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
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
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