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The Machine That Kills Bad People: Early Akerman shorts and River of Grass
Institute of Contemporary Arts
River of Grass, 1994, Dir. Kelly Reichardt

This screening, programmed by the Machine That Kills Bad People, brings together Chantal Akerman’s first four short films (all 1967) and American independent filmmaker Kelly Reichardt’s debut feature River of Grass (1994). 

In 1967, Chantal Akerman shot four black-and-white, silent, 8mm films for her entrance exam to the Institut Supérieur des Arts du Spectacle (INSAS) in Brussels. These early works, recently rediscovered, feature street scenes and personal moments, and hint at Akerman’s nascent artistic vision. Akerman filmed at the Foire de Midi in Brussels and the courtyard of the Hôtel de Clèves-Ravenstein, which would, fifty years later, house the Chantal Akerman Foundation. She also captures a short narrative set in the shops of the Belgian seaside resort of Knokke, featuring her childhood friend Marilyn Watelet and her mother Natalia Akerman, both of whom would become significant figures in her later works. The four films not only mark her brief tenure at INSAS but foreshadowed her recurring thematic focus on personal and intimate spaces. 

Kelly Reichardt’s debut feature River of Grass (1994) explores the stark suburban landscapes of southern Florida. Shot in 16mm, River of Grass follows the disenchanted Cozy and the aimless drifter Lee. Reichardt subverts traditional generic expectations; Reichardt has described the film as "a road movie without the road, a love story without the love, and a crime story without the crime”. Through a series of misadventures, including a failed murder and a botched robbery, Cozy and Lee are anti-heroes who clumsily attempt to live out their renegade fantasies. Reichardt’s film humorously illustrates the discrepancy between romanticised cinematic portrayals and the banality of real life, marking the emergence of a distinctive new voice in American independent cinema. 

A specially commissioned essay by Huda Awan accompanies this screening.


Examen d’entrée INSAS (Films 1-4), Dir. Chantal Akerman, 1967, 8mm transferred to digital, 14 min 

River of Grass, 1994, Dir. Kelly Reichardt, 16mm transferred to DCP, colour, sound, 81 min 

The Machine That Kills Bad People is, of course, the cinema – a medium that is so often and so visibly in service of a crushing status quo but which, in the right hands, is a fatal instrument of beauty, contestation, wonder, politics, poetry, new visions, testimonies, histories, dreams. It is also a film club devoted to showing work – ‘mainstream’ and experimental, known and unknown, historical and contemporary – that takes up this task. The group borrowed their name from the Roberto Rossellini film of the same title, and find inspiration in the eclectic juxtapositions of Amos Vogel’s groundbreaking New York film society Cinema 16.  

The Machine That Kills Bad People is held bi-monthly in the ICA Cinema and is programmed by Erika Balsom, Beatrice Gibson, Maria Palacios Cruz, and Ben Rivers. 
07:00 pm
Tue, 21 May 2024
Cinema 1

All films are ad-free and 18+ unless otherwise stated, and start with a 10 min. curated selection of trailers.

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