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Prismatic Ground

Prismatic Ground

Prismatic Ground is a New York festival centered on experimental documentary. Hosted by Maysles Documentary Center and online NYC film resource Screen Slate, the festival will be primarily virtual for its first year barring a timely end to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

We seek work that pushes the formal boundaries of non-fiction in the spirit and tradition of experimental filmmaking. This "spirit" is somewhat amorphous, undefinable, and open to interpretation, but refers to work that engages with its own materiality, and that privileges a heightened artistic experience over clear meaning.

For a better sense of what we're looking for, here are some filmmakers that inspire us: Chris Marker, Lynne Sachs, Kevin Jerome Everson, The Otolith Group, Black Audio Film Collective, Pat O'Neill, Cecilia Condit, Edward Owens, Chick Strand, Barbara Hammer, Khalik Allah, Michael Snow, Janie Geiser, Isaac Julien, Trinh T. Minh-ha, Sky Hopinka, Fern Silva, Akosua Adoma Owusu...

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Prismatic Ground
  • Early Works of Cheryl Dunye

    Directed by Cheryl Dunye • Drama • With Cheryl Dunye, Zoie Strauss, Paula Cronan, Wanda Freeman, Shu Leah Cheang, • 1994 • 80 minutes

    Vilified by conservatives in Congress, defended by major newspapers, and celebrated by audiences and festivals around the world as one of the most provocative, hu...

  • Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun?

    Directed by Travis Wilkerson • Documentary • 2018 • 90 minutes

    “In 1946, my great-grandfather murdered a black man named Bill Spann and got away with it.” So begins Travis Wilkerson’s critically acclaimed documentary, Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun?, which takes us on a journey through the Ame...

  • Towards Mathilde

    Directed by Claire Denis • Documentary • With Mathilde Monnier • 2004 • 84 minutes

    Emphasizing raw physicality, craft, and in-the-moment fervor over exposition, Towards Mathilde, from filmmaker Claire Denis (Beau Travail, 35 Shots of Rum, Let the Sunshine In), is a documentary portrait par excel...

  • The Road Movie

    Directed by Dmitrii Kalashnikov • Documentary • 2018 • 70 minutes

    A mosaic of asphalt adventures, landscape photography, and some of the craziest shit you’ve ever seen, Dmitrii Kalashnikov’s THE ROAD MOVIE is a stunning compilation of video footage shot exclusively via the deluge of dashboard ca...

  • A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness

    Directed by Ben Rivers & Ben Russell • Drama • 2014 • 98 minutes

    A SPELL follows an unnamed character through three seemingly disparate moments in his life. With little explanation, we join him in the midst of a 15-person collective on a small Estonian island; in isolation in the majestic wilder...

  • The Two Faces of a Bamileke Woman

    Directed by Rosine Mbakam • Documentary • 2016 • 76 minutes

    Rosine Mbakam left Cameroon at 27 to live in Belgium. Seven years later—having studied film and married a European—she returns to make what she calls a journey into darkness—to the village of her birth, and later to the capital city of ...

  • Decasia

    Directed by Bill Morrison • Documentary • 2002 • 67 minutes

    Often compared to Stan Brakhage, Bill Morrison created DECASIA entirely with decaying, old found footage, melded to the music of Bang on a Can's Michael Gordon, performed by the 55 piece basel sinfonietta. The result is a delirium of de...

  • Level Five

    Directed by Chris Marker • Drama • With Catherine Belkhodja, Kenji Tokitsu • 1996 • 106 minutes

    A woman (Laura), a computer, an invisible interlocutor: such is the setup on which LEVEL FIVE is built. She "inherits" a task: to finish writing a video game centered on the Battle of Okinawa—a traged...

  • The Nine Muses

    Directed by John Akomfrah • Documentary • 2010 • 94 minutes

    Structured as an allegorical fable set between 1949 and 1970, THE NINE MUSES is comprised of nine overlapping musical chapters that mix archival material with original scenes. Together, they form a stylized, idiosyncratic retelling of t...

  • Bitter Money

    Directed by Wang Bing • Documentary • 2016 • 152 minutes

    The people in Wang Bing's BITTER MONEY lie in filthy, cramped apartments, stare at their phones for far too long, spend time on their balconies overlooking drab streets in which all the buildings look the same, and work long hours for litt...

  • The Iron Ministry

    Directed by J. P. Sniadecki • Documentary • 2014 • 83 minutes

    Filmed over three years on China's railways, J. P. Sniadecki's masterful documentary traces the vast interiors of a country on the move: flesh and metal, clangs and squeals, light and dark, language and gesture. Scores of rail journey...

  • Minute Bodies: The Intimate World Of F. Percy Smith

    Directed by Stuart A. Staples • Documentary • With tindersticks • 2016 • 55 minutes

    This meditative, immersive film by tindersticks' Stuart A. Staples is a tribute to the astonishing work and achievements of naturalist, inventor and pioneering British filmmaker F. Percy Smith (1880-1945).

    Based...

  • Moi, Un Noir

    Directed by Jean Rouch • Documentary • 1958 • 70 minutes

    Winner of the prestigious Prix Louis Delluc in 1958, MOI, UN NOIR marked Jean Rouch's break with traditional ethnography, and his embrace of the collaborative and improvisatory strategies he called "shared ethnography" and "ethnofiction."
    ...

  • Which Way Is East: Notebooks from Vietnam

    Directed by Lynne Sachs • Documentary • 1994 • 33 minutes

    When two American sisters travel north from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi, conversations with Vietnamese strangers and friends reveal to them the flip side of a shared history. Lynne and Dana Sachs' travel diary of their trip to Vietnam is a ...

  • Abendland

    Directed by Nikolaus Geyrhalter • Documentary • 2011 • 90 minutes

    Western standard of living and the urge to exclude others from it are at the core of this film. Entirely shot at night, Geyrhalter takes us on a very personal journey through Europe and the structures that guarantee our “civilized...

  • The Song of the Shirt

    Directed by Sue Clayton & Jonathan Curling • Documentary • With Martha Gibson, Geraldine Pilgrim, Anna Mcniff, Liz Myers, Jill Greenhalgh, • 1979 • 135 minutes

    The plight of women in the 1840s London rag trade is explored and deconstructed. Informed by experimental film practice and evoking a se...

  • Natural Life

    Directed by Tirtza Even • Documentary • With Lakim Carney, Chrissy Garcia, Faizan Hasnain • 2016 • 77 minutes

    "Natural Life" is a feature length experimental documentary challenging inequities in the U.S. juvenile justice system by depicting, through documentation and reenactment, the stories of...

  • Route One/USA (part 1)

    Directed by Robert Kramer • Documentary • 1990 • 125 minutes

    Part 1 of 2 In 1988, nearly a decade after leaving the US for France, renegade filmmaker Robert Kramer returns. “Back,” he emphasizes. Not “home.” To try to understand the contemporary United States, he decides to travel the entire len...

  • Heimat is a Space in Time

    Directed by Thomas Heise • Documentary • 2019 • 218 minutes

    In HEIMAT IS A SPACE IN TIME, German filmmaker Thomas Heise shares the stories of three generations of his family, in their own words.

    Heise sets the tone early, reading an anti-war essay written in 1912 by his grandfather Wilhelm, whe...

  • From The East

    Directed by Chantal Akerman • Documentary • 2003 • 110 minutes

    FROM THE EAST retraces a journey from the end of summer to deepest winter, from East Germany, across Poland and the Baltics, to Moscow. It is a voyage Chantal Akerman wanted to make shortly after the collapse of the Soviet bloc "befo...

  • The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu

    Directed by Andrei Ujica • Documentary • 2011 • 180 minutes

    A monumental achievement, THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF NICOLAE CEAUSESCU tracks the rise and fall of the infamous Romanian dictator through his own propaganda footage. Writer and director Andrei Ujica, along with editor Dana Bunescu, crafted ov...

  • Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien

    Directed by Marlon Riggs • Documentary • 1992 • 38 minutes

    Through music, poetry and quiet, at times, chilling self-disclosure, five positive black gay men speak of their individual confrontation with AIDS, illuminating the difficult journey black men throughout America have made in coping with ...

  • The Cordillera of Dreams

    Directed by Patricio Guzmán • Documentary • 2019 • 85 minutes

    Winner of the Best Documentary award at the Cannes Film Festival, master filmmaker Patricio Guzmán's The Cordillera of Dreams completes his trilogy (with Nostalgia for the Light and The Pearl Button) investigating the relationship bet...

  • Stations of the Elevated

    Directed by Manfred Kirchheimer • Documentary • 1981 • 46 minutes

    Stations of the Elevated (1981) is a 45-minute city symphony directed, produced and edited by Manfred Kirchheimer. Shot on lush 16mm color reversal stock, the film weaves together vivid images of graffiti- covered elevated subway ...