/ DOCUMENTS OBSCURA / STRANGE MOVIES
mid-1990s videotapes from Image 37 Productions, aka Damon Barr
and Marie Anne Ferral, which affirm their position, hinted at
with First Document and Archive Emetica,
as the best current underground film-makers in Britain... maybe
in the world.
Documents Obscura and Strange Movies
are both collections of short works; the latter the more "commercial
of the two, featuring a selection of potently effective body horror
sex stories that range from the experimental Bodyshock
(in which film footage of ritual scarification and mutilation
is projected onto a torso, creating a bizarre, unreal vision of
spontaneous blood eruptions) to the almost straight-forward erotica
of SM 189/Cellar 23, where Barr and Ferral act
out submissive and dominant dungeon fantasies in the most effective
fetish short since Aryan Kaganof’s La Sequence Des
In fact, Barr/Ferral and Kaganof seem to be working from the same
mindset. Strange Movies opens with Test
Film , where Barr uses cut-up found footage of childhood
"training" that has the same dark atmosphere and suggestions
of abuse that are found in parts of Kerkhof's Ten
Monologues from the Lives of the Serial Killers,
being shot around the same time.
Documents Obscura is much more experimental,
retreading some of the themes found in earlier Barr/Ferral work;
one film uses the unique concept of smearing various bodily fluids
(menstrual blood, semen, urine, etc.) directly onto the film,
with some startling and beautiful results. In many ways, the collection
is a supplement to the earlier films, suggesting that the film-makers
will be now moving their ideas into new areas.
Catharsis is a somewhat different film, and one
that is difficult to watch: simply the recording of a "performance"
by Rachel E., the film takes a harrowing and deeply upsetting
look at rape through the eyes of a victim. Watching this film
is almost like participating in the crime, as Barr's camera looks
on coldly while Rachel has what amounts to a breakdown on screen.
Therapeutic for the performer, and deeply uncomfortable for the
viewer, who is made to share the pain and the guilt. In short,
a far more effective message about the effects of rape than a
thousand earnest TV dramas.
POSTSCRIPT: Barr and Ferral’s work developed
a rapidly growing reputation during 1993 – 1995; uniquely
among Britain’s underground filmmakers of the time, they
moved from horror film festivals and fetish club into the world
of Art Cinema with screenings at very respectable shows
in Amsterdam and beyond, as well as having their work curated
alongside the biggest names of avant-garde cinema. In 1995, Barr
– but not Ferral – attended the Kino Short Film Festival
in Manchester with his most recent film, Visitations.
After this, the pair seemed to vanish without trace. If anyone
out there knows the whereabouts of either of them, there are several
people who would love to get back in touch….