Isiah Medina in New York

Isiah Medina’s Inventing the Future (2020)

When multidisciplinary artist and filmmaker Isiah Medina released his second feature, Inventing the Future, as a free download in 2020, James Slaymaker, writing for the Notebook, called it “a towering film: a radical piece of intellectual montage, a utopian political tract, and an exploration of the ontology of digital image-making.” Inventing the Future will see its official New York City premiere the day after Medina arrives at the Spectacle Theater to launch a retrospective on July 29 with a screening of his first feature, 88:88 (2015). Nine films of varying lengths will then screen at Spectacle throughout August.

When a digital clock is reset after the electricity has been shut off, the display reads “88:88.” Medina’s film has a setting—a poverty-stricken neighborhood in downtown Winnipeg, where a group of young friends struggle to get by—but rather than being driven by a traditional narrative, it’s propelled by the editing of footage shot on an array of formats—smartphones, 16 mm, the RED. “Cinema is a hundred years old, and really, it’s still up for grabs,” Medina told Vivian Belik in POV Magazine in 2016. “It’s less about breaking the rules than just being able to construct new rules.” 88:88 “was a sensation on the festival circuit,” noted Sam Adams at IndieWire following the film’s premiere at Locarno and screenings at festivals in Toronto and New York.

Dispatching to the Brooklyn Rail from Toronto, Steve Macfarlane wrote that 88:88 is “as much a diary film as an essay film, as much about class as it is about its internalization—and, littered with fleeting vantages on everyday escape, glimmering distractions, and paths acknowledged but untaken by Medina’s camera, a work of startling romanticism . . . Here’s a motion picture for anyone who has craved to be challenged again by cinema as a language of montage, beyond auteurism (or Godard, whose later works already reflexively anneal any mention of Medina’s technique) and its own narrow, Hollywood-beholden heuristics; beyond that One Perfect Shot, that bravura elongated single take, that fervid checklisting of scannable and samplable homages and riffs.”

Introducing his interview with Medina for a 2015 issue of Cinema Scope, Phil Coldiron wrote that Medina’s cinema is one “of the cut, of difference, of reconsidering every assumption of more than a century’s worth of filmmaking. In practice, this means that each relationship available to the cinema must be rebuilt; nothing will be taken for granted within the frame. If there are narratives, they will not be simply given and accepted; they will appear as the product of careful study of the relations of the world, which Medina examines and expresses through the logic of rhythms.”

In their 2016 book Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World Without Work, Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams “reject practically everything that the Euro-American left has thought and done since 1968,” writes Owen Hatherley in the London Review of Books. “Their problem isn’t with ‘identity politics’—the common bugbear of everything-went-wrong-in-the-1960s leftists—but with the abandonment of the belief that a society beyond capitalism is both possible and necessary.”

Medina’s film “argues that neoliberalism was able to conquer the global imagination from the 1980s through to the present day in large part due to its association with futurity,” writes James Slaymaker. The left’s current “acts of resistance” such as “strikes, rallies, and petitions” don’t “pose any substantial threat to the system as they fail to articulate a viable alternative to it. It is the aim of Inventing the Future to establish such a vision.”

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