Jem Cohen2005

Jem Cohen's films have been called heart-breaking and trance-inducing, with a fierce political intelligence. An admirer of Walter Benjamin and Robert Frank, he draws inspiration from the street, often shooting solo in places from Brooklyn to Budapest. Cohen works in 16 mm, Super 8 and video, building an archive of images over periods of up to ten years. Challenging himself to film what he had previously framed out, and organically fashioning hybrids, (experimental documentaries and lyrical portraits of a pre-sanitized Times Square, a musician living with AIDS), more recently he has begun to lace scripted, living, breathing fiction into the mix. A believer in film, art and music, he often works with musicians, especially those who embody independence (Fugazi, Terry Riley, Godspeed You Black Emperor!, Patti Smith). Cohen sees film as a revelation machine, investigates what he terms the camera's unsparing ability and cooler eye, and mines the forces, wonders, damages and poetry of everyday life.
"The world is littered with a wealth of submerged stories (and histories) that can be drawn to the surface and magnified. Oncehidden details, captured in a documentary mode, can serve as narrative triggers, and the richness of their un-simulated veracity can be a great resource for the fiction filmmaker. For me, the essence of documentary is an openness to the existing world as it unfolds before the camera. By exploring the cross-fertilization of documentary and narrative, traditional rules are called into question and the standard movie-going experience is destabilized, transformed, and in small but crucial ways, reborn."