Story posted September 05, 2007
Acclaimed artist Sandow Birk, whose contemporary feature-length film noir Dante's Inferno has been garnering extensive praise across the 2007 film festival circuit, will host a screening of the film on the Bowdoin College campus at 7 p.m. Thursday, September 20, 2007, in Kresge Auditorium, Visual Arts Center. The screening is open to the public and admission is free. (The film is unrated, but contains some explicit material, language, and images.)
In collaboration with puppeteer and political satirist Paul Zaloom, writer/director Sean Meredith, and artist Elyse Pignolet, Sandow Birk has updated Dante Alighieri's 14th-century epic poem Inferno using exquisitely hand-drawn paper puppets, brought to life using no computer-generated special effects.
Long considered one of the most important works in world literature, Dante's The Divine Comedy traces the poet's imaginary journey through different levels of the afterlife. In the first book, Inferno, Dante descends into the underworld, where he is guided through the nine circles of hell by the spirit of the Roman poet Virgil. Throughout their journey, Dante and Virgil meet historical and mythological figures, witness the punishments and lessons of the underworld, and discuss themes of sin and Divine Retribution.
Birk's film, described as "an apocalyptic graphic novel crossed with Victorian-era toy theater," brings Dante's hell "to lurid three-dimensional, high-definition life in a darkly comedic travelogue of the underworld — set against an all-too-familiar urban backdrop of used car lots, gated communities, strip malls, and the U.S. Capitol, and populated by a contemporary cast of reprobates." [View the trailer.] Dante is voiced by Dermot Mulroney (About Schmidt, My Best Friend's Wedding, The Family Stone), while James Cromwell (Babe, The Queen) voices Virgil.
Robert Abele of The Los Angeles Times has described Birk's film as "the unholy offspring" of Mike Judge (Beavis and Butt-head) and R. Crumb (considered the father of alternative comics).
Sandow Birk's work emphasizes political and social issues in realms as diverse as Los Angeles' barrios and surf culture. He is represented by New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles galleries.
A graduate of the Otis/Parson's Art Institute, Birk is the recipient of Guggenheim, Fulbright, Getty, and Smithsonian Institution fellowships. His epic pseudo-historical series, In Smog and Thunder, was featured at the Laguna Art Museum in 2000, and the mockumentary film of the same name won numerous national film festival awards.
Sandow Birk's Bowdoin visit and the film screening is sponsored by the Blythe Bickel Edwards Fund, the departments of Romance Languages, Theater and Dance, Film Studies and Art (Art History and Visual Arts programs), and MacMillan House.
Information for this story courtesy of www.dantefilm.com.