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Phillip warnell
Intimate Distances
Experimental doc. | 4k | color | 61'0'' | United Kingdom / USA | 2020
On a street corner in Queens, New York, an elderly, white-haired woman hovers, apparently waiting or looking for something – then starts approaching passersby. Miked up close, but viewed – surveillance-style – from distant rooftops, she asks them philosophical questions about turning points in their lives, sometimes eliciting candidly revealing answers from people who seemingly need to talk. She’s also seen up close at street level, viewed by a shaky nearby camera. And intermittently we hear the affectless voiceover of an English male reading an account of a prison spell. What exactly are we seeing? A documentary of sorts? A fiction stripped of its expected signposts? The woman is real-life casting director Martha Wollner, but the film never makes it clear what her mission is, what she hopes to learn, and what her relation is to the distant speaker (who may also be the distant observer). Echoing Coppola’s THE CONVERSATION, as well as works by Phillip Warnell’s fellow British experimental directors John Smith and Chris Petit, this is an enigmatic, elusive piece. Yet, as the title suggests, those moments when Wollner connects with the interiority of perfect strangers makes this an alluringly, unexpectedly compassionate guerrilla foray into urban experience. (Jonathan Romney)
Phillip Warnell is an artist-filmmaker, a writer, and the director of the Visible Institute, for research in film and photography, at Kingston University, London. He produces film works and texts exploring a range of philosophical and poetic thematics, also exploring ideas on human-animal relations. His most recent film, The Flying Proletarian (2017), premiered at CPH:DOX, Copenhagen International Documentary Film Festival, in March 2017. During his fellowship, Warnell is addressing a series of interconnected questions on “animality-cinemality-criminality,” involving engagement with film professionals and researchers relative to screen-based roles and exploring the relationship among appearance, measurement, and typecasting. He is also developing script-based ideas for a planned feature-length film, currently in development, that investigates ideas on misobservation and apparitions of other life-worlds, accessing archival material to inform and incorporate into the project. Warnell’s film work has been exhibited extensively, including recent screenings at the ICA in London, KW Institute for Contemporary Art, in Berlin, and Tate Modern, in London, as well as in such prestigious film festivals as the Locarno Festival, the New York Film Festival, and the Viennale. Previous exhibitions have included at the Moderna galerija, in Ljubljana, Slovenia; Sharjah Biennial, in United Arab Emirates; and Wellcome Collection, in London. His film Ming of Harlem: Twenty One Storeys in the Air (2014) won the 2014 Georges de Beauregard International Prize at FID International Film Festival Marseille and the 2015 Universities SIC Award at IndieLisboa.