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A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness

Ben Rivers in conversation with Rob Young
Sunday 07.11.21

A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness follows an unnamed character through three seemingly disparate moments in his life. A film about nomadism, spiritualism and the place of uncertainty and mystery in an existence overdetermined by understanding.

The screening is followed by a conversation between filmmaker Ben Rivers and writer Rob Young (in English). Press play above to watch.

About the film

A Spell To Ward Off The Darkness follows an unnamed character through three seemingly disparate moments in his life. With little explanation, we join him in the midst of a 15-person collective on a small Estonian island, in isolation in the majestic wilderness of Northern Finland and during a concert as the singer and guitarist of a black metal band in Norway.

Starring musician Robert AA Lowe (best known for his intense live performances under the name LICHENS) in the lead role, A Spell lies somewhere between fiction and non-fiction – it is at once a document of experience and an experience itself, an inquiry into transcendence that sees the cinema as a site for transformation.

About the filmmakers

Ben Rivers (b. 1972, UK) studied Fine Art at Falmouth School of Art, initially in sculpture before moving into photography and Super 8 film. After his degree he taught himself 16 mm filmmaking and hand processing. His practice as a filmmaker treads a line between documentary and fiction. He often follows and films people who have in some way separated themselves from society. The raw film footage provides Rivers with a starting point for creating oblique narratives imagining alternative existences in marginal worlds.

Rivers films are screened extensively in both film festivals and galleries. He is the recipient of numerous prizes including: FIPRESCI International Critics Prize, 68th Venice Film Festival for his first feature film Two Years At Sea ; the inaugural Robert Gardner Film Award, 2012 and the Baloise Art Prize, Art Basel 42, 2011. He has been collaborating for numerous years with Ben Russell.

Ben Russell (b. 1976, USA) is an itinerant media artist and curator whose films, installations, and performances foster a deep engagement with the history and semiotics of the moving image. Formal investigations of the historical and conceptual relationships between early cinema, visual anthropology, and structuralist filmmaking result in immersive experiences concerned at once with ritual, communal spectatorship and the pursuit of a “psychedelic ethnography.”

A 2008 Guggenheim Fellow and 2010 FIPRESCI award recipient for his feature film Let Each One Go Where He May, Russell began the Magic Lantern screening series in Providence, Rhode Island, was co-director of the artist-run space Ben Russell in Chicago, IL, toured with film/ video/ performance programs world-wide and performed in a double-drum trio called BEAST.

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