Interview with Mariah Garnett

Today from our friends at BOMB Magazine, we bring you an interview with Mariah Garnett. Author Risa Puleo speaks with Garnett about her time in Belfast, the making of the film/exhibition Other & Father, and the roles of identity and failure in her films. Garnett says, “That was one thing I was interested in for the film: the way identity is constructed and history is performed, passed down, and reenacted—what’s real, what’s not. One of my friends said, ‘Oh there’s always a wee riot somewhere [….]’” This article was originally published on March 3, 2016.


Mariah Garnett. Encounters I May Or May Not Have Had With Peter Berlin, 2012 (film still); 16mm film; 14:00. Courtesy of the Artist.

The cinema “teach[es] me to tirelessly touch with my gaze the distance from me at which the other begins.” So wrote the French film critic Serge Daney in 1992, reflecting on a life led looking and thinking about cinema in the months before his death. Mariah Garnett uses the camera to see her subjects from various perspectives to bridge this distance. Aware of the camera’s limitations, she employs various strategies belonging to documentary, narrative, and experimental filmmaking, occasionally reenacting her subjects in attempt to know them further.

The subjects Garnett has engaged with her camera include Catalina de Erauso, the 17th-century Basque nun who lived as a man and a soldier in colonial Latin America, in the 2011 film Picaresques; the sex symbol Peter Berlin, in the 2012 film Encounters I May or May Not Have Had with Peter Berlin; and veterans who place their bodies in extreme circumstances as Hollywood stuntmen, in the 2014 film Full Burn. The subject of Garnett’s most recent film, Other & Father, premiering in Belfast in February and Los Angeles in March, is her father.

Risa Puleo: We’ve been missing each other across Europe and the States since Margaret Haines introduced us in the Spring after she found out I was researching Catalina de Erauso, the subject of your film Picaresques. Why were you interested in Catalina, and how did you find her?

Mariah Garnett: There are so many layers there. The gender stuff, for sure. She’s such an unreliable narrator, because she’s basically pleading for her life, so she’s playing up all these exploits in a performance of masculinity. You never know how she actually feels.

Read the full article here.