hymn to suburbia
by Clara Bensen
you might think all wildness has gone
from a place where the earth has been
shaved and subdued,
the atoms re-assembled atop one another,
in perfect plywood rows,
lacquered in a dozens shades of eggshell,
and lined with quiet rooms
where you can slide your hand across
an beige spackled wall
and always find
you might think all wildness has gone,
but sometimes you hear
a savage pulse beyond the fence
that reminds you the hour is coming
when you will unbolt the door,
towards a place
where there are no eggshell walls
and you have no control over the light,
the feral rivers
or the tilting shadows,
and you are never entirely safe,
but the air is raw
and your throat, roaring
Hymn to Suburbia was inspired by Junot Diaz's quote, “You can never run away. Not ever. The only way out is in.” I had been thinking a lot over the year about my move years ago from Texas to California. How I had written repeatedly as a child in various journals, "I need to get out of here."
I began to think about what running away can feel like. Longing for something unnamable. What we wish to be divorced from. Disconnection between where you are and where you ache to be. The contradiction of seeking something, but retreating even more at the possibility of escape.
From the beginning I knew this would be a dance film. I didn't want to "talk" about escapism. I wanted to see escape in motion. Finding a dancer who would be willing to completely improvise a piece was a challenge. Luckily I had worked with the extremely talented and otherworldly Karen Light months before on one of her own projects. I had a strong feeling she was the right person for this film. Sure enough, Karen was a dream to collaborate with. She has such a strong intuition about the flow of a piece. When to push and when to retreat. Her ability to emote not just through dance but also through facial expressions made this film what it is.
The poem was written by my sister Clara. We casually throw ideas around all the time about various projects we want to do, but this one stuck. Her poem was my sounding board for what I wanted the film to convey. Words evoke such strong imagery for me that when I first read her poem (a slightly longer version than the one presented) I had clarity on what direction I wanted the film to move in. Having the contrast of suburbia and nature / orderly vs. wild written into her poem made me realize the film would be more powerful if I could make the locations themselves a character.
For music I knew I wanted a song that felt frenetic and wild but built up to those emotions. I was fortunate enough to work with Vincent Philippon (Ownwav). When I finished filming I had so much footage that I didn't know where to begin. Vincent's composition was the map I needed to figure out what should go where. His music fueled the piece and helped mold it into the final
Hymn to Suburbia was created because of a need that I saw in my own life. To make without considering the marketability of the piece or whether it fit inside the "Naomi Bensen" brand. Simply making because I needed to. I hope you enjoy watching as much as I enjoyed making.