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Ernie Gehr Interview (Serene Velocity)

A high angle look down at a street where people are walking, repeated three times horizontally with the middle repetition inverted vertically.

Ernie Gehr is an American experimental filmmaker, whose film Serene Velocity (1970) remains one of the best known works of structuralist cinema and perhaps experimental cinema more broadly. Further works, such as Shift (1972-74) and Side/Walk/Shuttle (1991), continued to show how inspired Gehr’s placement of a camera could be, while the personal quality of Signal – Germany on the Air (1982-1985) contributes to an intensely overall affecting film. Since shifting from film to video in 2001, Gehr’s films continue to explore ontology and the experience of spectatorship, including the camcorder-degraded sunsets of Waterfront Follies (2009) and especially his latest work.

Gehr brought two short films to the Wavelengths programme at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival: Departure and Auto-Collider XV. We were thrilled to spend some time with Ernie at our TIFF studio space, Onsite [at] OCAD U, where we were able to discuss as much of his career as our limited time would permit.

Our interview with Rodney Ascher and Tim Kirk was a feature interview in the eighth monthly issue of The Seventh Art as a “video magazine.” It was released in October 2012 and was shot as part of our Toronto International Film Festival coverage. Other TIFF 2012 interviews on video from that year include Thomas Vinterberg, Margarethe von Trotta, Ben Wheatley, Athina Rachel Tsangari, Miguel Gomes, Costa-Gavras, João Pedro Rodrigues & João Rui Guerra da Mata, Matías Piñeiro, Peter Mettler, Rodney Ascher & Tim Kirk, and William Vega.

Lead image from MoMA.

By Christopher Heron

Christopher Heron is one of the co-founders of The Seventh Art. He's conducted over 60 long-form interviews for the publication, while also writing and cutting several numerous video essays that investigate formal traits in films and filmmakers. He received his MA in Cinema Studies from the University of Toronto, where his work explored cinematic representations of urban space with special attention paid to the films of Pedro Costa and Tsai Ming-liang.