Nine @ Night

"Let's make something happen which the world will not believe!"
--Rob Nilsson

Rob Nilsson is one of the most important living independent filmmakers, whose innovations in video and film, both in content and technique, continue to influence the pace, setting and subject matter of visual art. 

Certainly he has obtained a devoted following for "Heat and Sunlight," which won Grand Jury Prize in 1988 at Sundance; and for "Northern Lights," which took the Golden Camera Award at the Cannes FIlm Festival in 1979; as well as for several other works that are often compared to the work of John Cassavetes.

In "Nine @ Night" he takes us to another dimension of filmmaking. Like Krzysztof Kieslowski, Nilsson's commitment to poetic truth and social realism in the idiom of film and video now reaches serial proportion; and translates to the viewer in a way that overcomes the "film as short story" dictum that governs most of Hollywood's commercial output.

While searching for a lost brother, Nilsson lived in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco; and started to work with an actors' workshop called the Tenderloin yGroup, composed of both professional actors and real life characters from the streets -- homeless, drug addicts, prostitutes and other colorful denizens.
The result is a series of nine dramatic feature films chronicling the lives of about 50 fictional characters living on the edges in San Francisco’s bellwether neighborhood of hope and despair. 

Each film is a realised work in itself. Together they form a patchwork quilt of gritty urban moments of struggle and survival. 

"Nine @ Night" is fourteen hours in all, which also took fourteen years to create -- in doing so, Nilsson demonstrated that the art of film should be coming from the interior 'light' of the people depicted and that it should be totally natural and human in scale. There he meets the Dogma standard, but also much, much more.

The exhibition of the "Nine @ Night" series started with a showing at Harvard, curated by noted film historian and critic Ray Carney, late last year. It is being shown at various venues in the San Francisco Bay Area in September, and hopefully will travel to other parts of the world.

--Carl Macki

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