Artist Statement while the Earth Burns

I want to interact with the real and the unreal, a cinema of the seen and unseen. I try and conjure spirits from the earth, illuminated by my camera looking in, reflexive and instinctive. The story of my practice is the I am living inside the film and the film is living. I want to be free from the imposed linearity of time in this realm, and fracture it within the structure of film, free from the body but made with the body.

Sit in the Silence
Vertical Time Zone
Liminal is the Night
Phone Call from the Past
Phone Call from the Future

This Has Already Happened

I was confined in my house, a pandemic took over the world and climate fires were destroying the land outside. The impulse to create and document was powerful. I didn’t know what to do, but I had a video camera and sound equipment and I started to shoot. How do you take this pressure inside and visualize it?

The seed of this idea emerged one night when I frightened myself through a reflection in my home. It sparked this idea for a film: a tiny virus had erupted and this invisible terror was lurking outside, and with it surfaced the ills and the greed. But for a moment, there was a reflective silence. Who are we now? Eventually the mass shootings resumed, and our collective hallucinations and nightmares were now live streaming. It was full-circle, I could feel the war from my childhood reverberate in me, everything felt tragic.

So I started shooting with my camera, recording, and documenting. Something inside of me also surfaced. The outside was trying to come inside. The real of the world, the real of my fears, the unseen manifested and a type of existential horror film emerged. As performer and director I tried to open something up, to create a tension and ask for the ghosts to reveal themselves, I wanted to allow it entry. I was freaking myself out. But my house protected me. A strange modernist construct built in 1955, it allowed the haunting for the camera. 

There is the production of a film, there is the thinking about the film, there is also doing nothing about it, the camera turns on with an impulse and frustration. The United States of America is a place of shadows and death, it is also a place that offers the possibility of an alternative space, something hopeful and new. Maybe there is also a fractured reality in America? Or maybe it was my perspective? All I wanted was to create a disrupted space, and then enter this other zone.

There is a real threat out there, and at first I thought it was in a supernatural or even a creature behind my dark windows. It was also in the blood red sky of the constant fires, it was also in the angry voices arguing for my death, and it was in the fear and longing in the eyes of my fellow citizens. All of it was also in me.

I was asked once if my work was a hybrid between documentary and fiction, and this question used to be an easy one, of course it is. But I was reluctant to explain how or why, so I denied this to my work, I said it wasn’t. But I’ve been entangling these modes of fiction and non-fiction when I first picked up a camera and starting shooting. With my film This Has Already Happened, my intention is to let go of those reductive constructs, and utilize the moment by creating a tone that could infuse the shot with meaning.

This Has Already Happened is my fourth fiction feature-film shot with editing in mind. It is treated holistically, but shot chaotically. It is time as sculpture, and the screen is a vehicle traveling through it.

These past few years have brought new pleasures in making cinema. I slowed it all down and let the air and mountains take me in, to surround me. Reality and existence is still baffling, at times unbearable, but mostly peaceful, if I give in to a certain frequency without sinking. It’s not supernatural, it is just natural. There is a profound feeling in the dark tones of the melancholic skies, and in those moments when pinned in that stillness, I am reminded of my own mortality and a place where this is no middle, beginning or end.

(Usama Alshaibi, 2023, Boulder, Colorado, USA)