Artist in Focus: Robert Fenz

Robert Fenz (1969, Ann Arbor, Michigan) is one of the most singular and committed filmmakers breathing new life to avant-garde film traditions today. Fenz’s films, mostly shot in black and white 16mm, have a rare energy and restless beauty that recalls both the jazz-inspired imagery of New York School photographers such as Roy DeCarava, but also the landscape films of one of Fenz’s former teachers, Peter Hutton, and the documentary work of Johan van der Keuken and Chantal Akerman, some of whose recent film works have actually been shot by Fenz himself. His films are personal and poetic portraits of people and places he encountered during his many travels in countries such as in Cuba, Mexico, Brazil and India. “Though they can be viewed as non-fiction works, objectivity is not one of their pretences. Images not words are central and the primary means by which their ideas are articulated. In each case, meaning is determined by three factors, ‘intention, circumstance and chance’ ingredients filmmaker Robert Gardner describes as central to the making of a non-fiction film.” Fenz’s attitude towards filmmaking has also been greatly influenced by jazz improvisation, especially by the work of trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith, under whom he studied. “Studying music with Leo reinforced my belief that I needed to go into the world with an idea – do research on a subject and arrive at a place where I would be prepared to adapt and change the film completely, in the moment”. The most celebrated result of this approach is Meditations on Revolution, a series of five films made over seven years (1997-2003), exploring the basic theme of revolution in its purest qualities: the revolution inscribed in rural and urban spaces, steeped in hollowed and smiling faces, dancing on the rhythms of a world in constant transition. Robert Fenz has just completed one new film which will have its European premiere at the festival: The Sole of the Foot.


See also Opening Night, Wed 30.03.2011

Robert Fenz and Sylvain George will give a masterclass together on Friday 01.04.2011, 10:00 at KASK Cinema. Information: