Experiencing Interruptions?

Reading Aloud: What Is Power? by Fred Dewey (abridged and captioned)

The late Fred Dewey’s essay "What Is Power?" rendered on film becomes something like a Greek chorus of very different voices, rising to affirm what we find hardest to believe at this moment: that power does not in fact reside among the powerful but is always there for we, the people, to reclaim. This film adds a new dimension to a text which asks many questions: What is the real nature of power? Where does it actually reside?

  • Dana Berman Duff
  • Dana Berman Duff
    The Catalogue Series
  • Jeremiah Day
  • Sue Spaid
  • Renée Petropoulos
  • Lucas Reiner
  • Brooks Roddan
  • Simone Forti
    Key Cast
  • Chris Kraus
    Key Cast
  • Hedi el Kholti
    Key Cast
  • Meena Nanji
    Key Cast
  • Eileen Myles
    Key Cast
  • Dennis Cooper
    Key Cast
  • Genres:
    Political, Experimental
  • Runtime:
    20 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    May 5, 2023
  • Production Budget:
    10,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Student Project:
Distribution Information
  • Dana Berman Duff
    Sales Agent
    Country: Worldwide
    Rights: All Rights
Director Biography - Dana Berman Duff

Dana Berman Duff lives and works in Los Angeles and rural Mexico. Her works in small format film and video have been screened in numerous festivals including the Toronto IFF, IFF Rotterdam, FID Marseille, the Biennale de l’Image en Mouvement (Geneva), Edinburgh IFF, ExIS (Seoul), Antimatter (Vancouver), Alchemy Moving Image Festival (Scotland), Experiments in Cinema (Albuquerque), Rencontres Internationales (Paris/Berlin), Bideodromo (Bilbao), Cairo IFF, Timisoara Festival (Romania), Filmmakers Festival (Milan), Onion City Experimental, Dortmund/Cologne International Women’s Film Festival, Seattle Filmforum, and others. A POTENTIALITY was recognized at FID Marseille 2020 with an Alice Guy award. An evening of her short works was screened at REDCAT in Los Angeles in June, 2022.

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Director Statement

This is a 20-minute cut of the original film. The original is an unedited (text-wise) reading of Fred Dewey's essay "What Is Power?" which is printed in the book the people are reading from, The School of Public Life. That piece is 40 minutes long because that's how long it took to read the entire essay out loud.

Many things are Godard-like since his films were favorites to Fred, but mostly because when I was asked to make a film of this text, I had visions of scenes from Weekend and La Chinoise in which actors read from books straight into the camera. It was the first time I had encountered such a thing in cinema and it had a major effect, on all of us, I think. Coincidentally (perhaps), I later discovered that Godard had died on the day I was invited to make the film and had envisioned the scenes from Weekend.

The use of primary and secondary colors in the titles, mise en scene, compositions, and costumes echo those particular Godard films, and in a couple of the shots I used setups straight out of Weekend, such as a character dressed up as Benjamin Franklin marching around lecturing. I stopped short of shooting someone in a bathtub!

And, of course, the title typeface is "Jean Luc"— and the erupting blurts of music were designed to interrupt just as Godard employs the music in Weekend, like a slap on the cheek.

The camera was positioned as if sitting across the table from the reader, face-to-face, in an attempt to invoke Fred's table-readings, which he so believed in and conducted frequently. I wanted the viewer to take a position across a hypothetical table from the reader, as they would if attending one of Fred's readings.

All of the readers were paid the same fee and given a copy of the book. There were no random readers; everyone either had a relationship with Fred (several are famous poets and writers) or were invited because of their different spheres of influence. The goal was to get the book, the information about POWER, into as many different "neighborhoods" as I could. For example, I asked Stephanie Bell to share the book with folks living on the streets in Los Angeles.