The Island of Doctor Moreau

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TYPE
: Narrative Feature
GENRE: Experimental
STATUS: Development

LOGLINE

A collaborative experimental feature that ingests, splices and perverts found material to create new and hybrid forms of life.

SYNOPSIS

A mad biologist creates human-animal hybrids on a remote island in the South Seas: THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU is by now familiar cultural territory. Instead of telling this story once again, we enlist a worldwide network of film artists to replicate Moreau’s method—splicing and mutating found footage, creating new life from life.

ARTISTIC STATEMENT

H.G. Wells’ THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU is by now familiar cultural territory. Charles Laughton and Burt Lancaster have tried their hand at the eponymous mad scientist—as has Marlon Brando, in a legendarily disastrous coda to his long career. Our adaptation begins from a wholly different place. Instead of simply telling the same story once again, we replicate Moreau’s method: splicing and mutating found footage, creating new life from life. Using Wells’ canonical science-fiction text as a loose narrative frame, and looking to it for tone and theme, we animate and recombine disparate material. Our sources are discarded educational and industrial films, cult and b-movies, and collaboratively shot and processed footage from artist-run film labs. We invite artists across America and Europe to film in locales that evoke Moreau’s island and intersect with Wells’ preoccupations: in the fecund Everglades swamplands outside of Miami, where invasive species signal human interventions in the South Florida landscape, in museums in France and Philadelphia, where curators have catalogued the natural and unnatural in a tenuous attempt to shore up the parameters of the human subject, and elsewhere. Our concern is the porous boundary between species—the way in which encounters with difference can confuse the categories we use to define and delineate ourselves, and perhaps, open up new forms of thinking about the not-quite/more-than human. We grant artist-collaborators considerable leeway to approach and address these themes; the footage they deliver will be buried, rotted, chemically altered, cut up and interrupted by Péter Lichter and Bori Máté, who direct and edit the project from Budapest. In the process, the materiality of film, its existence as base and emulsion animated in the cinematic apparatus, takes on a biological quality. Wells’ novel becomes one more found object, treated archaeologically, guiding and narrating our practice in voiceover. In their own laboratory, Lichter and Máté pervert the text along with all the rest. Developing hybrid monstrosities, the filmmakers become “experimental” in the true sense. Without a predetermined outcome, in collaboration with an entire ecosystem, and using its own set of tools and measures—here the Steenbeck and splicer replace the scalpel—the film performs a unique science, and bears witness to whatever strange new forms might emerge. This project has two components: an original feature film and a touring roadshow, activating local experimental film communities with workshops and collaborations that resuscitate disappearing cinematic sciences, including hand-processing, direct animation, chemigrams, 8mm and 16mm shooting, and more. Drawing upon the knowledge and skills of local communities, these tour stops constitute an essential conceptual and thematic complement to our film, providing material to ingest and reconfigure—and allowing it to expand beyond and hybridize traditional models of production and distribution.

KEY CREW

Péter Lichter & Bori Máté - Directors
Pe´ter Lichter and Bori Máté are two of the most talented and prolific young avant-garde filmmakers working in Europe today. They are filmmakers and writers who, since 2002, have made all kinds of cinema: found-footage films, abstract experiments, and lyrical documentaries. Their films have been screened at festivals around the world, including Tribeca Film Festival - New York, Rotterdam IFF, Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival, Berlin Critics' Week and the International Short Film Festival Oberhausen. Their most recent feature found footage film, an adaptation of Hamlet entitled THE RUB, premiered at Berlinale 2018.

Aaron Khandros - Producer
Aaron Khandros is a film director, producer and curator. After years working as a festival programmer, including as Programming Director of the Syros International Film Festival in Syros, Greece, he began making short documentary and experimental films. His films YAPI, MANDRES, and TOPSAIL have played at major film festivals around the world. His feature production debut THE RUB premiered at Berlinale 2018.

John Schmidt - Producer
John Schmidt is a filmmaker and archivist based in Oakland, California. As a researcher, he has worked on film and television projects with clients that include HBO, Netflix, Field of Vision, and Amazon. His films have played in venues around the world. He currently works for Canyon Cinema, an experimental film distributor in San Francisco, and has in the past worked at Oddball Films, one of the largest film archives in the US.

Simon Liu - Participating Artist
Simon Liu is a Brooklyn based filmmaker who was raised in Hong Kong. His films and expanded cinema works have screened at festivals and institutions internationally such as the International Film Festival Rotterdam, BFI London Film Festival, CROSSROADS at SF MoMA, Hong Kong International Film Festival, Edinburgh International Film Festival, Hamburg International Short Film Festival, Festival du Nouveau Cinéma, European Media Art Festival, Light Industry, Untitled Art Fair, Maryland Film Festival, Chicago Underground Film Festival, EXiS, WNDX, Mono No Aware IX & X and the Rio De Janeiro International Film Festival. His most recent 16mm multiple projection performance, "CLUSTER CLICK CITY SUNDAYS, premiered as a part of DREAMLANDS: EXPANDED; an expanded cinema series held in conjunction with the Whitney Museum of American Art's exhibition “Dreamlands: Immersive Cinema & Art, 1905 - 2016.”

Josh Lewis - Participating Artist
Josh Lewis is an artist and filmmaker working at a fluid intersection of abstraction, documentary, and narrative forms. Coming from a background of work in photochemical film processing labs, Lewis’s handmade films explore the boundaries of manual knowledge, bodily struggle, and the persisting enigma of material potential. He's shown work at venues such as The Centre Pompidou, Anthology Film Archives, Microscope Gallery, Eyebeam, Uniondocs, The Filmmaker's Co-op NY, and at festivals such as The International Film Festival Rotterdam, Ann Arbor Film Festival, Chicago Underground Film Festival, New Orleans Film Festival, Antimatter, Onion City, Milwaukee Underground Film Festival, and EDOC: Encuentros del otro cine festival internacional de cine documental.

 

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