Films: Go Down Death

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  • Friday, November 08, 9:30 PM
    UA Pavilions


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  • Saturday, November 09, 7:15 PM
    Sie FilmCenter DFF


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Go Down Death

Go Down Death

USA, 2013, 88 Minute Running Time
Genre/Subjects: American Indie, Avant Garde/Experimental, Cult, Psychological
Program: New Directors Showcase
Language: English

DIRECTOR: Aaron Schimberg
Producer: Vanessa McDonnell
Editor: Vanessa McDonnell
Screenwriter: Aaron Schimberg
Cinematographer: Jimmy Lee Phelan
Principal Cast: Doug Barron, Rayvin Disla, Lucy Kaminsky, Sammy Mena, Bryant Pappas, Simone Xi

A cross-episodic exploration of the complete works of fictitious folklorist Jonathan Mallory Sinus, Aaron Schimberg’s feature debut presents life in some small nihilistic nowhere, at an equally nebulous point in the pre-21st-century past. Shot in a thick-grained super-16mm that recalls Eraserhead and early Guy Maddin, the grimly comedic Go Down Death follows a collection of castoffs as they go about their bleak daily business in the dilapidated brothels, one-room schoolhouses, and birch-forest battlefields that provide the film with its indelible, visually rich setting.

Among the more memorable of the writer-director’s outcasts are Butler (Rayvin Disla), an obscenely overemployed child whose professional duties include gardening, tailoring, surveying a combat site, and digging graves; Elsa (Liliana Velasquez), a rail-thin, raven-haired prostitute who mysteriously loses her sight while entertaining a client; and Rosenthal (Sammy Mena), a gravely disfigured card player who might have stepped directly off an Otto Dix canvas.

Go Down Death is indeed a work of latter-day Dadaism, appropriately situated in wartime and saturated with a belief in life’s meaninglessness. It is also an expression of the same humanist-horror that Tod Browning imparted in his pre-Code classic Freaks. Ultimately, though, this 2012 IFP Narrative Independent Filmmaker Lab selection distinguishes itself with its aggressive structural experimentation—the film’s final minutes are sure to generate impassioned debate—and its extreme stylization. Go Down Death is as eccentric and daring as American indie cinema gets.

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