It’s CPH:DOX season here in Copenhagen. Eleven days dedicated to the fascinating realm of documentary filmmaking and experimental craft, there’s some fabulous work on display which pushes the boundaries of documentary as genre.
None more so than City World. The feature debut from New York based filmmaker Brent Chesanek, it’s a beautiful and absorbing production. A mixture of essay film, dream-like mysticism and landscape narration, it sees the writer/director/cinematographer/editor return to his hometown of Orlando, Florida. Far from Disneyfied, Chesanek’s Orlando is a conflation of charm and menace, with alligator-filled swamps, run-down theme parks and uninhabited suburban cul-de-sacs. There’s roaming birds, uncollected newspapers and flat-packed homes, but no people.
Amidst this deserted ‘City World’, a young boy (voiced by Sean Kaufman) narrates a reckless abandon story through anecdotes and folklore. Unhappy with sterile suburban living, he runs away to the forest, right before some sort of apocalyptic happening wipes out the rest of humanity. Will he survive? Is it all a dream? Such questions are irrelevant in Chesanek’s fantastical film. A resolute homage to his hometown and it’s intrinsic beauty.
It’s a loaded comparison, but with his same ability to treat landscape as character, former designer Chesanek has somewhat of a Terrence Malick quality to his lens. Whether it’s an image of ominous black clouds, a butterfly mid-flight, or a rotting lake fish,
With an evocative score from ambient musician Chris Zabriskie, ‘City World’ is Chesanek’s homage to his hometown and all it’s intricate, underappreciated beauty. A deeply personal, almost elegiacal project, it’s reflexive qualities let us sink back into our own nostalgia.
No IMDB, but check out the movie website
Have a listen to this Q&A I hosted with Brent at the festival. A lovely chap, indeed.
CPH:DOX is one of the world’s biggest film festivals dedicated to documentary practice, with an interest in particularly experimental audio/visual work. You can follow all of my coverage here. For more info please visit the festival website.