James Benning: People & Places

“I have a very simple definition of an artist. The artist is someone who pays attention and reports back.” – James Benning

An American independent filmmaker and essayist with an incredibly unique voice, James Benning recently relinquished a dedication to 16mm and embraced digital technology. The economy and formal rigour has remained. Focusing on places and faces and shooting in long, unedited scenes, Benning effectively offers a documentation of time and a consideration of everyday reality.

“I came to Benning quite late. He was one of the filmmakers I discovered at Rotterdam, which is probably why it remains my favourite festival. Film festivals are frantic environments. Seeing Benning’s films for the first time calmed me right down. I immediately admired his precision and his clarity. His refusal to rush also appealed, especially in a climate that increasingly relies on sound bites and immediate thrill. As I learned more about Benning I discovered his affinity for film and his affinity for independence. Both endeared him to me more. We need filmmakers like James Benning. His work tells the story of film past, present and future. There aren’t many other people you could say that of.” – Jason Wood, our Artistic Director of Film

“In all Benning’s work there is a palpable sense of the ’now’ and of time passing.  I wish I had his confidence, his ability  to just leave things alone. But I don’t. I always need to interfere, to reverse engineer meaning.” – Andrew Kötting, Filmmaker

“Benning’s exquisite attention to site detail steadily undermines the sensorial rudders of vision and sound,  absorbing and dissolving the viewer inside parasitic worlds.” – Felicity J Colman, Professor of Film and Media Arts at the Manchester School of Art

Previously in this season


In Ruhr, Benning allows his camera to roam the Ruhr Valley in Germany with six meticulously framed takes at places where apparently little happens: a…

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Small Roads

James Benning films 47 roads in the USA: not only expansive landscapes crossed by trains, but also narrow lanes where only an occasional animal or…

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One Way Boogie Woogie 2012

Benning originally shot One Way Boogie Woogie in 1977. He wanted to record the demise of the industrial landscape in his birthplace, Milwaukee. 27 years later…

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Twenty Cigarettes

Watch twenty people, each of them smoking a cigarette. Some of them are familiar. Others we’ve never seen before. But they all give us time…

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A remake of John Cassavetes’ critically acclaimed film of the same name, this version pushes it to its ultimate consequence: strictly faces, each shot lasting…

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