Din of Celestial Birds
Friday, September 15 at 8 & 11 pm ET and an additional showing at 4 am ET
Native to Brooklyn, New York, Merhige received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Motion Picture Directing from State University New York. After graduation, he dove into film quickly with his first feature Begotten (1991).Doing just about everything from directing and writing, to producing and editing, his hard work was rewarded when it was listed among the top ten films of the year by Time magazine. Susan Sontag, Donald Richie, Amos Vogel, and Chris Marker, embraced the film and praised it as a masterpiece of visionary art.After Begotten, Merhige worked for the stage, directing a number of plays, including A Dream Play, A Midsummer Night's Dream and Waiting for Godot.
In 2000, Merhige returned to the big screen and completed his second feature, the dramatic expressionist film, Shadow of the Vampire, produced by Nicholas Cage, starring John Malkovich and Willem Dafoe. The film became a critically acclaimed success and earned one Golden Globe and two Oscar nominations in the year 2001. Elias's third film, "Suspect Zero" was hailed by the Los Angeles times as a "wildly visionary and original psychological thriller." Besides directing, Merhige also produced the film with Cruise/Wagner. It was released by Paramount Pictures, starring Ben Kingsley, Aaron Eckhart, and Carrie-Anne Moss.Besides directing, Merhige has lectured on aesthetics at the Carnegie Mellon Museum and the American Film Institute in Washington, D.C.
A Statement from E. Elias Merhige Regarding Din of Celestial Bird
For me making a film is about a vision, a dream that is liberated through the very act of it's making. It comes out of an intense desire to hold nothing back.I look at all the painters and poets who have extended our senses and given us a view of the extraordinary that is always present in what we think is ordinary. Painters like Bosch, and Blake showed us worlds and got us to see and feel what was previously impossible. They opened a door to the mysterious and mythological much the same way the technology and invention of the Hubble telescope has allowed us a window to see and experience the universe for the first time as a magnificent work of art, a canvass upon which God has painted the great mystery of creation.Imagination and technology, art and science, this is what gave birth to the cinema.Invited to make this film I asked: "What are the myths for our time?" The stories and images that nourish us and hold us rapt in awe and remind us of the ferocious beauty that always surrounds us. This question brought me back to the imagination and technology of Fritz Lang's "Metropolis" where he and his team created miniatures and used special mirrors and lenses to create a magnificent future city. I thought of the Lumiere brothers and the image of the train pulling into the station and how something so simple and ordinary made it's audience scream and run from the theater howling in terror and delight. I recalled the brilliant poetic use of technology in Jean Cocteau's film "Blood of a Poet" where camera speeds and camera position take an audience through multiple worlds of experience and perception leaving us with an amazing sense of the uncanny and the possibility of a human story that expands and extends beyond the ordinary world but is only a "mirror" away.Yes, these great filmmakers show us films power and potential to create myths and worlds, this is what I wanted to focus on. To use my camera as an all seeing eye witnessing the divine mystery of creation, to see the soul's movement into matter, to see that first glimpse of Eden. To do this I wanted to create a silent film from the future as well as the past; utilizing the extreme polarities of technology from the beginning of cinema to present day.It needed to be a handcrafted film, incorporating miniature sculpted sets inspired by the innovation of Fritz Lang's city of "Metropolis", handmade lenses inspired by the Lumiere brothers to software and technologies created specifically for this project.So how is this to be accomplished? Do I use my usual crew of production facilities and producers to call in favors from labs and post houses and rental companies to work for free on something they may not even care about? Or should this be done in a manor that is totally hand made and totally personal?In my case I decided the later. I stripped my idea down to its simplest form and peeled my crew back to people I trust- my friends- a computational visual neuroscientist, a visual philosopher/painter, a multi-media performance artist, a gifted musician composer, and a sculptor/painter.I then took off to search for creation in its simplest and purest form. This is what I found.