Images of suburban surveillance and violence that push up against the limits of the real.
An uncompromising look at the ways privacy, safety, convenience and surveillance determine our environment. Shot entirely at night, the film confronts the hermetic nature of white-collar communities, dissecting the fear behind contemporary suburban design. An isolation-based fear (protect us from people not like us). A fear of irregularity (eat at McDonalds, you know what to expect). A fear of thought (turn on the television). A fear of self (don’t stop moving). By examining evacuated suburban and corporate landscapes, the film reveals a peculiarly 21st century hollowness… an emptiness born of our collective faith in safety and technology. This is a new genre of horror movie, attempting suburban locations as states of mind.
Original electronic music by Kevin Drumm.
Awards Vila Do Conde International Short Film Festival: Grande Premio Experimental, June 2003 Humboldt International Film Festival: Best Experimental, March 2003 Ann Arbor Film Festival: Best Experimental & Best Narrative Integrity, March 2003 Media City Film Festival: Honorable Mention, February 2003 CinemaTexas Int’l Film Festival: Gecko Award for Best Short Film, September 2002 Chicago Underground Film Festival: Best Experimental, August 2002 THAW Film/Video Festival: Best of the Festival, May 2002
Running Man: Joaquin DeLaPuente
Music: Kevin Drumm
Audio Mix: Jacob Ross
Director, Producer, Camera, Edit, Sound Design: Deborah Stratman
"The camera captures for us a world that lives in expectation of a violence that will
spring miraculously out of thin air, without reason. And the air is thick with
unconsummated, never-ending suspense." - Suzanne Wise, Williamsburg Quarterly, 2003 pdf
"Stratman is obsessed by the "sculptural" quality of time: in an obdurate landscape shot held beyond the conventional limits of spectatorial enduarnce, time does not flow toward a resolution, but is congealed as a "pressure block," a stasis waiting to explode, a presence failing to materialize, an ever-vanishing present." - Berenice Reynaud, Hammer Museum online, March 21, 2003
"A 16mm symphony of nighttime scenes that lurks through its half-hour like death-metal James Benning." - Ed Halter, The Village Voice, 2002
"In an interview a few years ago, experimental filmmaker Deborah Stratman listed Barbara Loden and Jon Jost among her key influences, and the impact of both of these diffident figures, icons in an increasingly evanescent hardcore avant-garde filmmaking tradition, is evident in Stratman’s latest film. The 33-minute In Order Not To Be Here (2002) continues her forbears’ tendency to bring cheerfully enigmatic formal verve to their scornful disdain of American hypocrisy. Stratman’s film employs the codes of surveillance footage – black-and-white images shot from a helicopter at night, for example – to question notions of personal safety next to the frightening facts of an increasingly omniscient, panoptic government. The filmmaker deftly mobilizes our fears as the vulnerable inhabitants of peaceful homes that attract thieves and crazed ax murderers, while at the same time prompting worries about encroachments on civil liberties. Early in the film, Stratman illuminates the doors and windows of houses on a quiet street at night using only the fuzzy round halo of a flashlight – it’s a beautiful sequence, and all the more effective in its contradictory impact. Similarly, the shots from the helicopter, showing what could be read as police activity on the ground, pique the viewer’s by now almost weary desire for spectacle, while once again prompting contrary feelings of empathy for whoever is being pursued, along with aesthetic pleasure in the shot’s stark beauty. This uneasy yet graceful combination is no easy feat!" - Holly Willis, LA Weekly
"In this carefully suspended nocturne, uninhabited spaces act as batteries, storing up fear and dread that is released not so much through crime – which we never witness – but through our attempt to apprehend it. Through gorgeously unnerving photography, Deborah Stratman’s neighborhood watch program trains our eyes on safety to interrogate the gestures and geometry of its protection." - Spencer Parsons, CinemaTexas
"...Deborah Stratman brilliantly critiques surveillance, corporate space, and security in her film In Order Not To Be Here. Stratman plays on the current reality-TV obsession by fabricating a thrilling piece of faux crime footage and subverts the standard Cops narrative by giving the audience an unusually triumphant criminal-protagonist." - Kate Haug, The Independent
"[The] palpably creepy In Order Not To Be Here opens with a police arrest caught by an aerial infrared camera and closes with a bravura sequence, also filmed overhead, of a man running from what appears to be a crime scene. In between are eerie nocturnal shots of malls, gas stations, and gated communities, the tranquillity disrupted now and then by police dispatches, burglar alarms, and distant sirens on the sound track. Stratman holds each tableau just long enough to convey the mood of false security; Kevin Drumm contributed the portentous electronic sounds." - Ted Shen, The Chicago Reader
"...an exercise in Warholian unease with a succession of lingering bad-dream views of gated suburban communities and anonymous figures tracked by surveillance cameras. With its restless movement across nighttime lawns and its omniscient views from above, the film generates an anxious tension that is never resolved. It feels like a slasher film without the slasher, a news report of a disaster still to come." - Holland Cotter, The New York Times, 2003 (paywall) pdf
"...exposing the fragility of American civil liberties, Chicago-based film and video artist Deborah Stratman’s In Order Not To Be Here uses police surveillance footage (and some of her own) to depict a suburban nightscape imbued with paranoia and unease. “This is a new genre of horror movie,” she writes. With access to a Fox News helicopter, Stratman even managed to stage her own infrared police pursuit through the jungles of small-town USA in an eerie evocation of authoritarian control." - Anthony Kaufman, indieWIRE
"Deborah Stratman’s 2002 experimental documentary In Order Not To Be Here hits very closely home, as in "homeland security." Shot in 16mm entirely at night, the suburban American scenes of convenience stores, vast parking lots, fortress-like housing developments, and blank office plazas are the very picture of eeriness. Except for security guards and police officers, they’re devoid of human life and virtually soundless. Utter security, a patriot’s dream. This particular city symphony is a lonely one, scored for the chirp of electronic devices and the soft idle of official vehicles." - Kelly Vance, East Bay Express