Jem Cohen discovers a small British seaside town through chance encounters with its residents.

Festival Section:
New Frontier

Sundance Program Description:

Known for decades as a visual poet, filmmaker Jem Cohen has captured various corners of the world with a perceptive eye. Often filming by himself, Cohen takes a camera (16mm film, and more recently, video) and walks on the street like a modern-day Walker Evans, capturing images of people and landscapes in our smallest moments – everyday faces, vacant street corners, trinkets in windows, all the things we might see sitting on the bus and wish we could see again in a film. Though the vivid images and natural sounds in his films are usually of the outside world, we learn a lot about ourselves: our loves, our fears, and our dreams.

Cohen’s newest feature takes place in Southend-on-Sea, a town along England’s Thames estuary that lives by the tide. We see the beautiful mud, follow the birds, and look at the old buildings that radiate so much history. Along the way, we also meet many citizens while learning about prize-winning Indian curries, an encyclopedic universe of hats, and a nearly lost world of proto-punk music.

Some Background:

  • Jem Cohen
    Past Sundance work:

    ANNE TRUITT, WORKING (short) (2011)
    LUNCHFILM: untitled raw footage for live performance by Boxhead Ensemble, $11.30 (short) (2007)

    Cohen has been making films since the early 1980s, including music videos, landscape films, observational portraits, and hybrid work. His films have screened at major festivals, including Berlin, Locarno, Viennale, Toronto, Rotterdam, and Oberhausen, with his most recent longform work including COUNTING and MUSEUM HOURS.


  • Metal/Estuary 2016
    Estuary is the biennial festival of art, music, literature, and film held in the film’s Southend-on-Sea which commissioned Cohen’s latest film. Estuary is presented by the arts organization Metal, which curates exhibitions, develops site-specific installations and projects, and provides support to artists.

Executive Producer:

  • Gareth Evans
    Evans is the film curator of London’s Whitechapel Gallery and the co-curator of Estuary 2016, among other events. He previously produced or executive produced Grant Gee’s PATIENCE (AFTER SEBALD) and Dryden Goodwin’s UNSEEN: THE LIVES OF LOOKING, and commissioned Ben Rivers’ short film THINGS.

Why You Should Watch:
There’s a refreshing curiosity and openness on display in Cohen’s observational city essay, drawing the viewer in as the filmmaker meets an assortment of characters in between capturing the natural landscapes of the sleepy town.

More Info:
Artist Website

For Sundance screening dates and times, click the film title in the first paragraph.

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Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Recommendations, Sundance

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