PRINT December 2009

Film: Best of 2009

Chrissie Iles

Shirin Neshat in collaboration with Shoja Azari, Women Without Men, 2009, still from a color film in Super 35 mm, 99 minutes.


1 “Blue” (John Kelly) If YouTube is our collective online cinema, then the best film of the year was posted there: Veteran performance artist John Kelly’s video rendition of “Blue” (excerpted from Paved Paradise Redux, his drag tribute to Joni Mitchell) turns conventions of sexual identity inside out and moved Mitchell herself to tears.

2 Women Without Men (Shirin Neshat in collaboration with Shoja Azari) The unsettling stories of four women’s lives unfold in politically volatile 1950s Tehran.

3 The Posters Came from the Walls (Jeremy Deller and Nick Abrahams) A documentary on the enduring adoration of ’80s British band Depeche Mode featuring eyelinered fans from Moscow to Los Angeles, England to Iran.

4 Double Take (Johan Grimonprez) A film essay in which Hitchcock’s cameo movie and television appearances narrate the trajectory of the mass media’s influence on collective fear, in a deftly edited collage of cold-war crises, Hollywood films, and TV ads.

5 Action Diana (Centre of Attention) A remake of the 1965 film Darling, shot by the art group Centre of Attention largely at Mount Stuart on the Isle of Bute, Scotland (but also at locations in Vienna, Liverpool, Gothenburg, and Berlin), and acted out by members of the public and the island community in a fusion of film set and performance.

6 Burma VJ (Anders Ostergaard) The story of how local journalists covertly videotaped a mass protest by Buddhist monks against the Burmese dictatorship and exposed it to the world, in the process becoming targets of the repressive regime.

Johan Grimonprez, Double Take, 2009, still from a color film/video in both 35 mm and digital Betacam versions, 80 minutes.

7 Lake Pavilion (James Welling) A filmic poem to Philip Johnson. Fitted with tinted filters, the camera moves languorously across the glistening surfaces of Johnson’s Glass House and through the surrounding landscape.

8 Jack Straw’s Castle (Rosalind Nashashibi) A wooded park becomes a film set, its real-life encounters transformed into a dreamlike narrative by staged vignettes involving nonactors.

9 FILM IST. a girl & a gun (Gustav Deutsch) An X-rated narrative on eros, death, war, and the human condition, collaged from rare archival footage—including pornography, war reportage, and narrative cinema—from the Kinsey Institute, the Imperial War Museum in London, and other archives.

10 Physical Geology (new land mass/fast time) (Ilana Halperin) The rupturing of slow geologic time by the fast lava flows of volcanic eruption, captured on the grainy surface of Super 8 film.

Chrissie Iles is the Anne and Joel Ehrenkranz curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.