Depression in the Bay of Bengal, A

Rental Format(s): 16mm film

A DEPRESSION IN THE BAY OF BENGAL is a 28-minute color film shot while on a Fulbright Scholars Fellowship to Sri Lanka in 1993-1994. I went to Sri Lanka with the idea that I would remake Basil Wright's and John Grierson's 1934 documentary Song of Ceylon. After spending three months there I realized just how impossible that would be. Wright's film was formally innovative and visually brilliant but his experience was not to be revisited. Each of the places he filmed still exist, but thirteen years of ethnic war have colored the way in which those places can be portrayed. I have made a film about travelling and living in a distant place which looks at aspects of daily life and where the war shadows the quotidian with a dark and rumbling step.

This film is both diaristic and metaphorical, both on account of my observations of everyday life as well as an indirect record of the war and of the tense atmosphere which permeates life there. The overwhelming sensation in the film is that of both physical and metaphorical distance: the distance between the traveler and Sri Lankans, the miles traveled as indicated by the persistent sound of trains, the distance between the camera and the subject, time as distance as evoked both by the historical footage and the notion of trains as a nineteenth century mode of transport, and by the black leader at the close of the film over which an article about an explosion in Sri Lanka is read. Past experience, whether local or far away, exists only in the mind and for the duration of the last three minutes of the film, mental images are the ones that play on the screen.

Exhibition: Between Heaven and Earth, SF Cinematheque, 1994*; Conspiracies, NY, 1994*; Context, NY, 1996*; Massachusetts College of Art, Boston, 1996; Cineprobe, Museum of Modern Art, NY, 1996; SF Cinematheque, 1997; University of Colorado, Boulder, 1997.

*Shown as work in-progress

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16mm film $112.00  

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