Jason Middleton is one of the area's smartest and most historically astute filmmakers and he's introducing his latest short film, Postindustrial Symphony, in three screenings this month. The title and theme of his film evokes certain silent masterpieces from the 1920s, films that reflected the era's confidence in the unlimited promise of urban living and industrial production. Such efforts from German, American and Soviet artists included Ruttman's Berlin: Symphony of a City, Vidor's The Crowd, Murnau's Sunrise and Vertov's The Man With a Movie Camera.
To varying degrees, these films exulted in cinematic technology, finding links between the new methods of making art and the productive capacities of 20th century technology. These days, such faith in the power of industrialism to lift all boats is gone--outsourced from our memories--thus making the ideologies of those silent classics seem quaint and innocent.
Divided into two parts, Middleton's film is an ironic juxtaposition of images from the rusting carcass of Durham's tobacco district with the space pods of Research Triangle Park. The Durham portion is scored with the pulsing tones of a rock band playing live in the warehouse as Middleton's camera fixates on machine parts that used to move and make sounds, while the droll second acts features two scooter-riding tourists (Indy staffers Alex Maness and Jenny Canipe) floundering in the blankscapes of RTP.
The funny thing is, despite RTP's role in today's knowledge economy, there don't seem to be any people there either.
Catch Jason Middleton's Postindustrial Symphony on Tuesday, April 13 at the Flickerfest at Cat's Cradle. Showtime is 8:30 p.m. His film will also be featured the following night at the UNC Faculty Film Showcase, 7 p.m., 116 Murphey Hall, UNC-Chapel Hill Campus. And on April 23 the film will be shown at the Hi Mom! film festival.