Watching


Number one: Nathan Sliver

We rarely think about it but some of the most moving and heart-rending films do not reach the mass distribution and are not downloaded from the Internet; instead, they collect dust on the shelves of our home video archives. This is the naïve and simple home video bringing us back to our memories, retrieving the first experiences of our childhood. These are the films in which the quality of film bears the sign of time. Simple as these films are, they are enticing. Maybe, all our desires to create and to shoot films and to watch such films as viewers come from this home video?

— When I was nine, I first directed a film and played the main role in it, the independent American filmmaker Nathan Silver begins his short four-minute film of 2015 titled “Riot”. In the film of 1992, we see little Nathan trying to shoot something like an action movie at his birthday party, shrieking at his friends and at his cameraman father. The initiative gradually turns into hysteria, tears and interference of the irritated mother. We see a little shock of a child. The agitation of the child we see in the short film will be retrospectively connected by editing and rhymed by Silver with an adult large-scale event — the Los Angeles riot, which was raging in the city streets on those days.

It might seem that this is just a trifle of a film, a child’s recollection of the remote past. Yet, these four minutes create a certain framework for all the serious full-length films Silver shot. They always have a home — the parents’ house, a commune, a night shelter – something. If there is a home, there is common living — blossoming of all the tenderness and misery of prolonged common existence. Finally, under such conditions, there will definitely be a place for a home video.

Nathan Silver shot his second big film, a somber comedy from the life of a dysfunctional family “Exit Elena”, totally in the scenery of a parental home. Nathan, his girlfriend and his mother play the major roles in it. Even moving away from the chamber character of his creation and acting out more and more populated compositions from the life of a community of drug addicts or depicting New York wanderings of a young girl, Silver always finds time and place for a home video cameo.

For example, in “Stinking Heaven” the residents of a commune for sober living use a manual camcorder to record dubious therapeutic sessions: a home resident is offered to act out the most humiliating episode of his life. So, saliva and blood begin to trickle from the comfortably warm recording. We begin to understand — our private videos, just as our remote reminiscences, not only charm but harm us, instilling implicit anxiety in us. Nathan Silver is very sensitive to these painful properties of the film.

That very boy, who became part of a shrieking and rioting three-minute video as one of the actors and its director, puts his characters on the film now, testing their pain thresholds and watching their entwinement with their own humanity.
© Maxim Seleznev

Maxim Seleznev


The program director of the Pobeda cinema in Novosibirsk, the chief editor of the magazine about independent films "Cineticle"

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