Film Focus: Cavedigger (2013)

Editor’s Note: The Film Focus trailer series is part of AOTR’s rural cinema project, SMALLSCREEN. SMALLSCREEN is a multimedia project dedicated to mapping all forms of rural independent cinema exhibition and highlighting rural productions, place-based documentaries, and filmmakers who have an eye on the rural. Along the way, project designer Jessie Sims will develop a variety of cultural materials and contribute to the formation of an online rural film community. Most of all, Jessie is working to “Make visible what, without you, might perhaps never have been seen.”- Robert Bresson]

By Jessie Sims

This Oscar-nominated short follows the extraordinary process of artist Ra Paulette. For more than 25 years, by intense, solitary labor, Paulette has turned sandstone cliffs in Northern New Mexico into transformative space. He is self-taught and uses only hand tools.

Before Cavedigger, Paulette’s underground art was largely unknown and his labor sorely under appreciated. Director Jeffrey Karoff gives us an inspiring picture of Paulette, his material constraints, and what drives him to do his work despite it all.

Since 2008, Paulette has been working on his magnum opus, Luminous Caves. Since he’s determined to realize his own vision, this final cave complex isn’t a private commission. He describes it as an environmental and social art project:

A mile walk in the wilderness becomes a pilgrimage journey to a hand dug, elaborately sculpted cave complex illuminated by the sun through multiple tunneled windows. The cave is both a shared ecumenical shrine and an otherworldly venue for presentations and performances designed to address issues of social welfare and the art of well being.”

Luminous Caves, he says, “is a culmination of everything I have learned and dreamed of in creating caves.”

Read more about Paulette’s final work and its rural social context on his official site. Cavedigger is available on demand from iTunes and Vimeo.


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