LA Film Forum Logo

Stemple Pass, by James Benning

Stemple Pass, by James Benning

Stemple Pass, by James Benning

UCLA Film & Television Archive and the Hammer Museum present

Contested Landscapes: Three Digital Features by James Benning


Program 2: Stemple Pass

Co-presented by Los Angeles Filmforum

Saturday March 5, 2022, 7:30 pm

At the UCLA Film & Television Archive , Billy Wilder Theater, Hammer Museum

In-person:  filmmaker James Benning, Steve Anker.

Screenings are free; Register in advance


Stemple Pass:

The United States of America:


"The artist is someone who pays attention and reports back."—James Benning.

In recognition of James Benning’s 50 years as the creator of singular and uncompromising films, videos and installations, the UCLA Film & Television Archive and the Hammer Museum present a weekend of three features that span the artist’s years of working with digital technology. Beginning with Ruhr (2009), a penetrating study of Germany’s primary industrial region and continuing with Stemple Pass (2012), a portrait of revolutionary social outsiders, the weekend concludes with the U.S. premiere of a major new piece, Benning’s THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA (2021). Long considered a consummate craftsman of 16mm film, James Benning transitioned to digital technology in 2009, quickly achieving a comparable level of mastery with this new medium. Throughout the decades, the artist is best known for elegantly framed landscape studies—built upon rigorous conceptual and formal structures—that slowly and subtly become fields of evidence and revelations of discovery. Indefatigable for five decades, Benning has produced over 30 feature-length films and videos as well as numerous shorts and museum installations that deal with the perception of reality and underlying social implications. Each Benning film becomes an encounter with time and the unexpected in ways that can only be achieved through cinema.

In conjunction with this program, James Benning will be showing further work at two locations in the Los Angeles area. His recent film on Paradise Road (2020) will be on view throughout March at O-Town House. Second, in collaboration with neugerriemachneider, Berlin, Benning’s new and expansive project ALABAMA (2019-2021) will be on view to the public for three consecutive weekends in March in his home in Val Verde. For further information please visit:  —Steve Anker

James Benning will appear in person at every screening in this series.

Program curated by Steve Anker and James Benning.

Special thanks to the Archive’s community partner: Los Angeles Filmforum

Stemple Pass copy

Stemple Pass (2012), by James Benning

Stemple Pass (2012)

2012, Digital, color, sound, 121 min. Director: James Benning.

A humanistic portrait enveloped in landscape and duration, James Benning’s Stemple Pass is made up of four shots of the densely-wooded brae of a mountain behind his home, the same site on which he reconstructed American techno-terrorist Ted “Unabomber” Kaczynski’s cabin. Narrating excerpts from a miscellany of Kaczynski’s writings, Benning’s steady cadence communicates the humble pursuits of a man searching for autonomy in nature and for freedom from institutionalized power, two tenets that resonate through the core of American individualism. Advocating for horrific insurgence and exhibiting a complete disconnection from the peripheries of human morality and compassion, much of Kaczynski’s dogma is decidedly repellant; as a result, the film unfolds as an exegesis on the revolutionary ethos that informed Kaczynski’s homespun terror, tempered by Benning’s dedicated eye (and voice), characteristic patience, and resolute empathy. —Pleasure Dome