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John Smith: Program 2

"The films of John Smith conduct a serious investigation into the combination of sound and image, but with a sense of humour that reaches out beyond the traditional avant-garde audience. His films and videos move between narrative and absurdity, constantly undermining the traditional relationship between the visual and the aural. By blurring the perceived boundaries of experimental film, fiction and documentary, Smith never delivers what he has led the spectator to expect."

—Mark Webber, Leeds International Film Festival catalogue 2000

# Title Artists Run Time Year Country
1 Slow Glass John Smith 00:40:00 1991 United Kingdom
2 Blight John Smith 00:14:00 1996 United Kingdom
3 The Waste Land John Smith 00:05:00 1999 United Kingdom
4 The Kiss John Smith 00:05:00 1999 United Kingdom
5 Regression John Smith 00:17:00 1999 United Kingdom

Slow Glass

John Smith
1991 | 00:40:00 | United Kingdom | English | Color | Stereo | 4:3 |


A nostalgic glazier shows off his knowledge and expounds his theories. Taking glassmaking processes and history as its central theme, Slow Glass explores ideas about memory, perception and change.

“The rich visual surface and engaging voiceover of Slow Glass convey an extended metaphor, which links light, glass, and lens. An ‘opening’ shot (a smashed windowpane) and a ‘closing’ one (the window bricked up) frame the film. As it slowly reveals its own artifice, the realist surface is interrupted, as when a car mirror shows reflections of a different journey than the one visible through the windscreen. These constructed ‘mistakes,’ which break the flow, are so crafted as to invade the image and unsettle the word. Direct evocation of the past—a 1950s childhood—allows the film to question its depiction of the present… Smith brings formidable skill to bear in a film which scrutinizes the very ‘speculations’ it incites.”

—A.L. Rees, A History of Experimental Film and Video (London: British Film Institute, 1999)

"There are jokes galore in Slow Glass but the seriousness of it all is what stays with me. There is loss, and frustration, and irony, and irritation, and confinement, and terrible tension in the long glassblowing sequence. The film’s visual attack—fast editing, split screen effects and jump-cuts—is heightened because belied by the laconic voice-over. The authority of the voice track, so important to the uninspired documentary film-maker, is thoroughly debunked in this film along with the authority of official cultural histories...The story is a personal reflection on changing attitudes to labour, and it is also the story of an industry."

—Penny Webb, Agenda 30/31 (1992)

This title is also available on John Smith: Program 2.


John Smith
1996 | 00:14:00 | United Kingdom | English | Color | Stereo | 4:3 | Film


"Blight was made in collaboration with composer Jocelyn Pook. It revolves around the building of the M11 Link Road in East London, which provoked a long and bitter campaign by local residents to protect their homes from demolition. Until 1994, when our houses were destroyed, both the composer and I lived on the route of this road. The images in the film are a selective record of some of the changes which occurred in the area over a two-year period, from the demolition of houses through to the start of motorway building work. The soundtrack incorporates natural sounds associated with these events together with speech fragments taken from recorded conversations with local people. Although the film is entirely constructed from records of real events, Blight is not a straightforward documentary. The film constructs stories from unconnected fragments of sound and image, bringing disparate reminiscences and contemporary events together. Like much of my earlier work, Blight exploits the ambiguities of its material to produce new meanings and metaphors, fictionalizing reality through framing and editing strategies. The emotive power of music is used in the film to overtly aid this invention, investing mundane images with artificial importance. A specific 'real' context for the depicted events only becomes apparent at the end of the film. What is presented is simultaneously fact and fiction."

—John Smith

This title is also available on John Smith: Program 2.

The Waste Land

John Smith
1999 | 00:05:00 | United Kingdom | English | Color | Stereo | 4:3 | Video


A personal interpretation of the poetry and letters of T.S. Eliot that explores the ambiguities of language and space in a scenario built around an anagram. "A brilliant, absurd staging of Eliot’s The Waste Land in the local pub by the master of irony himself, John Smith. Smith’s use of the subjective camera tradition of independent film takes the viewer on a shaky journey from bar to bog and back again."

—UK/Canadian Video Exchange (touring program, 2000)

This title is also available on John Smith: Program 2.

The Kiss

John Smith
1999 | 00:05:00 | United Kingdom | English | Color | Stereo | 4:3 |


Made with Ian Bourn.

A depiction of the forced development of a hothouse flower. Organic growth is progressively overtaken by a more sinister mechanical process.

"The makers manage very convincingly to wrong-foot the viewer in just five minutes in this minimalist, lyrical film about a blossoming flower."

—International Film Festival Rotterdam (2000)

"A film of a disarming seeming simplicity which enigmatically prompts reflections on its meaning and its use of media."

—International Jury, L’Immagine Leggera Festival, (Sicily, 2000, winner of 3rd prize)

The title is also available on John Smith: Program 2.


John Smith
1999 | 00:17:00 | United Kingdom | English | Color | Stereo | 4:3 |


A portrait of the artist as a not-so-young man. The filmmaker attempts to enter the digital age by making a new video version of one of his old films.

"The award of the Short Film Festival goes to a video in which the reflection of artistic work becomes a form itself. John Smith manages to give us a self-ironic humorous experiment about art and time."

—Prize of the International Short Film Festival, Oberhausen 2000

This title is also available on John Smith: Program 2.