Shelly Silver

2013 | 01:06:50 | United States | English | B&W and Color | Stereo | 16:9 | HD video

Collection: Single Titles

Tags: City, Death and Dying, Documentary, LGBTQ, Literature, Memory, Time

A man returns, after fifty years, to Chinatown to care for his dying mother. He is a librarian, a re-cataloguer, a gay man, a watcher, an impersonator. He passes his time collecting images that he puts before us – his witnesses and collaborators. Sitting in the dark, we share his cloak of invisibility, both a benefit and a curse.

"Chinatown, New York. A man is watching. In a voice-over in Chinese, he recalls his past in the district where he was born and which he left fifty years ago. Windows, sidewalks, fire escapes, the stars of locally shot autobiographical films whom the observer enlists as “his extras”… The photographic poetry of the film’s urban inserts almost makes us forget to ponder on the narrator himself, on his loquaciousness, which is made even more obvious by the silent intertitles. In this film made by a woman filmmaker, the man – a librarian, homosexual, Chinese-speaking – is an invention. But as he says, talking about an entirely different subject, “words enable you to imagine the impossible”. The documentary bite thus leaves its mark – the man exists, through the power of a voice that builds “a machine for watching, a machine that teaches me how to watch”. By staking her right to documentary material as well as fictional writing, Shelly Silver sizes up the likelihood of an imaginary point of view reaching a truth more subtle than autobiographical truth. “I’m looking for a lie that will reveal the world” (these words are spoken by the man, of course…)."

– Charlotte Garson, Cinéma du Réel

Note: This title is intended by the artist to be viewed in High Definition. While DVD format is available to enable accessibility, VDB recommends presentation on Blu-ray or HD digital file.


Pricing Information

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Prizes + Awards

Le Prix du Patrimoine de l'Immatériel/The Intangible Heritage Award, Départment du pilotage de la recherche et de la politique scientifique, Ministry of Culture and Communications, Cinéma du Réel

Mention Spéciale/Special Mention, par le jury de la Compétition Internationale, Cinéma du Réel

\aut\FILM Award for Best LGBT Film, Ann Arbor Film Festival



International Film Festival Rotterdam

Exhibitions + Festivals

Ann Arbor Fim Festival, Ann Arbor, MI, 2014

11th Queer City Cinema Internatinoal Film Festival, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, 2014

Cinéma du Réel, Paris, France, 2013

MARFICI/Documentary Competition, Mar del Plata, Argentina, 2013

Platinum Section, OUTFEST, Los Angeles, CA, 2013

Ann Arbor Film Festival, MI, 2014

Stream Single Title

Title Awards Image Major Exhibitions/Festivals Description
Sea in the Blood

Equal First Prize for Best Male Short, Inside Out, Toronto Lesbian and Gay Film Festival

Sea in the Blood

OutFest (LA, CA.), 2001

Rotterdam International Film Festival (The Netherlands), 2001


Athens Int'l Film/Video Festival (OH), 2001



Sea In The Blood is a personal documentary about living with illness, tracing the relationship of the artist to thalassemia in his sister Nan, and AIDS in his partner Tim. At the core of the piece are two trips. The first is in 1962, when Richard went from Trinidad to England with Nan to see a famous hematologist interested in her unusual case. The second is in 1977 when Richard and Tim made the counterculture pilgrimage from Europe to Asia. The relationship with Tim blossomed, but Nan died before their return. The narrative of love and loss is set against a background of colonialism in the Caribbean and the reverberations of migration and political change.

"Sea in the Blood was to be a meditation on race, sexuality and disease, but after working with the material for three years, it was the emotional story that came through. It's hard to work with such personal material, but in the end the work takes on a life of its own. 'Richard' is a character. Because of the subject matter — disease and death — I wanted to avoid sentimentality. I'd like the audience to think as well as feel."

— Richard Fung