Until Sunday, January 29, you can watch films by renowned experimental filmmaker Guli Silberstein. Why does he deal with the theme of violence and how did he get to what he is doing? Read more in our exclusive interview! The director has also commented on his films specially for DAFilms.
How did you find your way to experimental films and the fact that it’s the way to express yourself?
I studied film in Tel Aviv University but felt the program was too traditional. In 1997 I moved to New York. There I found myself one evening in a screening of Stan Brakhage’s Dog Star Man at the Museum of Modern Art. I was really stunned by the powerful screening. Not too long after that, Guggenheim Museum held a retrospective of Nam June Paik’s works, a show no less stunning. That related well to my studies at the time at the M.A. in Media Studies program at New School University, where we intensely practised digital video techniques. We were also reading thinkers such as Walter Benjamin, Gilles Deleuze and Gregory Bateson and studying the work of filmmakers such as Chris Marker. I decided then to make an experimental film as my final project at University. In 2000, I connected my TV to cable network. While “zapping” through the stations, news images began to emerge, depicting violent clashes between Israeli army and Palestinian protesters in my home country. Walking then in New York City streets while still being under the impression of these images gave birth to my first experimental project: Schizophrenic State, which involved news images from the Palestinian uprising, mainstream TV shows, my own “MiniDV” footage, and quotations by the Palestinian politician Saeb Erekat, and the Cybernetics theorist Gregory Bateson. The film was selected to be shown in Transmediale Berlin and was included in their selection DVD. So I felt I found a voice and it became an obsession, a necessity, to keep making these works.
Was there somebody who influenced your artistic expression and/or language?
In addition to Brakhage and Paik, I admire Chris Marker's essay film 'Sans Soleil'. It’s a most original, beautiful, and highly inspiring work. I have a lot of respect for Bill Viola's work. Harun Farocki is a major influence. I also get a lot of inspiration from filmmakers such as David Lynch, Peter Greenaway, and Adam Curtis. In general, I get inspired by many sources: musicians, painters, writers, and it’s impossible to list them all. Last note though is that I’m very much influenced by fellow experimental filmmakers, who I meet and see their work at film festivals, exhibitions and online. It’s a beautiful scene, composed from many different approaches, creating a whole bigger than its parts.
Your topic is mostly violence and aggression. What fascinates you about that and why did you choose it?
My first memory from my early childhood in Israel is sitting in a bomb shelter with my mother while a loud siren is on. All my life I have experienced war and terror attacks, including the 9/11 attack in New York City. I’m disgusted by violence, and especially when it’s used by the state. In the works presented here, I focus on the Israeli-Palestinian context, since that is my own background. I can’t keep silent facing the aggression directed by Israel towards the Palestinians who, deprived of citizen rights, live under a military occupation, a situation which is not only unjust, but also reflects back on Israeli society and endangers its own security. And more generally, all around we see different forms of violence, aggression and oppression. It seems we lack empathy toward the suffering of other people. Mass media has the power to bring these images to the screen, which is important, it increases awareness, but the way these images are treated is lacking, they turn into a sort of entertainment, swallowed in a saturated world of images. In my work I try to extract these images of violence from the flow of images, place them in new context and show them in a new light, bringing back the humanity in them and promote empathy.
Photo: Jihlava IDFF
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