The AAFF is thrilled to announce Jem Cohen’s new film Counting will screen at the 54th AAFF. Cohen will be in attendance for the screening of his film on Wednesday, March 16th at 9:15pm, and will also present a special program of his short films on Friday, March 18 at 9:15pm.
In fifteen linked chapters shot in locations ranging from Moscow to New York to Istanbul, Counting merges city symphony, diary film, and personal/political essay to create a vivid portrait of contemporary life. Perhaps the most personal of Cohen's films, Counting measures street life, light and time, noting not only surveillance and overdevelopment but resistance and its phantoms as manifested in music, animals and everyday magic.
Jem Cohen on Counting:
“I wanted to make a record of street life in a number of disparate cities within a limited time period, so as to measure recurrent ways in which people, animals, landscape, and politics interact within roughly the same global moment. I wanted to witness how displacement and real estate-driven destruction have become so interwoven into the fabric of urban life that they seem almost natural. I wanted to explore notions of observation vs. surveillance and to touch on the way protests spring up and seem, deceptively, to vanish. I wanted to indicate ways that music and animal life and light itself serve as antidotes, and so on. And I also wanted to make a film that by its own form questions the ways that documentary, even as it gains currency in the culture, is increasingly boxed in and expected to hew to formulas.” (from an interview with Sarah Salovaara for Filmmaker Magazine)
On Friday, Jem Cohen will present a special presentation of his short films including several newly completed films and works-in-progress. Other works in the program include NYC Weights and Measures (2005, 6 min), The Passage Clock: For Walter Benjamin (2010, 10 min) and Lost Book Found (1996, 37 min), one of Cohen's most acclaimed short films. A result of over five years of Super-8 and 16mm filming on New York City streets, Lost Book Found melds documentary and narrative into a complex meditation on city life. The piece revolves around a mysterious notebook filled with obsessive listings of places, objects, and incidents. These listings serve as the key to a hidden city: a city of unconsidered geographies and layered artifacts—the relics of low-level capitalism and the debris of countless forgotten narratives. The project stems from the filmmaker's first job in New York—working as a pushcart vendor on Canal Street. As usual, Cohen shot in hundreds of locations using unobtrusive equipment and generally without any crew. Influenced by the work of Walter Benjamin, Cohen created "an archive of undirected shots and sounds, then set out to explore the boundary" between genres. During the process, Cohen said, "I found connections between the street vendor, Benjamin's 'flaneur', and my own work as an observer and collector of ephemeral street life."
Jem Cohen is a New York-based filmmaker and media artist whose works are built from his own ongoing archive of street footage, portraits, and sound. His films and installations often navigate the grey area between documentary, narrative, and experimental modes. Cohen is best known for the feature films Museum Hours (2012), Chain (2004), Instrument (1999), Benjamin Smoke (1999); his over seventy short films from 1983 to the present; his 2015 installation We Have an Anchor; and his work with musicians such as Patti Smith, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Fugazi, Vic Chesnutt, the Ex, Terry Riley, Elliott Smith, and R.E.M. among others.