A Spell follows an unnamed character through three seemingly disparate moments in his life. With little explanation, we join him in the midst of a 15-person collective on a small Estonian island; in isolation in the majestic wilderness of Northern Finland; and during a concert as the singer and guitarist of a black met al band in Norway.
Marked by loneliness, ecstatic beauty and an optimism of the darkest sort, A Spell is a radical proposition for the existence of utopia in the present.
Starring musician Robert AA Lowe (best known for his intense live performances under the name Lichens) in the lead role, A Spell lies somewhere between fiction and non-fiction – it is at once a document of experience and an experience itself, an inquiry into transcendence that sees the cinema as a site for transformation.
Continue reading Ben Rivers & Ben Russell – A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness (2013)
Set between Swaziland and South Africa, in a region still struggling with the divisions produced by an apartheid government, Greetings to the Ancestors documents the dream lives of the territory’s inhabitants as the borders of consciousness dissolve and expand. Continue reading Ben Russell – Greetings to the Ancestors (2015)
We Utopians are happy / This will last forever”
Loosely framed by Plato’s invocation of the lost continent of Atlantis in 360 BC and its re-re-resurrection via a 1970s science fiction pulp novel, Atlantis is a documentary portrait of Utopia — an island that has never / forever existed beneath our too-mortal feet. Herein is folk song and pagan rite, religious march and reflected temple, the sea that surrounds us all. Even though we are slowly sinking, we are happy and content.
“Atlantis interrogates this space of fabulation without ever leaving the real island behind, finding itself caught between a portrait of place and the conjuring of a drowned paradise.”
–Erika Balsom, Artforum Continue reading Ben Russell – ATLANTIS (2014)
Let Each One Go Where He May
Chicago-based filmmaker Ben Russell has gone international with Trypps – a series of short, mesmerizing films loosely interpreting the notion of “trip,” from literal, geographic journeys to ecstatic music-induced highs, variations of trance and spasmodic filmic episodes. Along with Tjüba Tën/The Wet Season (co-directed by Brigid McCaffrey), his medium-length experimental documentary shot in Suriname, and his live projector performances, Russell’s body of work displays an ever-increasing interest in cinematic anthropologies.
Let Each One Go Where He May is Russell’s stunning feature debut, a film that both partakes in and dismantles traditional ethnography, opts for mystery and natural beauty over annotation and artifice, and employs unconventional storytelling as a means toward historical remembrance. A rigorous, exquisite work with a structure at once defined and winding, the film traces the extensive journey of two unidentified brothers who venture from the outskirts of Paramaribo, Suriname, on land and through rapids, past a Maroon village on the Upper Suriname River, in a rehearsal of the voyage undertaken by their ancestors, who escaped from slavery at the hands of the Dutch 300 years earlier. The path is still travelled to this day and its changing topography bespeaks a diverse history of forced migration. Continue reading Ben Russell – Let Each One Go Where He May (2009)