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Michael Gitlin's Dust Studies, a nine-minute short that screens tomorrow night at the Onion City Film Festival at 6:45 PM, also evokes these formative experiences. The work is a series of extreme close-ups of dust bunnies, captured under different lighting sources and accompanied by the sounds of birdsong and toddlers sounding out words. Gitlin makes the most of HD video here, achieving a crystal-clear focus that gives presence to every contour of his subjects. He describes the work as a "domestic portrait rendered at miniature scale," a clever turn of phrase that applies to both the portrait and the implied portraitist, someone too small to realize that the banal items in his purview are in fact banal.
You can watch Dust Studies for free on your computer, but I'd recommend seeing it at Onion City, where it plays on a program with Ben Rivers's Sack Barrow and several other stellar works. (Also, the screen will be a lot bigger.) A masterpiece by one of England's most inventive working filmmakers, Sack Barrow is no less of a sensory experience than Dust. Rivers shot this 20-minute film in a London factory during the month before it shut down. The movie doesn't reveal what the factory produced (though in his program notes, Rivers mentions it was "set up in 1931 to provide work for limbless and disabled ex-servicemen"), but rather presents equipment, chemical processes, and industrial waste sites as the stuff of a self-contained world. The 16-millimeter photography is extraordinary, creating richly textured images that seem at once immediate and otherworldly: at times, it seems as though Rivers has stumbled upon unused sets from Tarkovsky's Stalker.