Rouzbeh Rashidi has been creating films as part of his Homo Sapiens Project (HSP) since 2000. While this unique approach to filmmaking initially developed unconsciously without a full understanding of the project’s scope, it took him over a decade to truly define and name the Homo Sapiens Project. The prime examples of this philosophy are HSP (200) and HSP (201). HSP (200) was started in 2000 as a work in progress and completed in 2020, with a duration of 490 minutes. Similarly, HSP (201) began in 2002 and finished in 2021, lasting 1150 minutes. These films represent a constant quest for equilibrium and connotation. Each section of the Homo Sapiens Project serves as a form of therapeutic practice, reflecting significant life events, stylistic changes, and thematic shifts in Rashidi’s filmography. They are about peace, a concept rarely existing within Rashidi’s work. The main purpose of the HSP is to explore the medium of filmmaking and cinema itself, while also allowing Rashidi to live and thrive within it.
Rashidi has always felt compelled to create the HSP film series, driven by an unexplainable internal urge. It’s as if he has an idea waiting to be brought to life. As he continues making these films, he realizes they answer questions he didn’t even know were there. Understanding the meaning behind each film can be lengthy, and sometimes, it remains a mystery. Life itself is inexplicably mysterious, and Rashidi believes there is no distinction between filmmaking and living. Therefore, the path of these films takes the shape of an ellipse or a spiral, never a straight line. The straight and linear only exist in geometry, not in the ever-evolving nature of life.
The Homo Sapiens Project, an experimental video series, is the brainchild of Rouzbeh Rashidi. From its humble beginnings as enigmatic film diaries, the series has been evolving over time to refine its craftwork form into feature films. During the Project’s journey, Rashidi has had the opportunity to explore and embrace various experiences while always staying close to the core components of the project — compelling renderings of both people and places imbued with undertones of science fiction, horror, the occult, and associations to post-apocalyptic rituals and dystopian settings. Rashidi has sought out prestigious global contributors, both behind and in front of the camera, to help create and assemble diverse poetics of instalments varying in length and scale.
The Homo Sapiens Project (HSP) is the distillation and, in some ways, the culmination of my experimental film practice. I have always been committed to making deeply personal, formally experimental work that collapses the boundaries between alienated subjective perception and the inexhaustible mysteriousness of the moving image. I view cinema (in the broadest sense of the word) as a laboratory and my audio-visual works as experiments in which my own perception and inner life are employed as a ‘reagent’. My work begins with sound and image and works intuitively ‘outwards’ towards ideas. I generally utilise heavily unconventional screenplays or poetic texts, seeing the process of making moving images as exploration rather than illustration. My work is deeply engaged with film history.
HSP is an ongoing series of varied films that provides, first and foremost, a laboratory for experimenting with cinematic forms. Since its inception, HSP has experienced an organic metamorphosis, drastically mutating from cryptic film diaries and oneiric sketches to fully polished feature films. A ‘notebook’ – sometimes an oblique ‘diary’ – HSP radically challenges the traditional mode of filmmaking. It thoroughly explores the potential of filmmaking as an integral and ongoing part of daily life, as enabled by today’s technology. These works are created on low budgets, but they are far from being raw chunks of home movies. Each of them is crafted with great attention to visual qualities and with an idea in mind that, to a greater or lesser degree, makes a foray at the limits of cinematic expression. The films produced range from cryptic, often darkly surreal, film diaries to impressionistic portraits of places and people, from found footage séances to semi-documentary monologues. Formally, they encompass everything from highly composed and distantly framed meditations to frenetically flickering plunges into the textural substance of moving images. They are often suffused with an eerie sense of mystery reminiscent of horror and classic Sci-Fi cinema.
The project HSP will lead to an incomprehensible and unpredictable outcome. Taken as a whole, this will be an opaque and mysterious project: not a life filmed, but filmmaking as parallel to life, and a parallel life a ‘thinking through’ of cinema that will test the limits of the medium to the furthest degree that one artist’s practice can encompass. – Rouzbeh Rashidi
An in-depth account of the whole HSP series by critic Nikola Gocić can be read at the EFS Publications site. It is in two parts: