Jem Cohen 2001: An Interview

2001 | 01:35:06 | United States | English | Color | Mono | 4:3 | Video

Collection: On Art and Artists, Interviews, Single Titles

Tags: Documentary, Environment, Experimental Film, Film Theory, VDB Interviews, Visiting Artists Program

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In this 2001 interview, filmmaker Jem Cohen discusses the origins of his film philosophy, and the circuitous route he has taken in his pursuit of an anti-narrative film practice outside the mainstream. Cohen sheds light on the many influences that have impacted his sentiments towards conventional film, and his desire to eschew both classical avant-garde and theatrical filmmaking in favor of a model rooted in the tradition of the 1940s New York School of street photography. Cohen also locates his aesthetic as being impacted by the 1970s hardcore and DIY scenes he was exposed to as a youth in Washington, DC.

The ethos of punk and its attendant embrace of local grassroots scenes would prove a perfect counterpoint to Cohen’s interest in street photography. As he explains, Cohen came to pursue filmmaking as a way of understanding and interpreting his immediate environment. This philosophy has continued to define his practice, and underscore his films throughout his career.

– Kyle Riley

Interview conducted by Abina Manning in April 2001, edited in 2014.