Lubna Azabal and Ben Foster in "HERE"
One independent film I'm especially looking forward to in 2011 is Braden King's "Here", shot in Armenia by Ballast's Lol Crawley and starring Ben Foster and Lubna Azabal. Braden's film is ambitiously conceived, a story of a romance between a cartographer sent to map the Eastern European country and a local art photographer that will blend King's striking images and moody drama with interstitial material by a number of great experimental filmmakers.
(Filmmaker Braden King on the set of "HERE." Image courtesy of Braden King)
FUTURES | HERE Filmmaker Braden King
by Basil Tsiokos (May 14, 2010)
Late last month, MoMA opened its six-week exhibition of Creative Capital-supported films with a one-night-only performance of "HERE [The Story Sleeps]," a hybrid film/concert and sister project to writer/director Braden King's upcoming feature debut, HERE, which is currently in post-production. After that performance, indieWIRE had the opportunity to discuss these projects with King as part of a larger conversation about his beginnings in filmmaking and his creative approach.
A filmmaker and visual artist, King has previously garnered acclaim with his music video work, short films, and the documentary project, "Dutch Harbor: Where the Sea Breaks Its Back." In addition to Creative Capital, the eagerly anticipated "HERE," starting Ben Foster and Lubna Azabal, has received support from the Sundance Screenwriters and Directors Lab, Rotterdam's Cinemart Producer's Lab, the Sundance/NHK Award, Tribecas Rockefeller/Renew Media Fellowship, and the Cannes Atelier.
While drawn to photography and music as a teenager, King says that he always felt a pull toward narrative feature filmmaking, but that he's "taken a meandering path towards it, trying to find a cinematic voice that felt true" to him. He notes the influence of street photography on his first short films, and also describes the process of working on "Dutch Harbor" as very much how a photographer might work: "I didnt go in with a story in mind; I was looking for a moment, a feeling. I've always been very suspicious of stories. I need to deal with them in a way that feels honest and personal."
King credits the support of the various funders and labs that have gotten behind "HERE" with helping him explore his relationship to storytelling, especially singling out the learning opportunities at the Sundance Labs. In reflecting on the entities that have supported his work, King notes: "I feel a great sense of responsibility to make the best project that I can, to honor the commitment and investment they've made in my work."
With HERE, King has embraced narrative, but in his own manner. "I found a way to use non-fiction elements in what feels like a self-expressive way, using an existing set of locations but trying to map a fictional story on top of them." The film is a road movie about a transformative romantic encounter between two loners --an American satellite-mapping engineer and an expatriate Armenian photographer-- who find themselves in Armenia traveling together through unexplored terrain.
King's careful contemplation about storytelling, mapping, and their limits in cinema are directly of a piece with the explicit mapping themes present in HERE, and organically inform the concurrent projects that his collaborators and he have developed around the narrative. The MoMA concert, which incorporated scenes, outtakes, and behind the scenes elements from the film together with evocative stills, topographic maps, and a live accompaniment from King's longtime composer, Michael Krassner and the Boxhead Ensemble, was one such project, described as exploring the dream life of a cinematic narrative. While hesitant to embrace the term, these transmedia elements have long been part of King's work - "Dutch Harbor" toured with live music events, for example. "I don't know how to make this narrative without doing this kind of project ---this is how we work together." He describes this multiplatform approach as "a struggle to give shape to the dream form Im obsessively trying to uncover" about his projects, and notes that the different approaches influence one another. In addition to the narrative and the live concert piece, King also notes that other projects around HERE include "Postcards from HERE," a series of impressionistic videos chronicling the production, which may become a feature itself; an original soundtrack release; and potentially an installation.
While he expresses a passion in describing these various elements, King also notes that his goal is to make the film itself accessible. "If an audience is interested in engaging further on another level, [these other approaches] will allow for a different experience."
Here (The Story Sleeps) --An American Director in Armenia.
June 24, 2010
By Daniele Faye Sourian Sahr
Landscape obsession. That's the name of the game in Here [The Story Sleeps], the first-ever American feature film set in Armenia. An American satellite-mapping engineer travels the countrys diverse mountainous regions, striving with a maniacal fixation to transfer the exact measurements of these natural lands into a digitally plotted geometric language.
But his frustrations mount as the magnificent untamed landscape becomes more of an emotional map rather than one easily filtered through a 21st century cartographer's vision. The untouched terrain of Armenias beauteous peaks, crags, canyons, and valleys are overpowering and drive him to fall in love with an Armenian art photographer, Gadarine, rather than to fit the untamable into a rational grid of lines and numbers.
The film, directed by Braden King, takes the viewer directly into the emotional plight of the main character as he experiences the sensations of the Armenian landscape with various enrapturing cinematic and visually artistic techniques.
Quick flashes of Gadarine's magnetic postcard-like photographs speed by our eyes, turning us through views of Armenian lands, towns, and people as we experience someone elses memories of a place and time.
The use of three separate screens allows for a variety of creative scenic views. We look from one screen to the next. The skip in our view adds a tension of at once seeing more yet concurrently missing what must connect the in-between --as if trying to plot the story ourselves.
Simple filming techniques, as a "backseat driver" in the couple's van as they journey through Southern Armenia's natural reserves, captures the main character's raw yet humble struggle against a backdrop of lush green expanse through a half-open window.
And an interlude that is filmed at the red rocky mountain range surrounding Noravank Monastery slowly transforms an overhead plane view into a moving computerized 3-D grid rendition of the grand dry peaks. We fly over a swarm of lines drawing the mountains out as they pass underneath as if inside the cartographer's mind, seeing his idealized dream that remains forever unfulfilled, jumbled and chaotic.
The film's premiere screening was held at the opening night of MoMA's Creative Capital Exhibition on April 30, 2010 with live film score performed by the Boxhead Ensemble and composed by Michael Krassner.
The music was not of Armenian influence, but it did add a dimension of poignant immediacy. Silent views of the landscape and the characters' inner musings were accompanied by an ethereal aural atmosphere. And even the live music reacted to landscape just as the characters' experiences did on screen.
As Diaspora Armenians, we get to have an unusual look at a non-Armenian artist's perception of the land. It is a view innocently untouched by personal history or pre-conceived cultural notions. Either way, the vision is as stirring as our own.