Vertical Features: Ryan Ermacora and Jessica Johnson’s Uneasy Panoramas

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - January 14, 2019
Vertical Features: Ryan Ermacora and Jessica Johnson’s Uneasy Panoramas

It’s appropriate that Vertical Features chose Jackman Hall as the place where they’re screening their monthly series. And that’s because there’s something painterly about the work of the first filmmakers they chose to showcase. Ryan Emarcora and Jessica Johnson’s Empire Valley, like the rest of their work, use long takes to end long takes. That’s quite an interest approach in portraying a forest but as the saying goes, it’s all in the details. A road snakes through this forest, one that a truck uses to transport logs. Showing this scene redefines the audience’s perception of intervention. Humanity thinks through lines and destroys nature in the process. But this road shows how careful that process is.

Emarcora and Johnson’s scenes and the details within evokes the work of Chinese artist and ones working during the European Baroque period.  Einst also uses a long take to depict an almost still river, so long that we might have forgotten the woman who walked into it.

Emarcora and Johnson make us think of how much life they capture within their frames. Adding to that idea, they depict nature as a locus of its silent conflict with its human inhabitants, as well as the conflicts humans have with each other. But sometimes that conflict isn’t silent, as they use both sight and sound to show these skirmishes. In E&N, we see rain beating on tracks that trains barely use.

It might be trite to say that Emarcora and Johnson try to redefine nature. However, I’m only writing that because I anticipate resistance to their ideas. Or what I think their ideas are. Nature is stark to them, but I keep searching signs of humanity that, in their part, they’re not trying to erase. In a way, we get that in Ocean Falls, which shows a settlement that most of its citizens have abandoned.

Hazel Isle is Johnson’s newest and solo effort and at a whopping 14 minutes, is the longest in this series.  It also shows remnants of ancient civilizations and their contemporary counterparts. Within the frame is a cottage which it accompanies with a narration of a woman lamentations. The new residents, to her chagrin, aren’t using the Isle’s original Gaelic place names. I’m not sure if I agree with Johnson’s ideas but it’s nice to see stimulating work.

You can catch Ryan Ermacora and Jessica Johnson’s Uneasy Panoramas at Jackman Hall on January 15, 2019 at 7PM.

For more details on this screening please visit


  • Release Date: 1/15/2019
This post was written by
While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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