Zachary Oberzan: Capturing time through video
December 29, 2011
Zachary Oberzan is a multi-talent. He is a filmmaker, theatre director, actor, singer/songwriter and experimental video artist. His most recent work, the funny, touching, and at times, deeply personal Your brother. Remember? opens Club PuSh, and we couldn’t be happier.
An original member of the New York City-based theater collective Nature Theater of Oklahoma, he collaborated in the creation and performance of the plays No Dice (Obie Award), Poetics: a ballet brut, and the one-man show Rambo Solo. In 2007 he created a “one-man cinematic war,” Flooding with Love for The Kid, a feature film that adapted David Morrell’s 1972 novel First Blood, in which Oberzan, as a metaphor for Rambo’s own singular struggle, shot, designed, edited, and played all 26 characters by himself in his 220-square-foot Manhattan studio apartment.
First of all, we’re thrilled to have you back at PuSh this year. What are some of the highlights of your career since we had the pleasure of seeing your work in Poetics: a ballet brut with Nature Theater of Oklahoma in 2010?
It was in May of that year, 2010, that Your brother. Remember? premiered at Kunstenfestival in Brussels, and I’ve been truly astonished and flattered by the run it’s having. Also in 2010, the feature film I made essentially for myself in my own apartment, Flooding with Love for The Kid, was “discovered” and has been playing all over the world at various film festivals and institutions. When I’m able to I attend the screenings and I very much enjoy discussing the process and motivations of making that film with audiences.
As is evident in Your brother. Remember? you’ve had a fascination with recreating scenes from iconic films from a young age. And some dark material, to boot. What drew the young Zachary and Gator to a film like Faces of Death?
When we were teenagers my brother and I spent a night at my dad’s house in New Hampshire. For entertainment, we went to a video store and he let us pick out whatever we wanted. Faces of Death jumped out at us, and having only viewed it that one evening on my dad’s VCR, it obviously made a lasting impression.
Revisiting the same material 20 years later must have been a trip. Was there something healing or comforting in the experiment of the before and after? Did you anticipate any personal revelations through the process?
When I began the project, it really was just an experiment of sorts, an attempt to capture time through video. It was only while actually working in it, and then fitting it all together, that the true nature of the piece began to develop… a healing process between myself, my brother, and Jean Claude Van Damme, whom I consider an honorary brother. I was quite surprised how the piece turned out. I had no idea it would be so poignant for me. Bur that’s really at the core of my work…I think it naturally takes that shape, because my work has to teach me something about my life, otherwise there is no point in it.
You’ve had incredible success with Rambo Solo, your one-man theatre show which you later developed into a solo film Flooding With Love For The Kid (on a $96 budget no less!). When did the idea come to you that you should revisit similar reenactments from your childhood with Your brother. Remember?
When I finished making Flooding with Love for The Kid, I was a Hollywood movie star. Hollywood never bothered to make me one, though I was quite capable of the task, so that’s why I took matters into my own hands. Anyway, having become a Hollywood star, I figured I should continue in the steps of Hollywood. Every 20 years, Hollywood remakes its own films. But they plug in the latest actors and hairstyles and hip locations and music and body fat ratios. I wanted to remake my own 20 year old films, but keep everything the same as much as possible, to create an elaborate before and after effect. So I re-made them shot for shot, with the same exact locations, actors, dialogue, props, etc. Except now you could see the 20 years difference. For better or worse. And of course seeing those differences, and taking a look at what happened during those 20 years, and how we all ended up where we are…therein lies your bittersweetness.