Family Portrait (feature drama, 75 minutes, 4K, DCP, color, sound, 2023)
A sprawling family's futile attempts at taking a family picture take a dreamlike turn when the matriarch goes missing and one daughter becomes desperate to find her.
World Premiere: Locarno Film Festival
Other Festivals: Chicago International Film Festival, Black Canvas Film Festival, El Gouna Film Festival, Mannheim Heidelberg Film Festival, Houston Cinema Arts Festival
Awards: Locarno Boccalino d'Oro for Best Director 2023, Black Canvas Best Director Award 2023, FIDLab AirFrance Prize 2022, Austin Film Society Feature Film Grant 2022, US in Poland 2022 New Horizons Award
Director and Writer: Lucy Kerr
Producer: NSF, Megan Pickrell
Director of Photography: Lidia Nikonova
Editor: Karlis Bergs
Directorial Advisor: Rob Rice
Sound Design: Andrew Siedenburg and Nikolay Antonov
Featuring: Deragh Campbell, Chris Galust, Rachel Alig, Katie Folger, Robert Salas, Silvana Jakich
Sales Agent: Lights On
Family Portrait is my debut feature and my biggest project to date. Though Family Portrait is a narrative film with quite a lot of dialogue, it stays rooted in the visual language of bodies in motion. I was interested in showing all that is falling away from the photo itself - the inability for the family to find unison and stillness with one another, so instead we see them in constant flux. The introduction and ending scenes show the film starting and ending at the same unfixed place - where the family is walking down to take the picture, and the main character is leading them there. First, in constant chaos, and the second time, as if they are walking in a solemn rite with one another. And both times, unable to take the picture.
Site of Passage (experimental fiction, 16mm, color, sound, 7 min, 2022)
Hushed voices announce a girl’s death. Kneeling around the corpse, the teenage girls stare at her. Again, they whisper, chanting in unison “light as a feather, stiff as a board”, a magic formula from the depths of time, as they lift the body, which almost levitates. We’re in the sitting room of a house, dimly lit, candles dotted around everywhere, pop-corn spilt on the couch. Right from the start, with its motifs and set, Site of Passage evokes those teen movies portraying young witches, and horror films from the 1980s and 90s where the sleepover turns into a nightmare. In Crashing Waves (FID 2021) Lucy Kerr made the reverse side of images from genre cinema her subject matter. In this film, she applies herself to reduction, stripping her set of any horror and retaining only the invisible trace of it, suggesting it in a brief, pared-down gesture. There are no morbid tales here, just the series of mysterious motions from the six teenage girls with their angelic faces. The light- heartedness of the games they play offers a counterpoint to the fantasised horror despite a lingering and disturbing strangeness. To the creaking of the floorboards caused by girls’ movements, the minimalist sound treatment adds a continuous background noise of the film equipment, a ghostly presence in the middle of the room. A final image shows them collapsing and getting up again, supporting each other in a game of balance and counterbalance. Kerr offers a choreographic variation suspended in time, representing adolescent sisterhood in the ritualised union, like in the final scene, where the pastel colours blend into the ballet of intertwined bodies, which, in this site of passage, seem to become one.
(Louise Martin Papasian)
Director and Editor: Lucy Kerr
Director of Photography: Alexey Kurbatov
Sound: Andrew Siedenburg
Featuring: Reese Taylor, Hannah Lee, Madelin Wilson, Loren Hansen, Presley Alexander, Rachel Withers
International Film Festival Rotterdam 2023, FIDMarseille 2022, Reykjavic International Film Festival 2022, Revolutions Per Minute 2023, UNDERDOX 2023
Crashing Waves (film and installation, DCP, 18 minutes, color, sound, 2021)
« There is always this paradoxical contrast between the surface of an image, which appears to be in control, and the process which produces it, which inevitably involves some degree of violence. » This quote by Edward Said opens this simple and dense film, a manifesto on the complexity of images, in three successive steps.
1. A black screen, the voice-over of a woman who calmly recounts how she prepared and performed a stunt on a film set: a car and its two passengers falling off a cliff and into the ocean.
2. While the voice keeps describing the shooting and the lethal risks involved, a still shot of waves crashing against rocks appears. We realise then that the initial darkness was not some avant-garde chic trick, but instead that it was evocative of “the terror of being trapped under the water, in the dark”. So, as the voice proceeds, the meaning of the waves changes. Far from being a natural location, they look like gigantic crushers, not unlike the very industry that films them. Then the waves become a swaying allegory of the director’s repressed anger: “Asking questions is strong”, so the voice says. Then, there is a sense of relief after the stunt is done. After that, the voice keeps quiet and leaves the waves alone, just plain old waves now, after the storm of words.
3. On a film set: the sea water is replaced by oozing showers, a young woman is hanging from the ceiling, shaking and twitching like a possessed soul, during the shooting of a TV episode of The Exorcist.
Of course, we are struck by the three linked-up segments, by the implacable and impressive precision of the device. What we see here is a very rare endeavour indeed: cinema at full speed, and cinema as a passion (as embodied by the possessed woman), exactly superimposed and simultaneous to the analysis to the very conditions of its existence. We cannot wait to discover the next episodes.
Director: Lucy Kerr
Director of Photography: Alexey Kurbatov
With: Jess Harbeck, Court Schwartz, Kelli Scarangello
Sound: Sara Suarez
FIDMarseille 2021 (World Premiere), San Sebastian International Film Festival, Tacoma Film Festival, REDCAT, Galerie Allen, 2220 Arts and Archives Los Angeles, CA, Dresden Schmalfilmtage 2023, Eureka Festival Universitario del Cine Bogota, Columbia, ACTORAL Marseille, France, San Diego Underground Film Festival, in the permanent collection of FRAC PACA, DA Films online distribution