Ben Russell (American, b. 1976), River Rites (still), 2011. Super16mm film. Duration: 11 min. 30 sec. © Ben Russell.
Ben Russell: River Rites
Filmed in one take and played in the reverse, this captivating and ambitious work by filmmaker Ben Russell, titled River Rites, is an exercise in what the artist called “psychedelic ethnography.” However, far from functioning as an objective document, this film works aggressively against the notion of representing an ethnographic ‛other’. Filmed in a rural community on the Upper Suriname River in Suriname, South America, River Rites explores a riverside bank where children and young adults congregate, wash garments, and frolic in shallow waters. The magic of film comes with Russell’s undoing of time, playing with viewers’ perceptions and understanding of what may or may not come next (or, in this case, before). The film’s immersive installation involves a free-standing screen and reflective floor.