River Rites

Ben Russell

2011 | 00:11:23 | Suriname / United States | English | Color | Stereo | 16:9 | 16mm film

Collection: Single Titles

Tags: Body, Dance, Environment, Humor, Image Processing, Landscape, Magic, Music, Ritual, Youth/Childhood

“Animists are people who recognise that the world is full of persons, some of whom are human, and that life is always lived in relationship with others.”

-- Graham Harvey, Animism

Trance dance and water implosion, a kino-line drawn between secular freak-outs and religious phenomena. Filmed in a single take at a sacred site on the Upper Suriname River, the minor secrets of a Saramaccan animist's everyday are revealed as time itself is undone. Rites are the new Trypps -- embodiment is our eternal everything.

"River Rites (2011), a stunning Suriname canvas flowing in reverse, explodes Cartesian dualities with newfound eloquence… [it] comes spring-loaded with perceptual surprise, formalizing the liability of unmediated experience through specifically mediated effects. But we would do well to note the subtlety with which the reverse time of Chris Fawcett’s magnificent Steadicam in River Rites first registers (the film tests what does and doesn’t change when directionality is stood on its head). If choreographing the unbroken camera movement against the clock is a relatively straightforward proposition, it’s one that resonates on several different levels. There’s the paradoxical nature of time, always moving forward as what it represents draws back, finishing in the past to remember the future; the fresh angle on ethnographic knowledge and attendant reflection that temporal dynamics may be as culturally determined as spatial ones; the marvel of Brian Chippendale’s cymbal collecting itself into a fine point just as the water’s surface returns to calm as boy after boy emerges from their dives with the sudden life of a great painter’s sketches (or Maya Deren’s dance films). The film’s deepest insight is the one that’s right under your nose: that everyday gestures and rituals hold their shape no matter the arrow of time. One could imagine a social theorist expanding on this theme for several hundred pages, but Russell gets the essence in a roll of film. With such a revelatory frame for looking, it’s no wonder the image looks back."

-- Max Goldberg, “50 Best Filmmakers Under 50: Ben Russell”, Cinemascope


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Prizes + Awards

Bucharest International Experimental Film Festival, Grand Prize

Chicago Underground Film Festival, Best Documentary Short

Media City Film Festival, Grand Prize

Cinema du Reel, Intangible Heritage Award (Special Mention)

Recontres Internationales du Documentaire de Montreal, Special Mention


Venice Film Festival

Exhibitions + Festivals

Views from the Avant Garde, New York Underground Film Festival, NY

Doc Lisboa, Lisbon, Portugal

UnionDocs, Brooklyn, NY

International Film Festival Rotterdam, The Netherlands

Courtisane, Ghent, Belgium

Ann Arbor Film Festival, MI

Media City, Windor, Canada

Nashville Film Festival, TN

EMAF, Osnabruck, Germany

Sonar, Barcelona, Spain

New Zealand Film Festival, Wellington, NZ

Viennale, Austria

London Film Festival, UK

Videoex, Zurich, Switzerland

RedCat, Los Angeles,