Celine Danhier’s debut film, Blank City, is a New York based documentary that reflects upon the underground movements of the late-1970s and the birth of ‘80s cool.
The gritty arts scene of downtown New York and Manhattan is the birthplace of the No Wave movement and Cinema of Transgression. Celine says, “They had a lot of freedom. What was great was that they weren’t just filmmakers, they were artists, musicians, writers, painters. They just wanted to do something new. A lot of them found some super 8 cameras for a couple of bucks and decided to shoot.”
The flashback film continues this trend into the modern age, which began as a grassroots project with three members: Danhier, the director, alongside producer Aviva Wishnow, and editor Vanessa Roworth. In true No Wave style, they swiped their credit cards to buy some equipment and began to shoot.
Danhier received a great deal of support for her original concept. “We didn’t want to make it nostalgic because [the underground scene] was just different,” she explains. “I had a list of 10-15 key people, and perhaps one of them would say yes. Some people did not want to be in the documentary at the beginning, so I didn’t take no for an answer. I was persistent. I ended up interviewing over 40 people.”
The film features many of the prominent figures of the 1970s scene, including cult directors John Waters and Jim Jarmusch, actor Steve Buscemi, Debbie Harry of Blondie, the avant-garde’s Nick Zedd and Richard Kern, and more.
Danier hopes that her documentary will garner interest in the work of filmmakers like Jarmusch, as well as his contemporaries whose films are not widely available.
“What I want to show is that it’s possible to do things like that. I hope that after the screening people will want to pick up a camera!”
Blank City had its UK premiere at Edinburgh International Film Festival this week.