On the Northshore of New Orleans, where things can get fairly unremarkable from time to time, lives a filmmaker and artist whose work I’ve found to be confounding, frustrating, and delightful in equal fits – and if you follow film news, you may have passed by his name.
Joe Badon made some headlines last year when strong comparisons were drawn between his film The God Inside My Ear and Netflix’s Horse Girl. He took to Reddit and even posted a video to Youtube, laying out the observed similarities. While I can’t say much for the “controversy” (I have yet to stream Horse Girl), I can say that The God Inside My Ear was unlike anything I had seen prior to viewing. It’s a film of a very specific and very personal vision, incorporating many references to what must be inside memories and secret callbacks – the kind of things that make auteur theorists salivate.
It wasn’t easy getting into Joe’s films. My initial review of The God Inside My Ear was a lukewarm 50/50, going so far as to call it “substance-less style.” To my light credit, I did write that the film was “worthwhile” and that I’d want to watch whatever Joe had next. No matter my original feelings, it was clear that something special had washed over, and something unique had arrived on Hollywood South’s radar: weird cinema.
We could lump Jason Matherne and his Terror Optics krewe into the weird column, but they would just barely fit, being more late night-punk and gore-sploitation than anything. We certainly have more diverse filmmakers doing more eclectic films in our region than others are aware of (like greats Jonathan Jackson and Kenna Moore), but Joe Badon might be the most known figure in that crowd. And at the regional forefront of strange and peculiar movies, his work is only progressing.
There was a special event he held on July 14th at a speakeasy on Desire St., featuring a movie and music presentation to support his next project The Wheel of Heaven. And if a story can be told from the pictures taken, it’d say “Keep New Orleans Weird!”
I chatted with Joe Badon about his films, his influences, and what’s coming up next.
Keep it weird, Hollywood South. Please, keep it weird.
Bill Arceneaux: Having seen your feature films The God Inside My Ear and Sister Tempest, I would label your work as that of psychological tragedy. How would you describe your movies, why, and what do you believe are the influences?
Joe Badon: I think we’ve come up with the term “Funeral Comedy” because we’re creating absurdist dark comedies wrapped up in tragedies. So imagine Andy Kaufman performing at your relative’s funeral. That’s kind of what we’re going for. That comes for my love of absurdist cinema, like Quentin Dupieux and David Lynch.
BA: From dreamscapes to night terrors, from cheese and camp to worry and wickedness, you tend to craft stories as if from a cauldron of twisted bedtime tales. Where do you think these ideas come from, and where are they going?
JB: I’m trying to create what I call “Cinematic Mixtapes” because we’re cherry-picking lots of various contrasting genres, styles, and techniques to create mixtapes of all my favorite cinema. This comes from my love of weird music – mainly composer John Zorn who would do 10 to 20 different styles of music all in one song.
BA: Who are the filmmakers – foreign or domestic, living or dead – you would most want to watch your films, and what would you like them to say after viewing?
JB: I’d want my heroes to watch my films: Ken Russell, Alejandro Jodorowsky, David Lynch, Jared Hess, Mickey Reece, Miguel Llanso, Quentin Dupieux, Agnes Varda, Ingmar Bergman, (I could keep going lol). I would want their honest opinion with all the honest critiques. I’m sure it would kill me but I do love the truth.
BA: New technologies, new mediums, and new global threats have been changing the way we watch and understand art for ages. For you, what are the biggest challenges an independent filmmaker can face now, and what can be done about it?
JB: It’s a double-edged sword because technology has made it to where anyone can make films. But because of that, there’s a TON of noise out there. Now there’s hundreds of film festivals and thousands of films made every year.
So THE biggest challenge is being noticed above the noise by anyone who can actually fund your films.
BA: I often scour Instagram for really imaginative and downright “weird” media, from zines to VHS collections to Gameboy mods to film critiques. What do you gravitate to when looking out for oddball cinema and art?
JB: My favorite website for weird films is 366weirdmovies.com. I have found countless amazing films through that site. But I’m always looking for films, art, and music that are doing something that I’ve never heard or seen before. I’m on an eternal quest to find something new and different. I always feel like I’ve found a buried treasure when I find something truly unique. I don’t necessarily have to like it, it just has to feel ballsy and strange and it’s its own thing.
BA: Are there any local filmmakers of the non-linear and wild that have caught your attention?
JB: I’ve got some good friends doing some fun weird shit like Kyle Clements, Cami Roebuck, Josh Stephenson, and Jason Johnson (there’s TONS of weirdos in New Orleans but they are lesser-known). But as far as established local filmmakers that are doing strange avant-garde shit? I have no idea! I’d love to meet and collaborate with them!
I always feel like New Orleans film/art/music should be much weirder than it is. Take that for what it is.
BA: You’re Kickstarting a new short film project at the moment. Please tell us about the planned movie, what it’ll take to bring it to life, and what you want to do once it has been completed.
JB: So the new film is called The Wheel of Heaven. It’s about a woman named Purity whose car breaks down on the side of the road. She’s invited into an old mysterious house that is filled with weird party guests and an even weirder party host. It’s at this party that her true destiny is revealed. I’ve been telling people that it’s kind of like Rocky Horror meets Hour of the Wolf.
We’re running a Kickstarter campaign until July 22nd. We’re asking for $20,000. This will pay for everything: Props, wardrobe, locations, food, set construction, post-production, etc… We’re creating this short film with the intention and hopes of getting it into bigger film festivals (like SXSW, Tiff, Sundance, Fantastic Fest, etc…)
Having only made feature films in the past, I have realized it’s much easier to get shorts into the bigger festivals. And hopefully, with bigger festivals, we’ll get bigger connections which will lead to bigger budgets. So this film is an essential stepping stone to move forward as a filmmaker.
BA: List three surreal movies that you’d like to watch on the last day of your life, and why you chose them.
JB: Holy Mountain, Endless Poetry, and My Dinner with Andre. All these films put a lot of things into perspective for me. They show me what’s important in life and what’s not.