Bill Morrison: Light Excavations

Selected Films 1996–2012

Curated by Paul Dallas

Greenpoint Film Festival 2012 Buy Tickets

Program 1 Satuday 9/22 @ 7:30pm – 9:30pm
186 Huron St.

Greenpoint Film Festival 2012 Buy Tickets

Program 2 Satuday 9/22 @ 09:30pm – 11:00pm 
186 Huron St.

“One of the most adventurous American filmmakers” —Robert Koehler, Variety

Filmmaker Bill Morrison has, over the last 20 years, created a singular body of work that defies classification.  Drawing on the traditions of experimental or avant-garde film, installation, theater and musical performance, Morrison’s films create immersive visual and sonic landscapes that reflect on the symbiosis of creation and destruction.  His medium is archival film footage, much of it in a state of voluptuous deterioration, which he transforms through deliberate editing into exquisite meditations on collective mythologies and forgotten narratives, both real and imagined.

Morrison gained international recognition with the acclaimed feature Decasia (2002), a film hailed by J. Hoberman as “that rare thing: a movie with avant-garde and universal appeal.”  The film, which was composed entirely of decaying archival nitrate film stock and edited to composer Michael Gordon’s intense score, embodies the filmmaker’s persistent interest in the resonances of film’s physical properties as well as the expressive power of music to transform images.

Morrison’s works are often the result of collaborations with musicians and composers.  The two programs offer the chance to witness, not only the breadth of Morrison’s image-making but also the range of lush soundtracks, from the mercurial jazz compositions of trumpeter Dave Douglas for Spark of Being to five partIcelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson’s six-part score for a 16-piece brass ensemble for The Miners’ Hymns.


Program I

Greenpoint Film Festival 2012 Buy Tickets

City Walk (2003, 6 min, b&w, 16mm on DVD)
An abstract, high contrast tour across Manhattan’s streets and across bridges set to a score by Michael Gordon.

Light is Calling (2004, 8 min, color/b&w, 35mm on DVD)
A scene from James Young’s The Bells (1926) is optically reprinted and edited to a musical composition by Michael Gordon.

Spark of Being (2010, 68 min, color/b&w, DVD)
Morrison’s stunning feature, which won the LA Film Critic’s Best Experimental Film (2011) is a faithful adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein retold through an array of decaying archival footage and set to a score by jazz musician Dave Douglas.  Rarely screened and a must-see.

Spark of Being draws fascinating parallels between the invention of cinema and that of the Creature, and pulls Shelley’s 19th-century tale into the modern age. —Robert Koehler, Variety

(Program: 82 min)

Q&A with Bill Morrison following Program 1.


Spark of BeingProgram II

Greenpoint Film Festival 2012 Buy Tickets

The Film of Her (1996, 12 min, b&w, 35mm on DVD)
“A contemporary standout…Bill Morrison’s The Film of Her deftly combines documentary, fiction, and found-footage collage to tell the story of the unsung clerk who saved the Library of Congress’ paper print collection from certain destruction.” —Amy Taubin, Village Voice

Release (2012, 13 min, b&w, HD)
A crowd gathers in front of Philadelphia’s Eastern State Penitentiary in 1930, awaiting the appearance of a celebrity criminal in Morrison’s sly meditation on spectacle and spectatorship. Watch closely.

The Miners’ Hymns (2011, 52 min, color/b&w, HD)
Morrison’s latest feature tells the story of the doomed coal-mining communities in Northern England through archival footage (from the British Film Institute and BBC, among other sources) and is set to a five-movement elegiac score by Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson. Trailer 

“A miner himself of a type, Mr. Morrison has dug into the archives of the likes of the British Film Institute to cull primarily black-and-white images so rich, so alive with dirty faces, shadows and the occasional pit pony that they resurrect a world that for many has long been lost to history.” —Manohla Dargis, The New York Times

(Program: 77 min)

Separate $7 admission to each program.

About the Curator:
Paul Dallas studied architecture at The Cooper Union and filmmaking at the Art Institute of Chicago. In 2011, Paul worked as the film programmer for the BMW Guggenheim Lab, an event space in downtown Manhattan that served as a place for public engagement on issues related to sustainability, community and the future of cities.  In 2012, he curated “Street Views” for the Maysles Cinema and presented “Recent German Shorts: Viewing the Urban Landscape” at the Berlin Guggenhiem Lab.