Reyes- Bassail, Emilio

Emilio Reyes-Bassail
Mexican videomaker

biography

Interview: 10 questions

1. Tell me something about your life and the educational background

I have never found a unique path of activity or a unique discipline. I tend to be hyper-productive in many ways. In the mornings you can find me writing a newspaper column about politics, in the afternoon giving radio lessons at college and at night making a experimental video. When I was a kid I took lessons in almost every discipline possible: music composition, boxing, computer animation, plastic arts, literature…and the list goes on. This made me a pretty uncentered or “interdisciplinary” person, as you could say.

2. When, how and why started your filming?
Since I was a small kid my parents allowed me to play with their old Hi8 camera. I especially enjoyed the complications of tape to tape editing and Beta conversions. Then, when I had my first computer I would play a lot with narrative games for kids to create animations and films. Later, around 16 years old I started making hand drawn animation videos based on William Carlos Williams poems and experimental films based on family vacation photographs. These were really my hardcore experimental years, incomprehensible films of 1 minute long, or so.
I didn´t realize that I would end up making films until the time when I had to choose a career. In school I made a musical score to a book by Michael Ende. When I presented it, my tutors said that my work was clearly cinematic…Duh! I ended in a film school.

I have never questioned myself on why do I make films. In that sense, I´m not a storyteller; I´m an interdisciplinary artist and the mediums and techniques, in my case, are defined by the concept I´m trying to deploy. The question would rather be: why do I create? And the answer to that question would be: because it´s the only political action that can be taken seriously and, at the same time, be beautiful, compelling and ethical in my country.

3. What kind of subjects have your films?
I never liked personality driven films. So, I never use a main character. I prefer my work to be driven by the eye of the viewer and the connections that he makes between frames. I believe that the viewer should never identify himself with the main character. I seek a feeling of strangeness in the spectator that can lead him to a separation from the film that creates a critical opinion in the last stance. My last films have been involved in subjects such as the politics of bodies, the relations between shots-countershots and the construction of memory.

4. How do you develop your films, do you follow certain principles, styles etc?
I have a tendency to use a lot of the cinematographic language from the classic Italian exploitaition cinema: contrast montage and territorial decontextualization. I use this exploitation language in an almost “schizophrenic” way. I try to join the absolute opposites: A bodybuilder, a city in demolition and a plane lifting. This resource operates in a complete different way that does not seek to “insert” an idea into the audience but to unleash a “poetic” figure in the black frames between the images.

5. Tell me something about the technical equipment you use.
It depends on the project. I usually do not repeat resources in my films. RS for The Colossus was made entirely with hijacked videos and compression utilities, I wanted my hand to be as absent as possible from the final result: I didn´t want to have any aesthetical decisions, just conceptual strategies.
In the other hand, I have made films with digital animation, super 16 film, full frame HD cameras, scanners, photochemical still cameras and webcams. It all depends on the concept I´m trying to develop.

6. The field of “art and moving images” (one may call it videoart or also differently) is is manifesting itself as an important position in contemporary art. Tell me more about your personal position and how you see the future of this field ( your personal future and the future of “art and moving images”)

This is a complex question. It is obvious that nowadays it is a lot easier to make videos than ever. Even tough, this doesn´t mean that we will have an equal development of videoart, at least in quality. As any technology, it will find new paths of exploration, perhaps a more “personal” cinema. From experience, from what I have seen; I believe that nowadays we have a less elitist opinion towards lo-fi cinema. We are accustomed to see videos that have terrible video definition, poor frame rates, bad compression and loosy audio. We are accustomed to videos that usually lack a narrative coherence: we see a video of a cat talking or of a hitmen being decapitated by local gangs without any context. This fragmentation of narratives will lead eventually to a new understanding of visual languages and montage. We can only hope that this leads to a better political understanding of media and images, although most probably, it will not. As technology can only be only revolutionary when it produces political subjects, if we do not have a change of mentality; it will probably stay in the realm of utopia, as most technology is and will be.

7. How do you finance your films?
It depends on the film and the audience I´m trying to reach, most of the times I have to finance my films with other jobs, mostly low-brow or independent productions. Perhaps this isn´t as bad as it sounds: It keeps me away from a life of idleness that only produces art for a small elite and it keeps me as a working member of society.

8. Do you work individually as a video artist/film maker or do you work in a team?
if you have experience in both, what is the difference, what do you prefer?
It really depends on the project and its ambitions. The big decision in a project comes when you have to choose a crew, you have to be very “picky” with its members. It doesn´t matter whether you work with a hundred or a fistful of people, you have to know these persons very well. You have to know the background, the technical and creative capacities, the flaws, the names and the passions of every one in a crew, from the gaffers to the cinematographer.

9. Who or what has a lasting influence on your film/video making?
Most probably if you ask me this again I will tell something completely different. Today, I think that my father greatly influenced me at a very young age. We watched together “Mondo Cane” when I was very small, 5 or 6 years old, and that movie did struck me very deeply. We watched together also a lot of films by Schwarzenneger and Bruce Lee which remain as very strong icons in my way of understanding things. Also, my father is a graphic artist, that´s why, most probably, he inherited me a certain “eye” for things.

10. What are your plans or dreams as a film/video maker?
First things first: What I really dream right now is to finish my documentary “Atlas”, which has been stored for months in my closet, waiting impatiently for a final cut and a release date.

Can works of yours viewed online besides on CologneOFF or VideoChannel? Where?
List some links & resources

derrames.tumblr.com is a blog where I post small previews of works in progress.
http://vimeo.com/emilioreyesbassail/videos is my Vimeo channel.
www.bustrofedon.net is a fiction magazine that I co-edit in Mexico.