Born in Jodhpur, India, Shambhavi Kaul lives in the U.S. where she teaches filmmaking at Duke University. As skillful with found footage as with her own gorgeous landscape cinematography and hand-processed 16mm, Kaul’s films are marked by a distinctly pensive but playful character. Kaul’s cinematic constructions conjure uncanny, science-fictive non-places. They present to us other worlds – our natural world becomes surreal, familiar set pieces and settings in found-footage films are revealed to be hollow and eerie, hints of narrative threads appear and recede. Described as creating “zones of compression and dispersion,” her work utilizes strategies of montage and recirculation, inviting an affective response while simultaneously measuring our capacity to know what we encounter. The tensions between the expected and the unknown are in turn disorienting and meditative. Kaul asks the viewer both to look deeply and differently, but to also question our perception of and response to these mysteries.
This program will be a true “show & tell” presentation, with Kaul offering her reflections on each short film as the screening proceeds, and concluding with a live reading.
“The work of the India-born, Durham-based filmmaker Shambhavi Kaul has a unique relationship with not only the world of contemporary experimental cinema, but also the lineage from which it draws both its inspiration and, quite often, its materials. Slyly spurning the strained, self-serious demeanor of much of the avant-garde, Kaul’s playful and inquisitive films unite histories of personal, cultural, and cinematic intrigue while maintaining an integrity borne of a deep engagement with the natural world.” –Jordan Cronk, BROOKLYN RAIL
- Scene 32 (2009, 5 min, 16mm-and-HD-to-digital)
Scene 32 maps the terrain that lies between a beloved place and the things that represent it. The salt fields of Central Kutch are examined through High Definition video and hand-processed 16mm film to become another thing altogether: neither a specific location in India nor its representation, but a rebuilt world of precipices and gullies, untouchable textures and unfathomable scale.
- Place For Landing (2010, 6 min, 16mm-to-digital)
A household landscape of mirrors. A child and its reflection are inscribed in a shadowy lunar patchwork. The camera switches its optical pursuit: the child disappears and a bird emerges. The surveying mirror implodes or explodes into space. Its mottled hallway glass both indicates and becomes a Place For Landing. After a series of clever misdirections by the mirror, all is redeemed by a fragment of song in this unsettling haptic illusion.
- 21 Chitrakoot (2012, 9 min, digital)
A land, as ancient and ideal as nature, is called up through the chroma-key backdrops of one of the world’s most viewed mythological television series. Spectacular images spring forth from a glorious, more magical time. But, as nostalgia turns into melancholia, hostility is the inevitable result. There is no option but a war to destroy everything, after which trace impulses towards a narrative are the last surviving markers of the material past.
- Mount Song (2013, 9 min, digital)
A current runs underneath. It creeps under the door, makes its way into the cracks, revealing, obfuscating or breaking as clouds in the sky. Mountain, cave, river, forest, and trap door; martial gestures, reiterated, stripped, and rendered. A storm blows through. Here, the surfaces of set-constructions are offered for our attachments.
“A strange yet familiar sense of place dominates Kaul’s deceptively disorienting and visually entrancing Mount Song. As a wild, foreboding gust courses through the night, a subdued elegance is brought forth from past cinema spectacles, whose generic albeit highly suggestive set constructions remain lodged in our imaginary.” –Andrea Picard
- Night Noon (2014, 12 min, Super 16mm-to-digital)
Unmoving rock collapsed to ocean – geology’s “thrust and fold” – becomes the unlikely habitat for two actors’ shadowy encounters with sand, waves, night, desert, dread, calm, trepidation, and escape.
“Night Noon sets up dialectical dread in Death Valley with a series of uncanny shots of eroded, geological formations and dunes that seemingly fold into night skies and shimmering waters. Beginning in Zabriskie Point, the film surreptitiously crosses over into Mexico, its creative geography never far from our cinematic memory.” –Andrea Picard
Total running time: ca. 45 min + live reading.