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Split Focus at the BFI. No.3: Deva Palmier and Lee Kern.

Posted June 20th, 2008 by Ben

Right, mark off Monday 30th in your diary because we’re back in the BFI with two more supremely talented filmmakers bubbling to the top of the sprawling Shooting People community.

Even though these events are irregular (and yes, this one was postponed a month because of me wanting to avoid a clash of superb Shooter events that fell into place last month…) I’d sort of hope that most of you roughly know the score by now; however since 599 new people joined in the past month alone I guess I’d better give a quick run down for those of you still blinking in the sunlight…

For some time I’ve been searching through the oceans of celluloid and digital tape produced by the populace of the great Shooter Nation keeping my eyes peeled for films that delight, inspire and entertain. In doing so I’ve been lucky enough to come across a great many brilliant films but I’ve been luckier to find a greater number of brilliant filmmakers. Often the most interesting and enjoyable part of the process has been following their careers and seeing their work grow, seeing their good films turn into better films. So this year I’ve been trying to share that pleasure with anyone who can squeeze into the BFI Studio on the Southbank… and in most cases anyone with internet enough to use the Watch Film pages of this very site.

Next on my list of filmmakers I think you should spend some time getting to know are Deva Palmier and Lee Kern.

Deva and Lee share a sense of the bizarre and also a delight in the mundane. They are fantasists who offer a vision of life that can be both funny and disturbing. Most of all though I felt that their work complimented each other because they are, in their own ways, forces of nature.

Stylistically they are very different. Deva is a classicist, film school educated her work is often, at first glance, what you might term “proper” filmmaking. Beautiful, controlled, and well crafted as they are, her films truly shine most when the indescribable Devaness comes leaking out. Her films are never quite what you expect, even when you think you’ve got her pinned. For instance in Fishy what you think is going to happen does, but where another filmmaker would have let the magical event that hinges the story be cute, in Deva’s hands and with the immaculate Shirley Henderson playing the lead the moment is dark and uncompromising. She takes you to where the structure of the story dictates you should go, and satisfied like a good audience we happily follow – but then that oddness, that Devaness seeps in and you realise once again you’re getting more than you bargained for.

Lee’s work is sort of the reverse. His films sprawl across genres and include documentaries, animations and a sort of film essay that you really have to be Lee to pull off. At first glance he can seem amateurish, charming you with his apparent confusion. He wanders into films that are supposedly about something else with a disingenuous grin as if the whole process of making the film is genuinely slipping out of his hands. Be beguiled, but don’t be fooled. At his best Lee’s films are among the sharpest, smartest, and most perceptive you’ll find. Original, hysterical and genuinely unique Lee’s films are those rarest of delights which give cak-handed solipsism a good name.

Or to put it another way, this time I bring you a crazy genius and a genius who is crazy. I’ll leave it to you to decide which way round you want to apply those.

6.30pm (7pm start) Monday 30th June at the BFI Studio on the Southbank. Admission is free but space is limited so please RSVP to jane@shootingpeople.org – if your name’s not on the list then we will resort to cliche.

  1. CR Pope

    Ben,
    Where are you? Nothing for two months!!!
    How did the BFI Studio on the Southbank… and the Watch Film pages of this very site. I tried to make it but could not get there in time. I am big fan of “Deva Palmier and Lee Kern” also.

  2. simon cameron

    I’ve just voted for your flick – only seen it twice as well. So when you two eventually get to be famous at the Oscars remember your friends, And I never asked if you were the makers ( of your flick, shown in Edinburgh about 100 years ago) of that bit of existentialist shit though I do remember getting YOU TWO a drink at the bar as you had no money.

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