentary and fiction - and performance.

TP: And lastly...what are you up to at the moment? Is there anything on the horizon we should look out for?

VD: Well I have a retrospective on in a gallery in Cork - but it finishes on the 7th November. Also we are having an event to celebrate the show and its connections to New York etc. We are having Pat Place ( guitarist with the Contortions and Bush Tetras ) and Cynthia Sley ( singer songwriter Bush Tetras) coming to play and we will be showing a video of an early performance by The Contortions as well as a film by James Nares and Scott and Beth B etc Its up on the Crawford Gallery ( Cork) website. This is happening on Nov 5th at the gallery 8-11. The only other thing is the book/dvd which the Lux have. Five films on it and selling for £20.

Vivienne Dick at The Lux - essays, DVD etc.