Prismatic Ground is an annual film series highlighting the latest and greatest experimental endeavors and pushing the boundaries of groundbreaking new filmmakers. This year’s festival runs from May 4-8 and here are some highlights:
One of many medium-length films in this year’s series, Constant comes from directors Sasha Litvintseva and Beny Wagner, and could very well be the most compelling film on this year’s lineup. Seemingly an experimental deep dive into the history of measurement, Constant is an essay film that combines stunning 3D animations, diagrams and live action sequences to tell the story of measurement as it relates to the relationship between knowledge and power. At just 40 minutes, the film may seem dry and almost too heady, but the film is blessed with a superb dry sense of humor from narrator Cynthia Beatt, who when paired with this evolving narrative from an interest in understanding the human body through the use of measurement in settler colonial history gives the film even more weight and power. Aesthetically quite similar to a piece like Our Ark, Constant is a fast-paced film that rewards multiple viewings, focusing on three changes in the bar’s story giving much-needed structure to an otherwise cold work. We watch the film go through things like the rise of land privatization in Europe, the metric revolution to the rise of Big Science today, while asking questions about agency, humanity, justice and power. Blurring the line between cinema and gallery space, there really isn’t a film like Constant.
4. Lake Forest Park
The next step in this breakdown of the Prismatic Ground 2022 lineup is one of the collection’s most haunting efforts. The film tells the story of a group of teenagers who try to come to terms with the death of a classmate. With the event itself only briefly mentioned on the radio, the film focuses less on the act of violence and more on the crippling sense of loss and worthlessness that ensues. Feeling closely in conversation with the films of Gus Van Sant (especially his paranoid park which seems almost essential to the existence of this film), the film is an extremely intimate, observational rumination on death and grief. Located opposite the equally oppressive rain of the Pacific Northwest, Lake Forest Park is a breathtaking film in the body of a calm and thoughtful character study. Truly a unique achievement.
Jump into the world of shorts now, Goat is just one of a dozen or more captivating shorts featured here at Prismatic Ground 2022. A film inherently about genre, politics, style, and the intersection of all three, the barely three-minute short by Paige Taul is an evocative and beautiful black and white story about a girl and her retro knit Air Jordan 1s top. What is ostensibly a young woman describing her Jordans and what they mean to her, this engaging short kicks up a speedy execution. Even jumping occasionally, quite literally, into the surreal, Taul’s short feels in tune with a specific brand of modern American indie cinema, especially filmmakers like Kevin Jerome Everson. It’s a
2. Earth II
Now back to the feature world. Perhaps the most exciting feature of the range, Earth II is if nothing else the most esoteric of the feature films here at Prismatic Ground 2022. From the spirit of the Anti-Banality Union, this 97-minute feature is a collection of clips from various films, ranging from The Matrix to The Martian, which are chopped together to tell the story of the end of the world. In many ways, science fiction takes a documentary like Los Angeles plays on its own, Earth II removes the sarcastic commentary, simply leaving each clip to paint a portrait of a civilization on the brink of collapse. With the 1% determined to get off the planet, they helped start the fire, Earth II is a brilliantly paced post-post-modern thriller that recontextualizes everything from Hollywood blockbuster status to the kind of fascists we celebrate in these movies (Will Smith’s particular placement as Blue Lives Matter AmeriNazi is thrilling). I really can’t remember the last time such a politically heated movie was so inherently exciting. A true masterpiece.
1. Home When you return
Speaking of masterpieces, the festival film could very well be Home When you return. Carl Elsaesser’s 30-minute knockout blow takes the melodramatic works of poet-turned-filmmaker Joan Thurber Baldwin and turns them into a mysterious and eerily surreal double exposure of a tribute. Opening with an intro that sets up the film with an ominous comic cloud hanging over every following second, Elsaesser’s film feels the closest we’ve come to bringing the phrase “Lynchian” to bear, in its dark, comedic reverence for mid-century melodrama and its use of sound and photographic distortion. Instead of seeing the wild-haired author as a reference and more reverential figure, no moment here feels flat. A masterful mesh of visuals, sound and text, Home When you return is a brilliant, darkly comedic short that brings touch to life how memories stick to the walls of the spaces in which we share them.