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“It’s always a pleasure to get blindsided by a great new film. I’ve been vaguely aware of Oliver Husain, mostly as a video artist, over the past few years, but this 16mm production represents my first encounter with his work, and I must say I am duly impressed. Judging from his website, Husain frequently employs puppetry, props, and other sculptural and musical elements in his work, but the bizarre confluence of text, performance, gesture and ambiance that goes to concoct Mount Shasta is really rather thrilling. This is a film that doesn’t look like anything else out there, but points of comparison can be drawn if you stretch the pencil far enough. My initial thought was “Spike Jonze doing Owen Land, sort of,” and there is a hint of truth to this. Like Land’s films, Mount Shasta plays with conventions of text / image relations, the fallibility of narrative drive, the mismatch between the written word and its performative visualization. And, like Land’s best work, Mount Shasta evokes a time and place – an earnest 1970s, before the social and educational theories of the 60s had been rejected as failures. Pastel-coloured institutional walls contain fabric-and-pipe-cleaner inventions of a whimsy that almost seems forced, were it not for the total belief evinced by those participating in it. In the background, a bearded man at a cheap keyboard (again, of the sort familiar from middle-school music rooms of a certain era) warbles a story-song as half-formed handkerchief puppets fly around each other on visible wires, the puppeteers made “invisible” by their white canvas beekeeper suits. Husain’s story is about a mountain trip waylaid by a fog which turns out to be the smoke from a destructive fire. In a sense, this could be a way of understanding Mount Shasta as a film. The elements that envelop this gorgeous film in mystery (is this avantgarde? a narrative short? a children’s film?) are also the ones that threaten to unmake it at every turn, since “the spell” is always already about our ability to turn away from its blatant disenchantment.” (Michael Sicinski)
BIO: Born in Frankfurt in 1969. Lives and works in Toronto and Frankfurt. Oliver Husain is a filmmaker and installation artist with a particular interest in theatrical and cinematic notions of spectatorship and scenery. Husain has shown internationally in venues such as ICA Philadelphia and Galeri Nasional Indonesia. A book on his work, Spoiler Alert, was published in 2012.