Latest iteration of ongoing documentary series captures international filmmakers responding to the current moment
Participants include Steve James, Elizabeth Lo, Bill and Turner Ross, John Skoog, Ra'anan Alexandrowicz, Courtney Stephens, Hubert Sauper, and others
Online premiere: Sunday, April 19, 12:00 p.m. and live discussion event at 8:00 p.m. ET
New York, New York, April 14, 2020—In response to the cancellation of film festivals around the world and disruption in the lives and work of filmmakers, the documentary ROOM H.264: Quarantine, April 2020—filmed and edited over the course of the last two weeks—makes its debut online on Sunday, April 19, 12:00 P.M. EDT on Vimeo and will remain online until May 3. A live discussion with filmmakers Eric Hynes, Jeff Reichert, and Damon Smith will take place on Sunday evening at 8:00 P.M. Shot via Skype, ROOM H.264: Quarantine, April 2020 features those whose work was slated to screen at festivals like SXSW, CPH:DOX, Tribeca, First Look and more. The documentary depicts a broad range of filmmakers, each sequestered in their own spaces in locations throughout North America, Europe, Africa and beyond, responding to a question first posed by Wim Wenders in his classic 1982 documentary experiment Room 666, and perhaps newly resonant today: “Is cinema becoming a dead language—an art form which is already in decline?”
The following international filmmakers, including several who were slated to premiere their films at MoMI’s 2020 First Look Festival, before the Museum closed, participated in the project: Yung Chang, Zeshawn Ali, Maya Daisy Hawke, Bill Ross, Turner Ross, Lisa Rovner, Pia Hellenthal and Rahul Jain, Todd Chandler, Anna Eborn, Michael Andrianaly, Lauren Domino, Jiayan “Jenny” Shi, Steve James, Donal Mosher and Michael Palmieri, Ra'anan Alexandrowicz, Cecilia Aldarondo, John Skoog, Courtney Stephens, Elizabeth Lo, Bo McGuire, and Hubert Sauper. The resulting film is a poetic, melancholy ode to cinema and creation in a moment when both have been drastically affected by the ongoing pandemic.
ROOM H.264: Quarantine, April 2020 is the fourth chapter in an ongoing 21st-century update on Wim Wenders's feature-length documentary Room 666. In Room 666, Wenders invited filmmakers attending the Cannes Film Festival in 1982 into a hotel room for ten minutes to answer a single question related to the future of cinema. Hynes, Reichert, and Smith have been revisiting the concept and spirit of Wenders’s project since 2016, with the participation of filmmakers such as Kirsten Johnson, Robert Greene, Bing Liu, Julia Reichert,
Brett Story, Feras Fayyad, Ashley Connor, Nanfu Wang, and many others. To date, well over 70 contemporary filmmakers have participated in the ROOM H.264 project.
The first and second phases—the curious, exploratory initial experiment, ROOM H.264: Brooklyn, NY, 2016, and the more abstract, cerebral, ROOM H.264: Astoria, NY, January 2018—premiered at First Look 2018. The freewheeling third iteration, ROOM H.264: Columbia, MO, March 2019, premiered at last year's True/False Film Fest. ROOM H.264 was also a gallery installation at MoMI in 2019. In advance of the debut of Quarantine, April 2020, the earlier films will be made available to view online. Dates, times, and locations for streaming will be announced via MoMI’s website.
“We’ve found that the time and place of each iteration strongly influenced responses, and considering the uncertain place we all find ourselves in—in terms of both our lives and livelihoods—we felt that now was an interesting time to try another approach, adjusted to accommodate the new variable of our being sequestered in separate locations,” said the filmmakers.
First Look is the Museum’s annual festival of new, innovative international cinema. The 9th edition, scheduled for March 11 through 15, was cut short after the first two days as the Museum building was closed in efforts to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. The festival opened with the New York premiere of Hubert Sauper’s Epicentro. The last film shown was John Skoog’s Ridge. The full slate of films can be found here. Currently, the Museum is continuing to present some First Look films and related new work online under the umbrella “First Look 2020 Online.”
Friday, April 17, 12:00 p.m. EDT: ROOM H.264 films to be made available through the weekend
Sunday, April 19, 12:00 p.m. EDT: ROOM H.264: Quarantine, April 2020 available for online viewing (through May 3)
Sunday, April 19, 8:00 p.m. EDT: Live online discussion with Jeff Reichart, Damon Smith, Eric Hynes. Free with suggested donation.
All details will be posted at movingimage.us
About the filmmakers:
Jeff Reichert is an Academy Award–winning filmmaker who lives in Brooklyn. His films as a director include the feature documentaries Gerrymandering (Tribeca Film Festival 2010), Remote Area Medical (Full Frame 2013), This Time Next Year (Tribeca Film Festival 2014), and the fiction-documentary hybrid Feast of the Epiphany (BAMcinemaFest 2018), and the shorts Kombit (Sundance 2014), Nobody Loves Me (Camden 2017), American Carnage (Field of Vision 2017), and To Be Queen (Tribeca 2019). He also produced Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert’s American Factory (Sundance 2019). His work has been awarded the Film Independent Spirit Award, Gotham Award and Cinema Eye Honor (all for Best Documentary) amongst other honors. He is also the co–founder and editor of the online film journal Reverse Shot (est. 2003), now a publication of Museum of the Moving Image, and has written for numerous publications including Film Comment, Filmmaker, Huffington Post, and Indiewire.
Damon Smith is an award-winning filmmaker and story consultant based in New York City. He is the producer of documentary features such as Maineland (Special Jury Award, SXSW 2017) and Betty: They Say I’m Different (IDFA 2017) and the supervising producer of two short-film series, the IDA-nominated We the Economy and Focus Forward: Short Films, Big Ideas, which screened at more than 90 film festivals worldwide,
including Sundance, Tribeca, IDFA, Melbourne, and Busan. Most recently, he produced and presented Where the Homeless Elephants Go, a Sundance Institute–supported audio documentary commissioned for BBC World Service, which reached 10 million listeners worldwide. Currently, he is executive producer on Sisters with Transistors (SXSW and CPH:DOX 2020) and is directing and producing Lord of Obstacles, a feature film about human-elephant conflict in Assam, India.
Eric Hynes is a Brooklyn-based writer and critic, and Curator of Film at Museum of the Moving Image. His regular column on the art of nonfiction filmmaking, “Make It Real,” can be found in Film Comment.
Press contact: Tomoko Kawamoto, email@example.com or 718 777 6830.
PREVIEW SCREENER AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST. Jeff Reichert, Damon Smith, and Eric Hynes, and some participating filmmakers, are available for interview by phone or video conference.
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The Museum's mission is to advance the understanding, enjoyment, and appreciation of the art, history, technique, and technology of film, television, and digital media. Though devastated by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Museum continues to fulfill its mission online through: live conversations with artists, filmmakers, scholars, media educators, and other industry professionals; articles published in MoMI's online film magazine Reverse Shot and science and film resource Sloan Science & Film; access to the Museum's collection of more than 150,000 objects; and the online presentation of a range of films—including acclaimed new release features and award-winning science shorts, plus archived video of Museum events, and more. For more information, visit www.movingimage.us.