Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Jason Britski retrospective in Regina

Screening at the RPL Theatre in Regina Saskatchewan 
Hosted by the Saskatchewan Filmpool Co-operative
Tuesday March 25, 2014
Gerald Saul and Jason Britski
These are my curatorial notes for the event:

Since the late 1990s, Jason Britski has been bringing his unique viewpoints, his technical agility, and keen aesthetic style to the art of experimental and documentary film. This selection of eight of his short films samples from his early work but emphasizes the complexity of his newest endeavors, some of which have never been publicly exhibited in Regina. These films are not simple to interpret, being abstract, ambiguous, or both.  They are also beautiful, hypnotic, and deeply personal. As you watch them, you may imagine yourself in the back seat of a car, your mind wandering to real or imagined childhood moments or simply mesmerized by the textures, light, reflections, and patterns of the scenery just beyond the window. You might imagine yourself walking down sidewalks, along coastal shores, or around tourist sites, your feet firmly on the ground but your mind constantly adrift. The point of view in Britski’s films is often that of a passenger, a tourist, or a wander; discovering details but not in control of the journey.
These films are also voyages through time, questioning the value of the past, of old buildings, of monuments, and inevitably of history itself. For Britski, the line between his interests in history and filmmaking is inseparable. Through the use of old home movies, archival photographs, monuments, and ancient places, and mirrors, he uses his filmmaking to question what is valuable in our society. An undercurrent of nostalgia lies within each of these films but his connection to the past is just as often appalling as fond.
Another curious motif within Britski’s films is how he “draws” lines on or across the frame using telephone wires, sidewalk cracks, the sea shore, or the horizon. He discusses this interest as an attraction to the form, texture, and colour but I would propose that each of the lines suggests greater metaphors. While a telephone wire creates a seam in our visual space, separating one part of the sky from another, it is also a piece of a network, a conduit to connect us to one another. A coast line separates water from land but is also a meeting point, a junction which defines the people who live at its edge. Sidewalks connect one place to another. Line on maps divides properties but unite those within the boundaries.  The borders of the frame, the edge of a mirror, pickets of a fence, the bars of a cage, or the prairie horizon similarly divide and unite. It is left to the viewer to decide if these images create division or connection.
Few filmmakers make me second guess my interpretations of their work as much as Jason Britski. For any “rule” I might propose about how or why he makes his films, I can find numerous counterarguments. His work is unified by his distinctive style but contradictory and elusive in his goals and outcomes. It could be that my attempt to find answers is the problem and that to establish an entry point into viewing Britski’s films, one must let go of the need to know the answers but instead to embrace the work as a series of questions. It is as if Britski is searching for something that is always out of reach, trying to decide between an endless stream of binary choices. As viewers, Instead of trying to determine “What does Britski mean by that?”, you might instead ask yourself “What does that mean to me?”.

 Nightfall (2009) 10 min
                Manipulating the images, Britski creates a portrait of night from daytime images shot on numerous media formats. The soundtrack is a collage of music by composer Jason Moberg along with diegetic (or sometimes faux-diegetic) sound including audio of the camera being handled. He uses diegetic sound to ground the film in the realm of the video diary, connecting rather than distancing the viewer.

Dead horse point (2006) 18:30
                With this tour or the “old west”, Britski visits numerous monuments to many famous western figures. While each site could have many stories told about them, this quiet film leaves these stories untold, emphasizing the forgotten nature of this history.

Shoulders on a map (2004) 4:30
                This film is like a photo album of childhood travel. Britski fills screens with multiple images, frames within the frame like the pastiche of an album, filled with the dominant image of travel, the blur of landscape from the car window.

Down payment on a dead horse (2006) 8 min
                Britski successfully intertwines stunningly beautiful winter landscapes with home movies of unabashedly gun-obsessed family members into a severe critique of family, memory, and masculinity.

Tortured by sidewalks (2005) 2 min
                The contrast between film and video is never more extreme than here where Britski contrasts black and white low res video with vibrant colour film in his portrait of Nova Scotia’s Peggy’s Cove, giving his own unique spin to this highly documented site.

Moving violation (2002) 5:30
                Using Pixelvision and digital video alongside 16mm film, Britski literally and figuratively reflects upon the changing face of the city as beautiful and unique buildings are destroyed for the sake of pavement and parking.

Dead horse candidate (2011) 15 min
                Over the course of a year, Britski shot daily, stunning images on a 40 acre property of biologist/naturalist filmmaker Bob Long. A feat of endurance and cinematographical creativity, this film embraces the cycles of life and death with beauty but without sentimentality.

Daybreak (2011) 10 min
This film further confuses day and night, this time using altered night footage shot on super-8 film and analog and digital video to create a new, never before seen awakening in a Saskatchewan forest. Original score by Jason Moberg.

 Jason Britski is an independent filmmaker who resides in Regina, SK, Canada. His films and videos have been screened around the world in such cities as Tokyo, Los Angeles, Brisbane, Rotterdam, Dresden, and Toronto (screened at approximately 150 venues in 20 countries). In the past 17 years he has made ten 16mm films, ten short form experimental videos, a number of corporate videos, and produced and directed two documentary TV series that have been broadcast on Bravo, Knowledge Network, and SCN. In 1997 he received his BFA in Film Production from the University of Regina, and in 1991 he received his BA (advanced) in History from the University of Saskatchewan. Jason has worked in a variety of positions in the film industry as a producer, director, cinematographer, videographer, sound recordist, and as an editor. Jason is currently a member of the Saskatchewan Filmpool Cooperative, Blackchair Distribution, and the Canadian Filmmakers’ Distribution Centre.
Many of Jason Britski's films may be found on his VIMEO CHANNEL. 

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