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Readers

James Benning
USA 2017 / 108’
Mektoub. My Love: Canto uno Season of the Devil

A lot of festival Benningologists were angry with the director because, in his famous Stemple Pass (2013 New Horizons), he gave up his usual contemplative style in favor a collision between static images and voice-overs of text from a terrorist's journal. Others, in turn, were excited about the change, calling the film a thriller by Benning's standards. This time, Benning punches, but he's also contemplative. He shows three women and one man in the middle of the frame in the same static half-hour shots. These are the readers: his friends Clara McHale-Ribot, Rachel Kushner, Richard Hebdige and Simone Forti focus on reading a book of their choice from which a quotation will be revealed. We see their almost motionless bodies, which while reading "disappear," because its purpose is after all is to enter a different reality, a different state of mind. But is that even possible? And is it possible to observe a transition that can be measured in microseconds and involve tiny movements? Myviewer has to be focused on what they see and hear, said the director during a visit to Wrocław, so there's a real chance that it could happen.

Agnieszka Szeffel

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. Since 2005, New Horizons has screened all new Benning productions, whose unconventional form could just as well fit a gallery exhibition as it does a movie screen.

Selected filmography

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

2004 13 jezior / 13 Lakes (doc.)

2004 Ten Skies (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.)

Cast & Crew

director James Benning
screenplay James Benning
cinematography James Benning
editing James Benning
sound James Benning
cast Clara McHale-Ribot, Rachel Kushner, Dick Hebdige, Simone Forti
producer James Benning
sales m-appeal
language no dialogue
colouration colour