Director: James Benning

Germany, documentary, 120 min. 2009
James Benning’s documentary “Ruhr” presents the American artist‘s perspective on the Ruhr district in Germany, where his parents came from. The region was formed by coal mining, industrialisation, and its working class inhabitants. Using Duisburg as his starting point, Benning sets out on small trips to explore the area and the relationship between labour, culture and art. There are six thoroughly framed takes of six places: a tunnel, a forest, a factory, a mosque with a hundred bowing heads, a wall with graffiti, and an enormous chimney. The emphasised rhythm of the scenes creates a contemplative and poetic narrative structure for the film. It asks the viewer to look and listen. “Ruhr” is more than a portrait of a region, it is also a homage to the Ruhr district and its people, to those who work to form their region’s culture. “I believe I have made a film true to my feelings of this place”, James Benning says.

About the director:
An independent American filmmaker James Benning was born in 1942 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, into a family of German immigrants. He studied film at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and graduated in 1975. Benning began his career as a filmmaker almost 40 years ago in 1971, and since then has created more than 40 highly acclaimed films, which have been screened at film festivals and art museums around the world. In addition to filmmaking, he also is a professor at several universities in the USA. Benning’s oeuvre is difficult to categorise, as it blurs the boundaries between avant-garde and experimental cinema, documentary and landscape studies. His emotionally captivating films focus on place and time, and the relations of those two elements. “Ruhr” is director’s first film shot outside the United States.

Section: Wide angle

Screenplay: James Benning

Dir. of Photography: James Benning