Friday, January 22, 2010

Take 5 with “Westhope: Above and Below”


The 7th annual Oxford Film Festival is getting closer every day. Before we kick off another fun-packed festival, we thought we would take five with filmmakers and get to know them just a little better.

Shannon Benine's film, "Westhope: Above and Below," will screen at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 6 in the experimental block. 

OFF: In 10 words, describe your movie and why someone should see it.

SB: The tension between crude and agriculture, between pump and harvest.

OFF: Biggest lesson learned in getting the film made? Best part in getting the film made?

SB: I began this work while still in graduate school and quickly learned the essential skill of fundraising. I would not have been able to create the work without support from grants. The best part of completing the project is in sharing it.

OFF:Tell us about you. What is your movie making background?

SB: With a strong foundation in still photography I began making multi-media video installations while I was in graduate school. This piece is part of a larger multi-media body of work titled “Westhope:
Above and Below” in which I explore and examine the small town of Westhope, North Dakota, its people, and its oil and bio-diesel fields over the course of three years. I search for traces of the adaptation
in industry and environment, witnessing the community's return to its agricultural roots-and the coexistence of, and tension between, oil and farming.

Beginning with a subject that addresses a current issue relevant to my family, I seek to create works that initiate conversations rather than inflict points of view. Striving to pose a question instead of providing an answer, I combine photography, video and sound to create multimedia installations that point at politically charged topics, which deserve our attention and contemplation. This video piece represents one of my first endeavors to show excerpts from the project as a single channel video.

OFF: What’s your dream distribution plan for the film?

SB: Working as a multi-media artist my goal is for the project to be exhibited as a whole along with the subsequent book.

OFF: What’s the future hold in store for your film and for you?

SB: In addition to the film festival, I will also be participating in the exhibition “Lo-Fi, Hi-Fi: Contemporary Video Art” curated by Brooke White at Gallery 130 at the University of Mississippi. The exhibition runs from Monday, January 25 – Friday, February 5, 2010. The video will be shown alongside three still images from the project. If you happen to be in town I will be attending the closing reception on Thursday, February 4, from 4 – 6 pm.

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