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Stemple Pass

James Benning
USA 2012 / 121’

The core of this unique film by James Benning is listening rather than watching. Fragments from the journal of Ted Kaczynski (the American mathematician and terrorist known as the Unabomber) and the forest cabin that might have been his home play prominent roles. The director does not manipulate the image, which is governed only by the seasons of the year. And words – phrases that delicately smudge its static surface. A story about trapping one’s wild nature and naturalistic confessions from a lonely life, circulating in the veins of the world portrayed. At its foundation is the confidence that beauty is not palpable, visible or audible; it lies in freedom and the freedom of interpretation of intersecting layers of the story.

James Benning

Benning was born into a working-class family of German immigrants in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1942. His talent for baseball led to a scholarship and a higher education in mathematics. Rather than fight in Vietnam, he chose to teach and then worked with underprivileged children. He later went on to make several short films and obtained a film school diploma at the age of 33, having studied under David Bordwell. His minimalist films are as much about the subjects caught by the camera as they are about the possibilities of capturing them on film. His early short films fused the ‘structuralist’ investigations into sound-image relationships and interest in deep sensitivity to color, light, and landscape. His later work began to introduce both personal subject matter and documentary elements, at the same time Benning become increasingly concerned with the themes of history, memory, and death. Besides his current film work, Benning has taught at the California Institute of the Arts since 1987. Since 2005, New Horizons has screened all new Benning productions.

Selected filmography

1971 Did You Ever Hear That Cricket Sound? (doc., short)

2004 13 jezior / 13 Lakes (doc.)

2007 RR (doc.)

2007 Rzut oka / Casting a Glance (doc.)

2009 Ruhr (doc.)

2011 Dwadzieścia papierosów / Twenty Cigarettes (doc.)

2011 Ścieżki / Small Roads (doc.)

2011 Zmierzch / Nightfall (doc.)

2012 Stemple Pass (doc.)

Cast & Crew

director James Benning
screenplay James Benning
cinematography James Benning
editing James Benning
producer James Benning
sales James Benning
language English
colouration colour