Indie Memphis Saturday: The "predictably unpredictable" Kairos Dirt and the Errant Vacuum


After the social realism that dominated indie films in the last decade, some filmmakers have chosen to explore the experimental avenues of storytelling and imagery that characterized arthouse cinema in the 1990s. Perhaps the most extreme example of that trend in this year’s Indie Memphis festival is Kairos Dirt and the Errant Vacuum. “There was a big explosion, and then for a while there was room for a lot of weird stuff, but now you go to most festivals and you see these tired narratives that have been on replay for the last decade,” says director Madsen Minax, who shot his film in the Bluff City with a cast and crew that was almost entirely local.

Director Madsen Minax (left) on the set of Kairos Dirt and the Errant Vacuum
  • Director Madsen Minax (left) on the set of Kairos Dirt and the Errant Vacuum

Minax, who taught at the University of Memphis before moving on to his current home in Burlington, Vermont, says the film benefitted greatly from the enthusiasm of the Memphis film community. “People were very excited to be participating in something that was really weird and different,” he says. “It was not hard to get a lot of energy for the project, and I feel like in other cities, that would not have happened.”

The storyline of Kairos Dirt and the Errant Vacuum is difficult to explain, because of the shifting points of view and levels of reality represented onscreen. But the plotting is not the point of the film. Instead, the it seeks to plunge the viewer into a dreamlike state. “I feel like using a lens of alternate consciousness allows you to open up the lens of a lot of cinematic experimentation that would always be tolerated in a narrative, because you’re working with your own system of logic. I’m mostly a video artist, so I’m making weird things all the time. I just never positioned them within a narrative context. This gives me a way to get away with all of my weird shenanigans by lodging them in the space of dream logic. Most of my work comes from a writing practice, loose poetry. And a lot of it comes from a reading practice...I wanted to have two characters from different worlds, and the only way they could engage in sex acts is the foods they ingested and expelled.”

Minax says his filmmaking is greatly influenced by his background as a musician, and not only because he created the film’s haunting soundscapes himself. “There’s definitely a correlation between the pacing and how you engage with the practice of editing. To me, the best kind of movie to watch is one that is predictably unpredictable. I enjoy the same thing in music, even though it’s not popular. People want to know when the chorus is coming, but I want it to be in 5/4 tempo and then switch into 7/4, and not even have a chorus. And then I want it to be noise for two minutes.”

Kairos Dirt and the Errant Vaccum screens at Malco's Studio on the Square on Saturday, November 5 at 3:30 PM. You can buy tickets and passes to the Indie Memphis Film Festival on their web site.

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