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Jennifer Reeves: The Time We Killed

Fri, Feb 5, 2010

Still from The Time We Killed (2004)

For anyone who follows the Wexner Center film program, it's no secret that Jennifer Reeves is a filmmaker whose work we greatly admire. She has visited the Wexner Center to present her films three times over the past six years (including a screening in our Performance Space of two dual-16mm films accompanied by live music) and she was one of our 2006-2007 Wexner Center Residency Award recipients in Media Arts.

Reeves remains one of the handful of filmmakers committed to working in and exploring the possibilities of 16mm film. Her work is deeply connected to the materials of her medium. So because of this, even if you live in a city dedicated to the continued exhibition of 16mm film (as we are here at the Wexner Center), her films are more often read about than seen.

So it's especially notable that Reeves has personally supervised the transfer of her acclaimed feature-length film The Time We Killed from 16mm to DVD. She's made a limited number of the discs and they're exclusively available for on-line sales at the Wexner Center Store. This is personal cinema at its deepest and most profound (I would call it independent cinema but that term has become meaningless over the past few decades – The Time We Killed is independent cinema in the true and historic senses of the term) and won't be available through Netflix. No corporations or board room committees involved – this is a film made by an individual and made for individuals.

The film is an examination of the fragile psychic state of a writer driven to agoraphobia in the months after September 11, 2001. As the woman tries to negotiate her inner life and the outer world, Reeves incorporates a dazzling range of textured black and white imagery and a delicate voiceover track. The woman is played by poet Lisa Jarnot, who wrote poems in the voice of her character, which were then incorporated into the film. The Time Will Killed astutely captures the tenor of the times in the wake of 9/11 and the war on terror but it's more than a period piece, it's one of the best examinations of being “blue” (to reference the title of Reeves' most recent film) and of a person working through depression. But it should be stated that the film is not without a sharp, dark sense of humor.

Jennifer Reeves working on her film Light Work Mood Disorder (2006)

The Time We Killed won a multitude of prizes at various film festivals (including the “Best New York Narrative” at the Tribeca Film Festival, for which Reeves received an original painting by Christopher Walken as a prize) and was included in the 2006 Whitney Biennial. But beyond that, the film succeeded in merging the avant-garde's radical attention to form with the emotional narrative through-line of feature films to bring out the best qualities of both traditions. This is no small achievement as countless experimental filmmakers before (and after) her have been unable to find the proper balance.

If you are weary of mass-produced movies, seek out this singular film next time you're at the Wexner Center Store (or order a copy online). Quantities are limited and the DVD is being personally produced and distributed by Jenn Reeves, so get a unique DVD for your collection and support an independent filmmaker all at the same time. Everybody wins!

If you'd like to read more about the film, here's a Village Voice review by Ed Halter and here is an interview with Reeves from Cinema Scope magazine.

Look for a compilation DVD with a number of Reeves' remarkable short films to be available for sale later in the year.
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