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Ken Paul Rosenthal img
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blackbirds
Blackbirds

1998
16mm, color, sound, 9 minutes.
Director, Camera, Editor, Sound: Ken Paul Rosenthal

Televised footage of the Rodney King/Reginald Denny beatings is repositioned as an extended series of re-photographed, hand-processed images that slowly dissolve from recognizable beings into anonymous figures. As each generation of images becomes increasingly textured, the film itself appears to abuse King/Denny, thus re-framing them as victims of the same moving picture medium that was meant to vindicate them.

The mutual and simultaneous disintegration of filmic and racial color is illustrated through a broad range of photo-chemical manipulations, including: negative and cross-process developing; solarization; and temperature and agitation-based effects on grain, color, and emulsion. Suburban and natural sound elements rise and fade with each generation of images.
– KPR

“Controversial and poignant with vivid and increasingly abstract layers of sight and sound, the title itself flickers by way of television transmission, introducing us to the target of the piece: media’s barrage of imagery and its inevitable disintegration into unrecognizable and unidentifiable forms. Footage of the Rodney King/Reginald Denny beatings is played in unrelenting repetition in split screen, each with increasing degrees of visual manipulation. The first sounds are of birdsong, ironically beautiful and suggesting the ‘natural’ quality of such a graphically violent image. Then the sound of a beehive stings into action as the right side of the screen comes alive and introduces the first degree of abstraction, playing off the left sides ‘naturalism’. Once this begins, each side is in constant tension with the other, complementing and contrasting, as the soundtrack races to children playing to an announcer claiming that “newsreels are usually viewed in negative form first” over an inverted image. This ironic correlation of sight and sound is presented as consistently as the media’s ceaseless, unnerving reportage of the event. The more we view such shocking news footage, the more it is transformed from information to spectacle.” – Matt Bowler, Filmmaker

“I was quite taken with ‘Blackbirds’. My concerns about watching the content devolve into an aesthetic experience dissipated as the film progressed. The piece took me with it, I believed in it, and I enjoyed being transported away from what I thought about prurience, surfeit of TV images as the piece unfurled.” – Mark Street, Filmmaker


Screenings

14th Singapore International Film Festival, 2001
Image Movement Cinematheque, Taipei, China, 2001
Squeaky Wheel, Buffalo, New York – A Night of Films Handmade, 2000
1st Telluride International Experimental Cinema Exposition, 2000
Global 8 Day, Switzerland, 1999
29th Rotterdam International Film Festival, 1999
San Francisco Cinematheque, 1999
6th Rio de Janeiro International Short Film Festival, 1999
2nd Splice This! Super 8 Film Festival, Toronto, Canada, 1999
38th Ann Arbor Film Festival, 1998
Anthology Film Archives, New York City – What’s New in the Avant Garde, 1998
Other Cinema, San Francisco – New Experimental Works, 1998
2nd Super Super 8 World Tour (USA, Europe, Japan), 1998
Video Ex ‘98 Festival, Zurich, Switzerland, 1998
The Lab, San Francisco – Projection Art Lab, 1997