In Focus: Braden King’s “HERE”

The official trailer for Braden King’s feature film, HERE

On Friday, April 13, Braden King (2005 Film/Video) celebrates the theatrical premiere of his Creative Capital-supported project, HERE, at IFC Center in New York. Shot entirely on location in Armenia, HERE is a landscape-obsessed road movie chronicling a brief but intense relationship between an American satellite-mapping engineer (Ben Foster) and an expatriate Armenian art photographer (Lubna Azabal) who impulsively decide to travel together into uncharted territory. I talked to Braden to learn more about his over seven-year-long journey in bringing this project to premiere.

Jenny Gill: HERE was selected for a Creative Capital grant in 2005. How did Creative Capital’s role as an early funder help the development of the project? In the seven years since you initially proposed the project to us, how has your vision for the film evolved?

Braden King: Creative Capital’s impact on this project cannot be overstated. The Foundation was the first institutional funder on board—and it came on board at a very early stage, before there was even a script! It’s not an exaggeration for me to say that I’m not sure the film or any of its offshoots would exist without the support—financial and otherwise—that Creative Capital lent it.

In many ways, the film that’s premiering on April 13 is very close to the one I initially proposed. If anything, the project probably evolved in terms of scope and ambition over the years. Creative Capital helped me go from wondering if I could pull this off at all—a multi-platform motion picture revolving around the first American feature film ever shot in Armenia—to wondering how I could most fully realize every aspect of it, from the feature film to the live cinema event that premiered as part of the MoMA series to the photography and video installations. I can’t think of another organization that would take that risk so early on in the process or support an artist more thoroughly throughout such a long-term project’s life.

Jenny:  In 2010, you premiered a multimedia installation version of HERE, called HERE [ THE STORY SLEEPS ], at MoMA as part of Creative Capital’s 10th anniversary celebration. How did you go about translating elements of this film project into an installation?

Braden:  The impulse to work with the material in that way was there from the very beginning. I’d had experience mounting live cinema events with an earlier film, Dutch Harbor: Where the Sea Breaks its Back, which is a lyrical exploration of an Aleutian Island community of the west coast of Alaska. With HERE, I was really interested in finding every way I could to create an exploded view of the filmmaking process. The project was an expedition (literally and figuratively), and the work that resulted from that expedition represents a series of “maps” running along a spectrum that starts at abstraction and ends at narrative. [ SLEEPS ] was a way to work with the material in a more abstract, less narrative way while we were editing the more logic-based feature film.

A massive amount of credit for how the piece ultimately manifested belongs to my collaborators, composer Michael Krassner, projection designer Deborah Johnson and programmer Brian Chasalow.

Still from “cinema map” interlude by Daichi Saito

Still from “cinema map” interlude by Paul Clipson

Jenny:  The narrative of HERE is punctuated by a series of extra-narrative “cinema maps” that you commissioned from other experimental filmmakers. How did you go about collaborating with these other artists?

Braden:  The collaborations themselves were fairly straightforward. We talked a little bit and I sent them the rough text that might accompany their contribution. A few months (or years!) later a few rolls of film would show up on my doorstep. In some cases the material had been edited; in others it was more raw. We operated with the understanding that the material might have to be altered to fit properly within the larger film. The collaborations were incredibly inspiring.

I saw these artists as explorers who were being sent out to map various landscapes and cinematic territories using their own idiosyncratic methods. They were responsible for creating the film’s dreams—and I do look at avant-garde film as the dream life of narrative cinema (which is already a dream to begin with). A lot of this material has lived on in other iterations of the project, even if it doesn’t make an appearance in the feature.

There’s actually an entirely new piece, HERE [ THE EXPLORER STORIES ], that I’ve started developing with Michael Krassner. It’s going to turn the entire structure of the film inside out, structuring a program of longer cuts of this material around shots, scenes and out-takes from the narrative feature.

As Sgt. Kilgore so famously said, “Someday this war’s gonna end…”

HERE premieres at IFC Center in New York on April 13. Following the New York premiere, HERE opens in Los Angeles on April 27, with screenings at the Laemmele Music Hall, West Hollywood and Laemmle Town Center 5 in Encino. The film opens in San Francisco on May 11 at the new San Francisco Film Society Cinema in Japantown. Check local listings for additional theaters, cities and dates.

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