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Amiel Courtin-Wilson is an Australian artist and filmmaker. He is the director of five features, and over twenty shorts.
His first film, Chasing Buddha (2000), a documentary portrait of his Buddhist nun aunt, was produced at the age of 19 and premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. Since then, he has made Bastardy (2008), a documentary about troubled indigenous actor Jack Charles, and Hail (2011), a fictional feature inspired by the life of its star, Daniel P. Jones, which premiered at the Venice Film Festival.
Courtin-Wilson’s work—in both documentary and fiction forms—is characterised by its combination of realist drama with trance-like poetical interludes, as well as a clear-eyed and empathetic authorial interest in lives lived on the edge. Hail begins as a kind of straightforward narrative about the difficulties of post-prison life, but it eventually dissolves into a violent swirl of impressionistic imagery and harsh soundscapes. Its centerpiece image is a mordantly beautiful shot of a dead horse hurtling through the atmosphere toward the earth’s surface.
His latest film, Ruin (2013), co-directed with Michael Cody, is a fictional narrative about two lovers on the run, set and filmed in Cambodia.
The interview took place in the wine bar Tasmanian Quartermasters in Hobart, with the assistance of the Dark Mofo festival.
– James Robert Douglas
In The Lifted Brow #23, we published Ellena Savage’s column on subjectivity in the essay, ‘Their Emotions Get Carried Away Beyond Them’. Shortly afterwards, Sean M Whelan’s spoken word response, ‘How Much Do Your Words Weigh?’, appeared in The Lifted Brow: Digital. Now, we are republishing these two pieces along with Maggie Alden’s ‘Click, Read, React’, a meditation on the nature of reading online.
‘Their Emotions Get Carried Away Beyond Them’, by Ellena Savage
Archangel or whore
[she] don’t mind
All the roles
Are lent to [her]
—Laure (Colette Pieignot), [ed. Ellena Savage]
essayer: French, to attempt, to exercise, to test, to experiment.
Michele de Montaigne cannot keep his subject still. “It goes along befuddled and staggering, with a natural drunkenness.” He takes it on this condition, he writes, just as it is at the moment he gives his attention to it. He does not portray being: he portrays passing.
The progenitor of the essay, de Montaigne, wrote his seminal three collections of essays, eventually numbering a thousand pages, across twenty years. During these two decades, he made corrections, additions, and additional contradictions, as his daily experiences altered his outlook on things. He never retracted the originally published text, just attached addendums here and there to mark his ever-evolving perspective. While de Montaigne’s compendiums of personal wisdom were widely circulated in late-Renaissance France, and are now canon for scholars and practitioners of the essay, the texts were more or less ignored by the Anglospheric academies and their philosophers during Montaigne’s life, and long afterward.
As for Katy Donahue, the girl that lives down the block from my cousin Jimmy who was mauled by a Pit Bull (not mine), I mean, that is a tragedy. A professor/scientist would call this a total coincidence, because the same day we decided to breed Jimmy’s Great Dane with my Pit Bull and call it a Great Pit was the same day I saw the mauled girl/Katy’s picture on the news while I was waiting for the sports highlights. No matter how bad it made me feel to know that she was mauled we couldn’t halt our plan because it was set in stone; we knew we would be minting money and pushing it around in wheelbarrows once we posted the New Dog Breed online and sent out email blasts and put up flyers around town. This wasn’t even an idea I got from an alcohol headache where my tongue had no saliva on it and I couldn’t think straight. This was the real deal. Jimmy was already breeding his Great Dane named Matilda and making a killing and he kept telling me, Sure as shit, this is legit, and Uncle Sam can’t touch it! And I thought, Tax Collectors: you can suck it, and sorry little mauled girl/Katy, these dogs will wear muzzles like half the time, so you can play outside again after the bandages come off and you grow into your new face.
Even better: I just lost my job at Mr. Bread’s Submarine Sandwich last week and they say timing is everything and everything happens for a reason and God is in control, so I have to seize the day, right? And to prepare I started to Google Dog Breeding but got distracted watching street brawls in L.A. on YouTube, the kind of videos you have to verify your age to watch, which is totally kick ass.
It’s a Wednesday. The day is getting warmer and gently pulsing. Ishka and I are walking to school.
Facebook celebrated its tenth anniversary in February, an occasion it marked with the debut of a video feature it called ‘Look Back’. This feature, for those not in the know, allows Facebook users the option to have the website create an automated video celebrating their time using the site, with content culled from their pictures, status updates, and most-liked posts. Look Back represents a kind of dizzying vortex of Facebook strategy. The company already uses this information in order to sell their customers to the advertisers that float the business; now they are using that same information to sell back to their users the very experience of being on Facebook, a forthright emotional plea to ensure their continued use of the site.
The feature drew the attention of the bereaved. Facebook allows the ‘memorialisation’ of an account, in which friends or family can request that a deceased person’s profile be maintained on the site after their death. In a post on Facebook’s Newsroom blog, Facebook Community Operations workers Chris Price and Alex DiSlafani related the story of John Berlin from Missouri, who, in making the unanticipated request that a Look Back video be created for his deceased son, had “touched the hearts” of Facebook employees. Now the Look Back feature is available upon request to all memorialized accounts. Having made decisive strides in colonizing the lives of its users, Facebook now also follows them into death. It can, in effect, sell the Facebook experience back to a deceased person’s friends and family by appropriating the details of that person’s life.
When you study law, you end up reading a lot of cases. After four years and hundreds of pages, I found myself with more questions about the law—and the people who interact with it—than when I started. In criminal cases in particular, I began to notice patterns, bizarre ones, no matter whether the crime was corporate fraud, or aggravated assault, or petty theft. It all seemed to be driven by the same things: ambition, pride, splintered identity, jealousy. Ego.
What is it that makes someone an ‘offender?’ This is one of many questions I wanted to explore. I wasn’t sure what I’d find in the cases, but once I started reading them, more and more parallels emerged. I made a very professional table with categories like ‘car’, ‘stab’, ‘heavy fog’ and ‘weird face coverings and hats’ to sort some of it out. Apart from the factual similarites, I found a lot of really poetic, weird, and darkly funny moments in the judgments too. ‘The Offender’ is a composite portrait, drawn from these patterns and coincidences. It is a true story.