Shot in one day on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada in central California, James Benning's twin films, Spring Equinox and Fall Equinox, portray the natural landscape in spring and autumn. We move from point to point and admire the view, focused but relaxed. Each subsequent frame is carefully composed and devoid of any intrusive contrivances-the fragment of the world being observed is the most important part. Walls of trees and constellations of stone. A light wind that shakes the branches and pushes along banks of fog. An idyllic light that makes sure that the shadows hiding here and there have not an element of mystery about them. In the background can be heard the singing of birds, interspersed once in a while with more resounding noises, the growling of animals or a din that is difficult to identify. Only this and nothing more; nothing but a sense of immersion in reality, so primitive and pure that it goes far beyond conventional documentary cinema.
Benning was born into a working-class family of German immigrants in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1942. His talent for baseball led to a scholarship and a higher education in mathematics. Rather than fight in Vietnam, he chose to teach and then worked with underprivileged children. He later went on to make several short films and obtained a film school diploma at the age of 33, having studied under David Bordwell. His minimalist films are as much about the subjects caught by the camera as they are about the possibilities of capturing them on film. Since 2005, New Horizons has screened all new Benning productions, whose unconventional form could just as well fit a gallery exhibition as it does a movie screen.
1971 Did You Ever Hear That Cricket Sound? (short, doc.)
2004 13 jezior / 13 Lakes (doc.)
2004 Ten Skies (doc.)
2007 RR (doc.)
2007 Rzut oka / Casting a Glance (doc.)
2009 Ruhr (doc.)
2011 Dwadzieścia papierosów / Twenty Cigarettes (doc.)
2011 Ścieżki / Small Roads (doc.)
2011 Zmierzch / Nightfall (doc.)