MODESTO 2014/2015

— This series of photos was taken as part of the research for a film I’m currently co-writing with my good friend Rick Charnoski. Rick is an amazing filmmaker based in Los Angeles who has worked extensively with Super 8 and has directed some really powerful intimate films with his filmmaking partner Buddy Nichols including Fruit of the Vine and Tent City. Rick’s upcoming feature film is set in the small Californian town of Modesto and these photos are from a number of test shoots and location scout/casting sessions during 2014. I have been making films in the US since 1998 when I shot my first documentary Chasing Buddha about my Aunt Robina Courtin – a Buddhist nun who teaches Buddhism to prison inmates around the United States. These particular trips to Modesto were deeply inspiring but also very distressing in terms of hearing endless stories from Modesto locals about the impact of draconian drug laws and the private prisons across the state of California.

Amiel Courtin-Wilson was born in Australia, in 1979. His debut feature documentary, CHASING BUDDHA premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2000 and won awards including best documentary at the IF Awards, as well as Sydney International Film Festival. A director and visual artist, he makes experimental films. His video installation work has toured internationally (I THOUGHT I KNEW BUT I WAS WRONG, 2004) and his films have screened at the National Gallery of Victoria, MONA, the Gallery of New South Wales and The Australian Centre for the Moving Image. Courtin-Wilson’s feature documentary BASTARDY won the Best Documentary Jury Prize at the 2009 Film Critics Circle of Australia Awards (FCCA), Best Documentary at the ATOM Awards, was released theatrically to critical acclaim across Australia and was nominated for three Australian Film Institute (AFI) Awards. The same year, his short film CICADA premiered at Cannes in the Quinzaine des Réalisateurs section. Amiel Courtin-Wilson participated in the Venice Film Festival in 2011 with his first feature-length film HAIL. Courtin-Wilson is currently developing several feature film projects and a number of screen based installations including THE SILENT EYE, a feature length performance film collaboration with Cecil Taylor and Min Tanaka, which was presented by the Whitney Museum, in 2016.