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Amber City

Jem Cohen

USA, 1999
49 minutes, Colour, Sound
Available formats: DVD / Digibeta tape / SD Digital file

A portrait of an unnamed city in Italy. Sidestepping the tourist attractions that make the city famous, the film/video posits an almost-imaginary place that draws closer to the reality of its inhabitants.
Using a voiceover narration that collages direct observation, literary texts, historical fact, local folklore, and a bit of sheer fabrication, the film/video melds documentary and narrative, past and present. Visuals range from verite street footage, to formal portraits of residents, to an unusual type of time lapse cinematography that allows filming in the low-intensity light of night landscapes and museum interiors.
Made in collaboration with local residents and institutions, Amber City reflects on the “in-betweeness” of places whose historical and geographical location renders their reality strangely invisible.
“With its delicately somber tones and meandering pace, [Amber City] not only underscores Cohen’s complete self-assurance as a filmmaker who knows his art, but reminds us that fast, cheap, and out of control are not the only components for a contemporary aesthetic.”
—Holly Willis, The Independent
Director, script, camera, edit: Jem Cohen
A production of Gravity Hill Films and Ondavideo
Narrator’s voice: Kyle de Camp
Music: Blond Redhead, Chan Marshall, Stephen Vitiello, Arnold Dreyblatt, All Scars, Nick Brook, Sacha Pellegrini, Jem Cohen