By Jill Di Donato We know all about the male filmmakers who explore themes of careless, dangerous, and reckless youth through a provocative and voyeuristic lens (immediately the films of Larry Clark and Gus Van Sant come to mind).
But what about the women filmmakers of this genre? Yes, they are out there, and yes they win awards. But do we scrutinize them in the same way? Would we call them exploitative? Or is it different because, somehow, when it’s a woman behind the lens, we assume she knows a thing or two about the experience of being objectified for myriad reasons (sex, money, power, and another’s pleasure)?
Just food for thought.
Nadia Bedzhanova, a rising talent and professional Director of Photography is mining the territory of reckless youth in a way that is reminiscent of Van Sant and Clark — with grit and verisimilitude, and without the gloss of the Hollywood machine exploring/creating this same material.I’m thinking most recently of Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber — two of the most recent emblems of “lost youth,” but I cannot see either as an artist — not so much because they lack talent (which I’m not commenting on) but because they are inseparable from the teams who produce them.In her work, both still photography and film, Bedzhanova chooses young, cosmopolitan, indie celebrities like Julia Garner, Hailey Clauson, Skye Stracke, Charlie Himmelstein, creator of Vine app Rus Yusupov, photographer Nathaniel Dam as her subjects and has documented her “documenting process” (how meta) in her blog TAKEN.You’ll notice the images here are in Polaroid film, a nod to the nostalgia of photography before the days of retouching define how we see and interpret images.In a similar vein, Bedzhanova, Moscow born who now lives and works in New York City, loves to shoot in Super 8 mm film, which she calls the most “intimate way” of capturing her subject “that brings an unforgettable dreamy look to every character.”She’s making a name for herself in the ridiculously competitive field of short film with her debut film, “Adrift” that spotlights a particularly dangerous way teenagers fight ennui and restlessness – an asphyxiation game, also known as the choking game, “space dog” or “good kids’ high.”Film festivals in North America, such as the Vancouver International Film Festival, Big Apple, New Filmmakers, Brooklyn Shorts lauded Bedzhanova as an emerging, prize-worthy and extraordinary talent.
And because short films are not particularly known for their financial returns, Bedzhanova does work on commercial projects, but only for those that push her artistic boundaries. One of the fashion films for which she was the DP and co-director “Apres Ski” for Unruly Heir, is an example of “particapatory journalism,” an new media form where the artist/creator/journalist joins in on the action, and dismantles the wall that separates object/subject, participant/observer.As DP, she’s shot several fashion films for Galore Magazine, one of the most influential edgy New York based fashion magazines, distributed all over the US, Europa and Asia. Sneak a peek of “Foxy A Film” here and “Very Now: ‘Stay’ by Atelier B.Y. the Red Bunny!” here and check out what models do off duty (bake macaroons) here.
And finally, because if that’s not enough, Bedzhanova created Generation Gamma, an online film channel featuring characters of today – video portraits of young people in daily situations, sharing their secrets and thoughts. For a taste of what Generation Gamma is all about, the first episode featured twin sisters “as one person,” explains Bedzhanova, “surrounded by grungy aesthetics of Chinatown, telling stories about drugs, masturbation and being connected on a mental level.”
Long inspired by the cinematography of Benoit Debie and Christopher Doyle, for the last few years, Bedzhanova has been working on a series of projects featuring youth and what she esoterically calls the “lightness of being.” As a DP, Bedzhanova is extremely engaged with her subject matter, whether that means “joining the action,” or coaxing her subjects to share their most intimate selves on camera with her genuine and transparent artistic persona.
I, personally would not call her work exploitative of the titillating, dangerous, and depraved actions of youth. We are all chasing what we don’t have — whether it’s a future beyond us or the past that’s slipped away, that we feverishly want to relive. Bedzhanova’s work gets inside her characters, and does so with a soft hand, one that is aware of the territory she’s charting.
“It’s about the lies you tell, the clothes you wear, the people you’re with. Being beautiful and broken.” — “Solitude,” Generation Gamma Magazine