Ilja Stahl, Florian Riegel, Luciano Cervio



In the Spring of 2008 three young filmmakers came to Seaside on a grant from their university in Berlin. They planned to do a small film about the people in the town. They spent huge amounts of time shooting hours and hours of film. They interviewed many people and talked to even more. They had narrowed their interest to two or three potential protagonists.

They parked their gear at my gallery in Ruskin Park as it was conveniently located. They were finishing up filming one day and asked me if there was anyone else they should talk to. I asked if they had talked to Janis Sawyer. Florian said "No" they hadn't and they packed up and left. They were walking through the town photographing and hoping to find likely suspects for interviews when they met a burly man in a Stetson coming out of his house. Hearing the foreign tourists, Fred Sawyer introduced himself to be helpful. Florian asked, "Maybe you know Janis Sawyer?"
“Sure”, said Fred. “She's my wife. Come on in and meet her."
Janis was in her bed working from her laptop, as usual, and in the door marched three beautiful young European filmmakers asking to interview her. Fred said he found them wandering down Forest Street.

Janis was amused.

And more, she came to trust them. They were sincere. Over a period of two months in Seaside, Florian and Luciano taped and listened by her bedside as Janis told the story very few had known. She has lived at Seaside for over 20 years and not many full time residents have ever seen her. None knew what had happened to her. How a lifetime ago, one split second changed everything.
When Reigle returned to Germany and began editing, it was Janis’ story that captured him. In a calm, soft voice she had told him what happened to her all those years ago.
“The fact that the author takes up this story and the way he does it, even though he came across it by chance, is testimony to his ability to recognize an impressive subject and treat it with respect.” International Shortfilm Festival Oberhausen

While the resulting 26 minute film is a true story about love descending into madness, it is “primarily a film about seeing.” says Janis.
“The place is Seaside, the location of The Truman Show. A soft female voice accompanies the images and gradually reveals fragments of her love story. A story that gradually makes it clear why we see her world through voyeuristic, pixelated street views……Her story is one of perfect love followed by madness and violence. The horror of her destiny is contrasted with the gentleness of her voice and love for her perpetrator.” DOX - European Documentary Magazine

In its American premiere at the prestigious AFI-Discovery Channel SILVERDOCS Documentary Festival, the film was described as “poignant and poetic.”
HOLDING STILL has thus far received First Prize at the International Short Film Festival, Oberhausen, the Jury Award at the Corona Cork Film Festival, Ireland, Best Foreign Film award at TENT. Rotterdam, and the Top Award at the International Short Film Festival Hamburg.

I certainly couldn’t have predicted this years ago when I asked if they had talked to Janis. I expected the conversation to be about her art. EWG had done a show of her minimalist visions and I thought they would be beautiful in still shots Ilja was doing. I was thinking of cutting some of those dreamlike images Janis does from time to time into the film when reflection was called for. An art collaboration. I had no idea she would reveal the truth about that part of her life she had been so quiet about for so long. Things happen when artists collude.
Eileen West Gallery has a new installation of Janis' work in the gallery. The exhibit will run through February.

Call for an appointment if you would like to see some of her animations.
Eileen West Gallery and The REP Theater will host a screening of HOLDING STILL on Feb 4th at 5:30 in the Theater Meeting Hall. This is adult content so no children allowed and no Q&A after the film. The event is free and open to the public however we would appreciate donations to the REP without which art like this would not be available to us.





Florian Riegel was born in Berlin in 1978. After numerous stays in Israel and South America he studied political Science at the FSU Berlin ( Freie Universitaet Berlin ). In 2003 he began his Studies at the ‘ Kunsthochschule fuer Medien Koeln’ ( University for Media Art )

These photos were taken in Ruskin Park Seaside Florida in the spring of 2008. Florian, Luciano, and Ilja were setting up to photograph the chapel.

Luciano Cervio and Ilja Stahl






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