In 2011 Rouzbeh Rashidi initiated the Homo Sapiens Project (HSP), an ongoing series of personal experimental video works. Since its inception HSP has undergone a totally organic metamorphosis, drastically mutating from cryptic film diaries and oneiric sketches to fully-polished feature films. As a result, the project has created many different experiences for Rashidi as a filmmaker; yet while HSP is steadily evolving, one thing remains constant: the view to create impressionistic portraits of people and places, suffusing them with an eerie sense of mystery that is perhaps reminiscent of horror and sci-fi cinema. Rashidi has collaborated with a large selection of artists from all over the world and, has so far completed 199 instalments that vary from 1 to 120 minutes in duration. The Homo Sapiens Project has now reached a crucial point in its existence: the 200th instalment will be a major collaborative feature film.
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 is employed as a ‘reagent’. My work begins with sound and image, and works intuitively ‘outwards’ towards ideas. I generally eschew scriptwriting, seeing the process of making moving images as exploration rather than illustration. My work is deeply engaged with film history.
I began HSP in 2011. It is an ongoing series of varied short films that provides, first and foremost, a laboratory for experimenting with cinematic forms. Since its inception, HSP has undergone a totally organic metamorphosis, drastically mutating from cryptic film diaries and oneiric sketches to fully-polished feature films. I have always been a prolific filmmaker, but a very high rate of production is essential to HSP’s nature. A ‘notebook’ – sometimes an oblique ‘diary’ – HSP radically challenges the traditional mode of filmmaking, where a single film produced over a long period of time is the outcome. It fully explores the potential of filmmaking as an integral and ongoing part of daily life, as enabled by today’s digital technology. All of these works are created on no, or very low, budgets, mainly using DSLR cameras, but they are far from being raw chunks of home movie. 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.
HSP will eventually result in 1,000 short films. Taken as a whole, this will be a unique 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 can be encompassed by one artist’s practice. –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: