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We are continuing our partnership with DOK Leipzig to showcase highlights from their tribute Visual Electrics. The Cinema of Jay Rosenblatt to be exhibited in this year’s 60th festival edition.

“The films of Jay Rosenblatt electrify the viewer in a strange way. Our attention skyrockets to 120 per cent and anyone who has sampled the beguiling eeriness of these works quickly wants more.
The photograph on his website could be considered a gateway drug. It gives the impression of being a screenshot from an old American film, probably an educational film (but maybe also either a melodrama or a crime movie) from the 1950s: a young boy stands in pyjamas in front of a door that has been left ajar and, caught between fear and curiosity, he is just about to finally tear it open. You imagine an accompanying music that while not necessarily sounding like Bernard Herrmann’s compositions for Hitchcock’s world of suspense, feels just like it – this gives you a fairly precise idea of what goes on in Rosenblatt’s films and what they do to you.
Jay Rosenblatt, who is also Programme Director of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, rarely reaches for the middle ground. His works are either extremely general or extremely personal. So on the one hand we are looking at male children preparing to become real boys (THE SMELL OF BURNING ANT), the stages of grief after losing someone close to you (PHANTOM LIMB), or the banality of evil and how it appears in the private lives of some of the greatest dictators of the twentieth century (HUMAN REMAINS). On the other hand we have Rosenblatt’s diary-like sketches from inside his own (happy) family – self-reflexive gems that ironically disrupt the tone of well-meant self-help literature, as in for example I USED TO BE A FILMMAKER. But either way these are films in the first person singular” – Ralph Eue, DOK Leipzig

The Claustrum

Jay Rosenblatt United States, 2014

Our homage Visual Electrics: The Cinema of Jay Rosenblatt, a joint retrospective with DOK Leipzig, draws to a close with this profound tunnelling into the psychological state of “claustrum,” an ineffable inner world extrapolated in Rosenblatt’s found footage and archive material.

Inquire Within

Jay Rosenblatt United States, 2012

A series of stark close-ups on life-or-death moments—a match lit or elephant electrocuted—that we are helpless to stop but nonetheless made witness to. Nothing transfers an unshakable feeling (seemingly subliminally!) like a Jay Rosenblatt film, and Inquire Within is no exception.

The D Train

Jay Rosenblatt United States, 2011

Expanding out from its banal beginning—the daily routine: a commuter train moving, an elevator ascending—this miniature is a powerhouse that works in spite of its size. Tracing the rhythm from birth to death, The D Train arrives at the existential realization that life goes on, and is gone so soon.

The Darkness of Day

Jay Rosenblatt United States, 2009

In a career of working with found footage, Rosenblatt’s modus operandi takes on new resonance in this provocative short, sensitively engaging with the subject matter of suicide. Constructed from excerpts from a depressed man’s diary, occasionally interrupted by the voice of an objective narrator.

I Just Wanted to Be Somebody

Jay Rosenblatt United States, 2006

Our homage to Jay Rosenblatt continues with I Just Wanted to Be Somebody, a short unique in its shift of focus to different subject matter—Anita Bryant’s homophobic political activism—though still characteristic of its maker, assembled in Rosenblatt’s typical bricolage style.

Afraid So

Jay Rosenblatt United States, 2006

Perfectly conjuring his desired atmosphere of doom and descending dread, Jay Rosenblatt captures an anxious, unsettling feeling in this foreboding short. Constructed from found footage, a series of questions, and a poem by Jeanne Marie Beaumont.

Phantom Limb

Jay Rosenblatt United States, 2005

Continuing our Jay Rosenblatt retrospective, in partnership with DOK Leipzig, this key short film reveals a reverberating trauma within the Rosenblatt family: the death of the director’s younger brother, his grief brought to the screen in a characteristic combination of juxtaposed found footage.

I Used to Be a Filmmaker

Jay Rosenblatt United States, 2003

A lovely chronicle of Jay Rosenblatt’s young daughter Ella in the first years of her life, this touching and surprisingly funny short is equally an indirect look at Rosenblatt’s new, dual profession as a filmmaker and as a father.

Prayer

Jay Rosenblatt United States, 2002

Our homage to Jay Rosenblatt, one of the USA’s truly independent filmmakers, continues with another standout in the director’s typically hard-hitting and powerful work, Prayer. It’s a part of the larger omnibus film Underground Zero, a collection of shorts made by Rosenblatt in response to 9/11.

Nine Lives (The Eternal Moment of Now)

Jay Rosenblatt United States, 2001

Exploring imagination, memories, dreams, or past lives of Pinky the cat, this is another austere short film from Jay Rosenblatt that leaves a lasting, enigmatic impression, stubbornly staying with you in spite of its exceptional brevity. One to watch over, and over, and over again.

Worm

Jay Rosenblatt, Caveh Zahedi United States, 2001

Continuing our Jay Rosenblatt homage showcasing highlights from DOK Leipzig’s Visual Electrics tribute, Worm returns to regular themes of childhood, imagination, and the construction of reality. Co-directed alongside another maverick filmmaker: Caveh Zahedi (I Am A Sex Addict)!

Restricted

Jay Rosenblatt United States, 1999

At just 60 seconds, Jay Rosenblatt’s Restricted is an extreme example of what can be achieved in remarkable economy: a furor of images, a choice phrase repeated & repeated until it mutates into a mantra, producing an effect that lingers long after this documentary short comes to its abrupt close.

Human Remains

Jay Rosenblatt United States, 1998

Continuing our retrospective of the hard-hitting experimental work of Jay Rosenblatt, Human Remains confronts strange and banal personal behaviors of the most recognisably evil of men, making the unsettling, seismic suggestion of their (and all of our) shared humanity.

The Smell of Burning Ants

Jay Rosenblatt United States, 1994

A haunting documentary about the pains of growing up male. It explores the inner and outer cruelties that boys perpetrate and endure. The film provokes the viewer to reflect on how our society can deprive boys of wholeness.

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