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Peter Bo Rappmund does not tell his audiences what to think or how to feel - instead he shows them how he feels, and the result is deeply meditative and beautiful but also charged with meaning.
In Tectonics he turns his camera to the US/Mexico border. You can arrive at the film without knowing that and you can enjoy it out of context. But the project here is an east to west journey along the border, shooting from both sides. There are rarely people in the shots. The active soundscape is a huge part of the experience: traffic, birds, wind. Rappmund records on site but often layers field recordings, enhances them or shifts sound to different shots. We see towns, empty hills, desert scenes, farmhouses, crops growing and many many different sections of border wall. While this is a political film, it not remotely didactic and much more resonant because of that. The sense of struggle, Rappmund said after the screening, was palpable, even in an empty landscape. And he has conveyed that.
His shots are unconventional - Rappmund shoots still images (about 200,000 for this film), not time-lapse as I previously thought, but rather looking for rhythms and loops. He creates something he describes as sculptural. The loops are particularly intriguing as they make time move both forward and backward in the film.
Tectonics is fairly frenetic and fast-paced compared to the very long shots of his previous film, Psychohydrography, which followed the course of the LA River. In that film shots went on for several minutes but most here are less than a minute. Both films are relaxing and submersive but bubble full of ideas.
I'm always amazed by how small-minded some audience members can be; any time I'm at a film with an unconventional narrative a lot of people seem to get up and leave. Tectonics reminds us that film is also art - something to look at and think about, not just entertainment.
There are no more showings. You can preview the film here. Try to seek out some of Rappmund's work - it is absolutely worth the effort.