For the first time in Russia, a retrospective of a leading American experimental film director.

Who is James Benning? A documentary maker? Certainly. All of the seventy plus films he has directed (around a third of them are features) are technically documentaries, notwithstanding the variety of methods he used. Even when Benning invites actors to play real people (Landscape Suicide) and even when he casts a star like Willem Defoe (O Panama, co-created with Burt Barr).

Is he an artist? There is no question about that. All of Benning’s works belong to contemporary art as much as they do to cinema. Museum spaces are a natural environment for his films. He has also been creating installations since the late 1970s.

Is he a minimalist and a structuralist? Without a doubt. Benning has never made narrative films. They are often composed of long shots, landscape studies, and static observation without a storyline. Building on the experiments of the 1960s with avant-garde structuralist cinema, they invent a different film language.   

Is he a philosopher? Of course. Benning’s visual practice is rooted in the works of Henry David Thoreau. His art is a multi-volume epic reflecting upon the connections between history and nature, artificial and natural landscapes, the personal and the eternal.  

A documentary maker, an avant-garde artist, and a philosopher, he is also a cult figure in independent film, an educator, and a poet. All these descriptions are accurate and none of them is sufficient individually to describe a creative of Benning’s stature.

This program at Amfest is the first retrospective of James Benning’s films in Russia. It covers, as far as is possible, various decades in his career (some of the earlier works shot on 16 mm film, which Benning used until Ruhr, he chooses not to show in cinemas). It is not huge, but to cover Benning’s entire oeuvre would be an impossible task. Even the seven selected films require concentration on the part of the viewer, but they promise great spiritual rewards.   


Art association CoolConnections and Garage Screen present AMFEST, a program of film screenings: January 24 - February 4
This year AMFEST is focusing on independent, experimental works and new names. Amanda Kramer, Winnie Cheung, and the duet of Artemis Shaw and Prashanth Kamalakanthan have not previously featured on Russian screens and are here now thanks to the renewed AMFEST.Their films radically transform familiar genres: New Strains reinvents the romcom, Give Me Pity! is a mutation of a TV comedy special, and Residency turns the documentary chronicle inside out.
Other participants include Ricky D’Ambrose, author of the grandiose metamodernist film-novel The Cathedral, which received the silver medal at Sergei Solovyov’s Spirit of Fire International Debut Film Festival in Khanty-Mansiysk, and Sky Hopinka with Małni. 

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