"Steeped in the obsolete language of revolutionary art," The New York Times said Jim Finn's films "often play like unearthed artifacts from an alternate universe." His movies have been called "Utopian comedies" and "trompe l'oeil films". Born in 1968, he teaches in Brooklyn.
Jim Finn’s movies have been called ‘Utopian comedies’ and ‘trompe l’oeil films’. The New York Times wrote, “Steeped in the obsolete language of revolutionary art, Mr. Finn’s meticulous, deadpan mockumentaries often play like unearthed artifacts from an alternate universe. They have been screened at international, avant-garde and underground film festivals like Rotterdam, Validivia, Sundance and Edinburgh as well as museums, universities, cinematheques and microcinemas. His Communist Trilogy (2005-10) is in the MoMA’s permanent collection. His three Inner Trotsky Child videos premiered each year from 2013-2015 at the New York Film Festival. Genevieve Yue in Film Comment wrote about the first film in that trilogy, “Though Encounters elicited laughter with its hyperbolic Communist rhetoric and lo-fi video effects, it also prompts a serious engagement with its central premise: that to imagine a better life for ourselves means, in part, imagining a different history.” His latest project is an epistolary, musical reimagining of Wuthering Heights from the perspective of the opioid-addicted Brontë brother, Branwell. He was born in St. Louis in 1968 and teaches at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn.
GRANTS, AWARDS, DISTINCTIONS
MoMA permanent collection: Communist Trilogy (2006-2010)
Charles Guggenheim Cinema St. Louis Award (2018)
Jerome Foundation Award, The Drunkard's Lament (2016)
Best Self-Help Film, Chicago Underground Film Festival, Chums from Across the Void 2016
Pratt Institute Faculty Development Grant, Red Wuthering Heights 2016-2017
Alpert/Macdowell Fellowship: residency at the Macdowell Colony, July 2012
J. Hoberman's Top 10 Films of 2010 (Village Voice), The Juche Idea 2010
Experimental Film, Rio de Janeiro Short Film Festival, Dick Cheney in a Cold, Dark Cell 2009
Distribution Grant for N.Y. Artists, free103point9 & N.Y. State Council on the Arts 2009
Montalvo Arts Center Residency, Saratoga, California, June-July 2009
Best Narrative Feature, Chicago Underground Film Festival, The Juche Idea 2008
Closing Night Film, New York Underground Film Festival, The Juche Idea 2008
Honorable Mention, Ann Arbor Film Festival, The Juche Idea 2008
Hallwalls Artist-in-Residence Project (funded by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Andy Warhol Foundation) 2007-8
Finishing Funds Award, Experimental Television Center 2008
Top Ten Year in Experimental Film, Village Voice, La Trinchera Luminosa del Presidente Gonzalo 2007
Closing Night Film, Chicago Underground Film Festival, La Trinchera Luminosa del Presidente Gonzalo 2007
Special Assistance Grant, Illinois Arts Council, 2003, 2005, 2006
Opening Night Film, New York Underground Film Festival, Interkosmos 2006
Black Maria Director’s and Program Staff’s Citation, Decision 80, 2004
Chicago Underground Film Fund Award, La Lotería 2004
Blue Award, Thaw Film/Video Festival, wüstenspringmaus 2003
Made-in-Chicago Award, Chicago Underground Film Festival, super-max 2003
Community Arts Assistance Grant, City of Chicago 1998, 2001-2003, 2005
THE UTOPIAN COMEDY
It has been cried and celebrated in equal part, but both sides agreed: 1989 marked the end of collective utopias; a death foretold and desired by expansive capitalism, thus pulling down the last walls which were still erected to destabilize liberal democracies. Communism was barely breathing; the new air of revolution had been transformed into a gasp. Are there still any traces of those revolutions? Would it be possible to reconstruct the intensity of the utopia? Those are the questions that Jim Finn asks to himself in every one of his films, almost as an identical starting point, but which can derive in the most unexpected and hilarious answers. Interested in the forms of revolutionary art, in the looks and actions communisms encouraged, Finn searches for fundamental knots where this ideology was brought together in an extreme, ambitious project: East Germany's race for space conquest in Interkosmos, the Maoist community reeducation in La Trinchera Luminosa del Presidente Gonzalo, North Korea's practice of film as ideological propaganda in The Juche Idea.
The peculiar thing about these three films is that they belong to the same subgenera, the mockumentary. Or to say it in all its contradiction: Finn is a specialist in mockumentaries about the real utopia. Like a Marxist Christopher Guest (in both senses of the term: a little bit Groucho, a little bit Karl), Finn moves in the field of humor that opens out stealthy, irregular, unsuspected, generally sharp and bringing down structures. Never deriving on realistic parodies, for these mockumentaries, the utopia and the absurd confabulate at times to create a space even more ahead of its time, even more avant garde. That's why perhaps science fiction is so present in his cinema; also maybe because of that, audiovisual experimentation with forms and formats is essential to the plot of the movies. But this introduction to Finn's world would be incomplete if a fundamental characteristic in his work isn't contemplated. Many of his shorts are something resembling strange music videos of pop communism, and his films always include musical choreographies with a sense of epiphany. It's just that Finn is not interested in any revolution in which dancing is not allowed. And that is a libertarian utopian worth fighting for.
Diego Trerotola, Buenos Aires Festival Internacional de Cine Independiente (BAFICI)
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Jim Finn: email@example.com