Tuesday, October 18, 2022 at 7:30pm
James. N. Kientiz Wilkins's Public Hearing

361 Stagg Street, Suite 407, Brooklyn

Public Hearing, James N. Kienitz Wilkins, 2012, digital projection, 110 mins

The scenario for one of the most distinctive American films of the past decade: in 2006, a forum is held by a small-town planning committee, soliciting comment on a local Wal-Mart’s proposal to expand into a Super Wal-Mart. At the end of a particularly deep internet rabbit hole, the artist and filmmaker James N. Kienitz Wilkins discovered a “ready-made screenplay;” his first feature, Public Hearing, takes as its parent material a PDF from a municipal website, a transcription of the debate that unfolded. As Wilkins has explained, the film is not only a reenactment of a previously existing narrative, but also a kind of satire of reenactment itself as an aesthetic maneuver, offering a comparatively pedestrian counterpoint to the often weighty subjects deemed by artists as fit for duplication.

And while Wilkins’s comic intelligence is perhaps the main throughline in a remarkably heterogeneous body of work, Public Hearing is not simply a joke. Rather, it now appears as a potent, even emblematic document of a community in decline, a document reanimated, like flowers in water, by Wilkins’s visual style—a series of stark, black-and-white, 16mm close-ups. Everyday citizens speak movingly about how their environment might be transformed, their economy gutted, their way of life unraveled, purely in the name of profit. One might say that this sui generis movie, in its fidelity to an extremely specific group dynamic, on the one hand, and its formal severity, on the other, is like a chimera of Frederick Wiseman and Andy Warhol, a truly strange beast. Indeed, each member of the public is allotted three minutes before the committee, incidentally the same length as a Warhol screen test, and Wiseman’s own term for his films, instead of “documentaries,” seems the most apposite name we could imagine for the genre to which Public Hearing belongs, “reality dreams.”

Followed by a conversation with Wilkins.

Tickets - Pay what you can ($10 suggested donation), available at door.

Please note: seating is limited. First-come, first-served. Box office opens at 7pm.