Tenzing Phuntsog is a filmmaker and artist, living in New York City. He runs a production company called Plateaux and Tibet Film Archive, a small film collection.
His new short ‘A Singing Blade’, commissioned by the Rubin Museum of Art in NYC, will be screened on Wednesday February 26, 2014.
What is your background? What brought you to filmmaking?
My education in film began very early on. I worked for a major studio for several years where I prepared footage for in-house editors. At the same time, I started studying visual effects and media art. I learned the software and code that made image manipulation over time possible.
Looking at the image making process at this level gave me a new appreciation for the natural. Ironically, when you work this closely with software, which is essentially allowing you to simulate or alter reality, you begin to look at things differently.
This cyclic realization was very important for me. A moment of clarity, like a Brunelleschi painting.
What’s the story behind A Singing Blade? When did you decide to make it and why?
I directed, filmed and edited ‘A Singing Blade’ commissioned by the Rubin Museum of Art in New York with the support of the Lucius & Eva Eastman Fund. The museum approached me to make an original piece and I kindly accepted the invitation. Shooting happened last fall, but the idea and the concept came years before. Without giving too much away, my inspiration came from an esoteric ritual that I had personally experienced a few years ago which left a very strong impression on me. The basic description we have in the press and website also gives a good general synopsis.
"A SINGING BLADE, a fictional short written and directed by Tenzin Phuntsog, takes its inspiration from Black Yamari, a thangka in the Rubin Museum’s collection. Recalling her childhood memories, a young Tibetan woman living in New York, displaced, questions if all is lost. Realizing that beauty is fleeting, she attempts to find solace in poetry, ancient texts, and art." — Rubin Museum of Art
Why did you use the Ikonoskop A-Cam dII?
The interests which I mentioned before: time and perspective - the Ikonoskop allows me to capture my own sense of time with honesty and beauty. The sensitivity to light, microtonal frequencies, colors, skin, and resolution are impeccable. It gives me the sensitivity and breadth I was looking for. I have intercut restored archival film scanned at 4K with the Ikonoskop image and they are complimentary, the cuts between are not jarring.
This is my main camera. It is suited for the films I want to make, and can be adapted to any shooting scenario.
The Ikonoskop feels like a film camera. You have to be fully present. Direction and intent has to be clear. Each shot has meaning.
What will be your next project?
My next film is entitled, “Ritual of Resistance” which is going to be feature-length portrait film spanning three generations of Tibetan exiles, each with unique stories. My intent is to expand the upon the concept of “resistance” looking beyond the conventional definition, looking more closely at the philosophical, psychological and internal aspects.
A Singing Blade
Director, Cinematographer, Editor: Tenzin Phuntsog. Producer: Joy Dietrich. Starring actress & singer: Yeshe Gyaltag. Original Score by Brian Chase.
A Singing Blade is the Rubin Museum’s first film commission, which was made possible by the support of the Lucius and Eva Eastman Fund.