of the most exciting and unpredictable experimental filmmakers working today, SPACE and Points North Institute are partnering to present a retrospective of works by James N. Kienitz Wilkins, the first one of its kind the US, including both feature and short works from Wilkins created between 2013 and 2018, all of which have screened widely at prestigious festivals and museums across the world. Straddling the worlds of film and art, Wilkins writing and directing distinctively explore issues within language and performance, while perpetually experimenting with the formal codes of filmmaking.
dir. James N Kienitz Wilkins | 120 min | 2013 | (MoMA PS1, CPH:DOX/Copenhagen International Documentary Film Festival, CIFF/Camden International Film Festival)
Public Hearing re-performs a rural American town meeting from a transcript downloaded as publicly available information. Shot entirely in cinematic close-up on black-and-white 16mm film, an ensemble cast read between the lines in an ironic debate over a proposed construction of a Walmart “supercenter” expansion in Allegany, New York on the site of a pre-existing Walmart.
"Parsing such designations between what does or doesn’t qualify as a documentary perhaps isn't the most illuminating point of inquiry into the film, especially as the engagement with documentary is only one historical antecedent that the film seems informed by without ever fully adhering to. At times, the performances recall the language of TV dramatizations, while the structuring use of the sourced transcript also hints at Duchamp and his modernist interest in readymades (something Wilkins also explored in his 2015 piece Tester in which the artist constructed a noir narrative around a found, unedited BetaSP tape)." - Jesse Cumming, MUBI Close-Up Notebook
"His film Public Hearing, a quasi-Brechtian staging of an actual small-town debate over the replacement of a Walmart with a Super Walmart, is a testament to the rich possibilities still to be found in a cinema of reenactment." - Thomas Beard, Programmer at Large, Film Society at Lincoln Center & Founder, Light Industry