Cinema Into The Real | STEVEN EASTWOOD Filmmaker & Artist


STEVEN EASTWOOD is a filmmaker and artist who works between fiction and documentary.
For a number of years this was his website.

Content is from the site's 2010 -2015 archived pages as well as from other outside sources.

Contact:
Steven Eastwood
17-25 Cremer Street
London
E2 8HD
UK
paradogsfilm@gmail.com

Steven Eastwood is an artist and filmmaker whose practice spans documentary film, installation-based moving image, media arts, and theory. He holds a PhD from the Slade School of Fine Art, University College London, and teaches film practice at Queen Mary University of London. He has held Visiting Lecturer positions at Harvard University, University of Greenwich, and University of Buffalo. His feature-length film, Island, premiered at BFI London Film Festival in 2017 and the sibling multichannel video installation, The Interval and the Instant, was presented at Fabrica (Brighton). His feature film Buried Land was an official selection at the Tribeca, Moscow, Sarajevo, and Mumbai film festivals. Recent and forthcoming exhibitions include Fabrica (Brighton), QUT Gallery (Brisbane), Globe Gallery (Newcastle), KK Projects (New Orleans), ICA (London).

Buried Land

Written & Directed by Steven Eastwood & Geoffrey Alan Rhodes

81:00. UK/USA/Bosnia. 2010

In 2006, CNN announced the discovery of ancient pyramids, not in Egypt, but the small town of Visoko in central Bosnia...

 



Buried Land (2010) Narrative feature, 80mins, 16.9 HDCAM Shot on location in the Valley of the Pyramids in Visoko, Bosni

Written & Directed by Steven Eastwood & Geoffrey Alan Rhodes
81:00. UK/USA/Bosnia. 2010

In 2006, CNN announced the discovery of ancient pyramids in the tiny village of Visoko, Bosnia.  A fictional film in a real community, Buried Land is the story of one man’s return to his homeland to find the truth behind the pyramidal claims. But how do you make a film about a pyramid that can’t be seen and will he come to believe? This is a story of the power of faith, imagination and community, and of the futility of looking for absolute truths, in life, and in movies…

SYNOPSIS

Emir, a Bosnian émigré removed during the war, returns to his homeland to assist an American filmmaker in the making of a film. Caught between states of patriotism and cynicism, he sets out to discover the truth behind the pyramidal claims. Harnessing the passionate hopes and imagination of the town, the pair begin casting for their proposed film; but Semir Osmanagic, the man at the centre of the audacious pyramidal claims, remains an elusive figure. When Emir begins a relationship with a beautiful tour guide, Avdija, it is soon clear that he is out of his depth and his ego attracts attention. Accused of making fun of the community, Emir's outlandish behaviour grows more and more confused and a grandiose shoot at the summit of the Moon Pyramid descends into chaos. Rejected by Avdija, Emir stumbles, desolate, to the Pyramid of the Sun. Here, at last, he finds Osmanagic and he is forced to confront both his expatriate identity and his skeptical beliefs towards the town. Using factual encounters, real interviews, staged situations and scripted scenes, Buried Land is a fictional film set in a real community.inex-buried-lands

Buried Land is a fictional story set in a real community. Emir Z. Kapetanovic takes the central role as a young man struggling to reconnect with his homeland. Controversy surrounded the production of the film when the Bosnian magazine Weekend accused the directors of planning a "Borat" film production, using a single actor to lure the local people into a misrepresentation. Riffing on these actual events, the filmmakers made this accusation a part of their story. Buried Land is about how films often miss underlying meanings in their attempts to provide sensation. The real story is of belief and hope – as symbolized by the Visoko pyramids and the spirit of a town that has lived through the trauma of war.

Oficial Selection: Tribeca, Moscow, Sarajevo, Mumbai, Goteborg, East End Film Festival

Soht on location in the Valley of the Pyramids, Visoko, Bosnia

A Paradogs / GARhodes Production 2010 co-produced with Vennerfilm

Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and The Princess Grace Foundation.

Official Selection: Tribeca, Moscow, Sarajevo, Mumbai, Goteborg, East End Film Festival.

Shot on location in the Valley of the Pyramids, Visoko, Bosnia

A Paradogs / GARhodes Production 2010 co-produced with Vennerfilm

Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and The Princess Grace Foundation.

 

"I'm a huge fan of Steven's work. He handles his subjects with care and dignity even as the slip away from life. I once heard an interview with him about a completely different subject - his dogs. What blew me away was the consideration even his pets receive - the same caring attitude toward living things that's evident in his films. When one of his favorite dogs was dying, before putting him down, Steven made sure that his last night's sleep was on a comfy dog bed cushion, and he stayed with the animal until it was time to go. Dogs get the same respect as humans and this is the point I want to make about this man. I'm a big fan!" Julia Morrow

 

OTHER WORK



The Interval and the Instant by Steven Eastwood (Fabrica 2017)

Steven Eastwood
The Interval and the Instant, 2017

An intimate and patient encounter with the end of life in the context of palliative care, The Interval and the Instant is a multiscreen video installation [1] that reworks footage from Eastwood’s feature-length film, Island (2017), a sustained engagement with four individuals navigating terminal diagnoses in a hospice on the Isle of Wight in England. Filmed over twelve months, Island is a life-affirming reflection on dying, portraying the transition away from active personhood and observing the last days of life and the moment of death. Based on extraordinary access to intensely private events, Island shows diagnosis, treatment, the progression of illness, and death—trialling, in the process, an ethics of looking at dying. Long takes and interwoven sequences document the temporal interval of terminal illness, following subjects from home to hospital to hospice, and the instant of death. Involving multiple screens and video loops of varying lengths, The Interval and the Instant’s centrepiece is a fifty-minute triptych, each screen witnessing one hospice patient—Alan, Jamie, or Roy—and working with extended duration. “Death,” says Eastwood, “takes its own time.” [2]



Steven Eastwood, Island (film still), 2017. HD video, 90 minutes. Courtesy the artist

The Interval and the Instant counters contemporary western culture’s tendency to partition dying and death, to regard mortality with anxiety, and to abstract death in metaphoric representations. On the deficit of moving images of death, Eastwood says: “If the person with terminal illness is denied a certain kind of participation in our culture, denied a certain kind of image, then denying that person an image is surely also contributing to how they are repressed in our culture.” [3] While the subject remains stubbornly taboo, The Interval and the Instant shows dying to be natural and everyday—but also unspeakable and strange. Among the insights that have stayed with Eastwood after filming is, he remarks, a sense of how beautiful a good death can be: when care is really attentive, pain is managed, when somebody has lived a long life, and what you see is the gentle running out of a life—the end of breaths... I found it very empowering. It had a beauty. It had an unspeakable quality, and I am very fortunate to have been invited to see that. And I found it strangely uplifting.” [4]

The Interval and the Instant’s image of dying is generated in the institutional milieu of hospice care and, as such, its conditions of possibility include the care work performed by nurses and other palliative care professionals. Yet, says Eastwood, “I was halfway through one year of filming when I realized that I had no images of care. Whenever I produced my camera, the nurses would vacate the frame. We had a meeting with the nurses and said, ‘Listen, we are giving an inaccurate representation. If you see what I’m filming, it looks as though these people are abandoned.’ That produced a powerful shift in the nurses’ attitudes. They understood that it was important to act against their default behaviour. They had to allow themselves to be visible.” [5] Eastwood’s project reveals the distinctiveness of the bond between nurse and patient in hospice care, with “the carer being witness to events, experiences, and expressions that wider society (or, at times, family and friends) do not see, and making representations (medical, corporeal, holistic) of the person cared for and their symptoms.” [6] Eastwood’s work further evokes affinities between carer and artist: “In a situation like the making of this film, the artist is something of a stranger, or an interrupter. The filmmaker arrives for a limited time into the centre of a life, yet is granted uncommon relationships and access, because of a newness and strangeness. For me, one of the exciting things that filmmaking can do is produce new behaviour, for both filmmaker and subject. Talking with nurses, I realized they have similarly uncommon relationships with patients. Often their patients show parts of their personalities or reveal intimacies and private thoughts that they don’t share with their families. Nurses are also physically proximate to patients, so they know every aspect of them. This creates a window, almost a liberating opportunity, for the development of new relationships that don’t have to conform to patterns and histories.”

+++

 

Filming death: Why dying people wanted me to capture their last moments

Article from: independent.co.uk.com
FUll article is found at:
http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/features/island-steven-eastwood-bfi-london-film-festival-a7979466.html)
Steven Eastwood
Monday 2 October 2017

Director Steven Eastwood's film 'Island', in which he witnesses the moment of death of terminally ill patients in a hospice, premieres at the BFI London Film Festival

 



Island Documentary Director Steven Eastwood Interview

Over 12 months between 2015 and 2016 I filmed at the Earl Mountbatten Hospice in Newport, Isle of Wight, and in the surrounding neighbourhoods. I wanted to spend time with people with a terminal illness, and be witness to the moment of death. I felt that this was taboo in our society, certainly taboo if the image didn’t originate from a familial relationship, like a partner or a sibling filming a loved one.

Just before I began filming I had two major bereavements of my own. I decided to find out for myself what dying is and does, and to see how film might open up our awareness of this period and this event. Introductions came by way of the community team and Macmillan nurses, modest and selfless carers conducting home visits, who act as lifelines, running up and down the A-road arteries of the archipelago.

If you think the prospect of participating in a film would be far from your list when you have a terminal illness, think again. Almost everyone approached agreed to meet me. For some, knowing that there is limited time can bring things into focus. And filmmaking can be a remarkably open and unorthodox space. Spending time in family homes and in the private and public spaces of the hospice meant that I was privy to extraordinary stories, encapsulated lives, gentle shifts in relationships...

A person with a terminal diagnosis is denied presence and participation in our culture and because of this they are denied a certain kind of image. Their image is guarded and protected, often without consulting the person going through the illness. Denying that person an image only further contributes to how they are repressed in our culture. The images we have are limited, by access and also by aesthetics. Descriptions tend to be medicalised, euphemistic, sentimental, or managed through metaphor. But what kinds of images can we have, and what images do we need? When do we look, when do we look away, and why? Filming Alan in the last stages of life involved recording once he was no longer conscious and could not return the look. It is these challenging images, of seeing Jamie when he is in pain and dealing with his illness, of being with Alan as he dies, that are central to the film.

The Island enabled me to put metaphor in the frame and acknowledge that we need it, but that metaphor takes us only so far. It functions, much like humour, as a safety place to launch into more challenging and difficult spaces. At points the ferries are metaphorically there, giving the film a floating aspect suggestive of another world, but, towards the film’s end, metaphor is gone and we are left with direct images, images of intimacy and unfolding time, including a seven-minute sequence in which we see Alan die.

We fear the image of a person who has died will burn us, but it doesn’t. We fear proximity to death will change us, depress us, forge lasting negative associations with people we love. But it doesn’t. What was it like and how did I feel, when Alan died? I felt elated. Beautiful, unspeakable and strange. It is as though Life is an engine, turning over, stalling then stopping, the person already vacated, just the body living, until it no longer can. I don’t think of the film as being about cancer, or suffering.

To my mind it isn’t harrowing or burdensome. I felt uplifted and empowered by the extraordinary events I was fortunate enough to be invited to bear witness to. I hope that something of that feeling of empowerment has translated to the screen.



 

PRESS 2010

Tribeca Film Festival 2010

The feature film, Buried Land, released this year at the Tribeca Film Festival will screen at the Burchfield Penney Arts Center this Thursday at 7pm as part of the Beyond/In Western New York biennale.

An inventive hybrid of fiction and documentary, Buried Land takes us on a journey to Visoko, a town in Bosnia that claims that beneath its three surrounding mountains lies the most extraordinary discovery of our age: A valley of ancient pyramids predating Egypt. The people of Visoko are energized by the prospect of having a new cultural identity to promote—one that has no connection to the recent memories of war—and a tourist industry begins to bloom with the news of the pyramids' still-unconfirmed existence. It is amid this furor that an American film crew arrives to make a film with the help of a young émigré, Emir, who is returning to his native land for the first time since he fled during the war. Controversy mounts as the townspeople fear they'll be portrayed by the American director like the people of Kazakhstan in Borat, and Emir develops a kinship with an attractive tourist agent.

Mirroring its own vacillation between fact and fiction, Buried Land depicts a town full of people caught between the real and the imagined. Fittingly, then, directors Steven Eastwood and Geoffrey Alan Rhodes (who "plays" the movie-within-a-movie's director) seek to determine the role of faith in capturing what can not yet be proven, and they constantly challenge our perceptions of the difference between what we know to be real and what in our hearts we can only hope is real.

Drama

About the Director(s)

Geoffrey Alan Rhodes' experimental films have been exhibited internationally. He directed the award-winning educational documentary Made Over In America and makes his feature fiction debut with Buried Land.

Steven Eastwood's previous films include Seminar in Film Sound (2008), Of Camera (2003), and Those Who Are Jesus (2001), which was nominated for a Grierson documentary award. Buried Land is his first feature.

Buried Land was co-produced and co-directed by Steven Eastwood and Geoffrey Alan Rhodes, Assistant Professor in the School of Film and Animation at R.I.T.This is the film’s first screening so close to home, and is free and open to the public.  A Q&A by co-Director Alan Rhodes will be held at the end of the screening.

Co-directors Steven Eastwood and Geoffrey Alan Rhodes incorporate real people and events into their fiction, including an accusation made against them of being “Borat in Bosnia”.  This mix of fact and fantastical has as many sides as the story of the pyramids the Visokons claim to have

 



 

Buried Land : An Interview with the Filmmakers

Buried Land : An Interview with the Filmmakers
By Joseph Smigelski
05/24/2010
At a press party at last month’s Tribeca Film Festival, I had the chance to speak with Geoffrey Alan Rhodes and Steven Eastwood, co-directors of a bizarre quasi-documentary called Buried Land. The movie is about three ancient pyramids, even older than those in Egypt, that some people claim can be found beneath three large hills in central Bosnia. Think of the supposed vortexes of Sedona, Arizona, on a grander scale. Geoffrey and Steven told me that they made the film because they wanted to explore why people will persist in believing unprovable, even irrational claims in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary. Their film has been called “an inventive hybrid of fiction and documentary.” I found it both fascinating and disturbing on several levels. Last week, I followed up our conversation at Tribeca with an email interview. I thank Steven and Alan for taking the time to thoughtfully answer all of my questions.

How did it feel to be making a film in Bosnia, a place that, not long ago, was savagely torn by war and ethnic strife? How did you deal emotionally with the skepticism you faced from some of the locals?
I think the war is more recent in our minds in the US and the UK, because that’s really the last we heard of Bosnia. As you can see in the film, we worked with a group of 15-year-olds that had no real memory of the war, and were instead interested in the new possibilities of travel in a unified Europe. That said, of course the war, and in particular the major diaspora it brought about (both internal to Bosnia, Serbia, and Croatia and those that left the region entirely), is omnipresent. We traveled there, both in our research trip and during our principle photography, with a student from Buffalo, Dalibor Stare, who had emigrated when he was a teenager at the beginning of the war and was now acting as our production assistant and translator. He had grown up very near to Visoko and hadn’t returned many times. In many ways we experienced the effects of the war and what Bosnia is now through him, and in fact his ambivalent encounter with his home country (was his allegiance with the Western outsiders or with a community he had become estranged from?) formed the basis of the fictional character we developed. The skepticism we encountered from the Pyramid Foundation and from the locals really only had to do with the Borat accusation in a national newspaper. We went to great lengths to rebuild trust in that period. Having a Line Producer, Assistant Director, and Casting Director from the town helped. We had a pretty open and inclusive way of shooting, so we were able to adapt and work some of these inevitable tensions back into the frame of the film

.I thought the film was most engaging when you explored the reasons why some of the citizens of Visoko want so badly to believe that the pyramids are real. Why did you choose to make a partly fictitious quasi-documentary instead of a traditional documentary? Why did you choose to give two actors — playing Emir and Adam, the only non-locals in the film — such key roles?
There are two main reasons for this. Firstly, when we came across the news story we were instantly interested in this phenomenon of a community changing their identity very rapidly around something that might be fictitious. We always knew that we would be coming at this as outsiders, and we constructed our ideas of what story to tell around this — a story told through an outside lens, a story of outsiders coming to town and seeing. Secondly, we felt that a documentary would have to get caught up with sorting out the facts and fictions of the pyramid discoveries, because fact is such a basis of that genre, and we wanted to instead focus on the people and the inscrutability of the subject.

How much of the film was scripted as opposed to a more cinema verite approach?
We did the Kiarostami method, where we scripted the narrative but not the lines. We worked from an eight-page document that planned the sequence of scenes and the basic journey that our actor, Emir Kapetanovic, would take: people to meet, places to see, general actions to take, and the story arc (essentially a return home story, with a gentle rise and fall) for his character. We kept this loose and added what came our way, rewriting during principal photography. So, for example, the scene in the nightclub we developed after spending an evening at that club and talking to the owner. We understood that a scene there could take place within our narrative as part of the cathartic night after Emir’s film shoot, and so we planned it for one of the final shooting days. Other contributors like the Imam and the Farmer evolved in a similar fashion. For example, for the Imam scene, we had given Emir some general points and directives about diaspora and faith, but we were not permitted inside the mosque, and so the conversation took its own shape in spite of us.

 It seems to me that, like Fellini’s 8 1/2, your film is a movie about making a movie. During a few scenes, we can see and hear Emir giving direction to the participants, and there are several screen tests which at times strain the patience of some of your subjects. Why did you choose to emphasize the movie-making process by including these in the final cut?
8 1/2, Stardust Memories, Closeup by Kiarostami, and especially many of the films of Andy Warhol — these were all in our heads while we were developing the project. One reason we were interested in a self-reflexive form is that Steven and I both come from art backgrounds — making work for the art gallery as well as for the theatrical space. I think we both believe that there is a certain power in self-reflexive work — that, by not using the standard production practice of repressing all the aspects of production going on during a shoot, you can represent a certain integrity and freshness in your subjects that is otherwise elusive. As well, we realized that filmmaking could stand in for the issue of seeing and belief in the film. Like this community that has come together around an image of a pyramid they haven’t seen, filmmaking is a group of people that come together around the idea of creating an image that no one in the production has ever really seen. The casting scenes were a direct reference to Warhol screen tests (Emir’s big and failed film shoot day is also a reference to Warhol’s Kitchen). These scenes were very carefully constructed using shallow depth of field lenses to evoke an ethnographic or National Geographic style portraiture whilst shoring up all of the discomfort we feel at these kinds of points of view. In these scenes you are given the face of the other, of “Bosnians,” but you are also made to question why you are looking in this way, or certainly why media looks in this way.

Toward the end of the film, a conversation between Emir and Avdija reveals her dissatisfaction with the staged Fellini-like carnival scene atop the Pyramid of the Moon. Was the true point of your film to illustrate the difficulties facing documentary filmmakers when deciding how much to get personally involved in shaping the story? This aspect of the craft fascinates me.
It’s interesting that you picked up on that scene. This was one of the few scenes where we used a technique also used by Kiarostami in some of his car conversations. Avdija was speaking to Steven, telling him what she thought of our film and our filmmaking, especially around the time of the defamatory newspaper article, and then we shot Emir to cut into that scene. So she really was, in a sense, talking directly to the film. The two of us both find ethnographic film very problematic. Documentary film that represses the ambiguities of place, people, or set of events in favor of a clear narrative and a feeling of authority is troubling. Especially considering our subject matter, we wanted that ambiguity evident in the film itself.

Your film seems to reflect an honest self-examination, a hard look at what you got yourself into once you were committed to the project. As I asked the directors of Sons of Perdition, another film at Tribeca, were there times during the making of the film that you doubted that you were doing the right thing?
There was a really dramatic turn of events the first week we arrived to shoot. The week before, a journalist had printed a story on the front page of a national weekly that claimed Buried Land was coming to Bosnia to do what Borat had done to Kazakhstan. The story was based on our website, where we described the project as combining fact and fiction and real people with a single actor. As well, the reporter was reacting to a trailer we had produced that featured some of the “war torn” parts of Visoko, and he was reacting to these similar to the way the Chinese reacted to Antonioni’s Chung Kuo, Cina. We had to repair our relationships with all our contacts there in Bosnia, especially the Pyramid of the Sun Foundation, and promise that we weren’t making a film whose goal was parody. During this time we also received a response from the ethics committee at the University where Steven teaches in London, which was asked to review our project, in which they stated that our project was essentially unethical. We came to the conclusion that film, in general, especially factual film, is always in essence unethical or at least ethically challenging, and how our film was going to negotiate this was by making that evident within the film.

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