The short experimental documentary BETWEEN THE SAND, by Oakland-based director John Picklap, will have it’s Bay Area premiere at Mill Valley Film Festival in October. The film had its world premiere in June at AFI DOCS in Washington, DC.
The film immerses us in the life and art of Jean-Paul Bourdier: charismatic and eccentric, Architecture Professor at UC Berkeley, and winner of awards from Guggenheim and Getty. The French multimedia visionary invites us into his unexpected world, examining the nude human form’s relatedness to the Earth and challenging notions of what truth is and what narrative can be.
“I see the human body as a fundamental unit—similar to a grain of sand. It is a most primary, indivisible element that gives us life,” says Bourdier of his work.
Picklap travels across the desert to capture Bourdier’s multimedia process of photography, painting, and sculpture to produce a surreal visual effect. The documentary explores the relationship between Bourdier's life and his art. In doing so, the film contextualizes his enigmatic photography by revealing how his beliefs inform and reflect his work.
“I set out to explore how Jean-Paul speaks through his work, but I ended up with a film about how the art speaks through him. He does not see his work as coming from within, but as an outcome of his communing with the environment and his subjects,” Picklap says of the film.
The filmmaker plays with the notion of a work of art describing and reflecting another work of art. Picklap captures a series of moments with the artist; Bourdier asks us to listen to the language of the earth—beyond ideas, desires, and concepts, to a language of being. The documentary examines Bourdier’s process and quest to transcend the traditional narrative, to reach toward something more real and true about the nature of who we are.
You can purchase tickets for BETWEEN THE SAND here.