Beginning with the cut, Isiah Medina’s striking 88:88 marks the emergence of a new voice in independent cinema
Late last year I was lucky enough to see an edit of 88:88, the first feature by Isiah Medina. Medina is a young, Canadian avant-garde filmmaker, whose short films Semi-Auto Colors and Time is the Sun profoundly influenced my ideas of what cinema is and could be. Later I learned that this version was completed to save what Medina and his friends had lived through up to that point and the idea was to keep on living, filming everything.
Fast forward to present day, where the now completed 88:88 has screened at international festivals such as Locarno and TiFF (soon to be at Doclisboa and the NYFF), earning rave reviews for its radical rethinking of the conceptual and formal boundaries of cinema itself. So, what is 88:88?
First and foremost, this a film made for friends about their lives. By incorporating the filmmaker’s ideas, interests and obsessions on a formal level, Medina effectively documents the experiences of youth in poverty, framing their day-to-day realities in ways both philosophical and cinematic. The film’s seeming complexity derives from its avant-garde aesthetic (layered editing and fast-paced elliptical cuts), though this style only enhances the meaning and emotional impact, deftly reflecting the diversity and fractious nature of contemporary reality. Multiple juxtapositions and repetitions of images and ideas amass across the film’s 65 minute runtime which immerse the viewer in Medina’s life; never the inspiration for the film, but rather, the film itself.
What Medina has done is try to rethink cinema and its functions by beginning not with the image, but with the cut. This distinction allows 88:88 to test the possibilities and limitations of cinema in new and interesting ways largely unexplored in the medium. If, as Medina believes, “philosophy or cinema can allow us to circulate between politics, love, science, and art by comparing the forms of transformation they entail”, then 88:88 is surely one of the first to realise this potential, achieved by stepping outside of self-imposed, conceptual limitations. What emerges is a sort of impressionistic collage; sumptuous digital images of impoverished young people full of potential, but pressurised by oppressive (sometimes even invisible) forces and systems, searching for answers and finding solace in love, art and philosophy.
Abstracted yet deeply relatable images of a distinctively 21st century milieu, 88:88 works as, though cannot be reduced to, a sociopolitical work grounded in experience, elevated by progressive thinking and aesthetics. In other words: a new kind of cinema.