Soda_Jerk: 'It's hard not to feel overwhelmed by the apocalyptic conservatism and bigotry that's fuelling politics'

Soda_Jerk: 'It's hard not to feel overwhelmed by the apocalyptic conservatism and bigotry that's fueling politics in Australia and abroad'

Siblings Dominique and Dan Angeloro discuss bringing their controversial political revenge fable, TERROR NULLIUS, to the Glasgow Short Film Festival

Since 2002, Australian art collective Soda_Jerk have been sampling, splicing and remixing existing films, with the intention of creating something wholly unique in the process. From well-known scenes to decades-old characters, siblings Dominique and Dan Angeloro take the familiar and amalgamate new ideas to produce unconventional and often politically charged storylines. TERROR NULLIUS, their hour-long experimental film from 2016, was steeped in controversy upon its release when key funders chose to distance themselves from it, citing its 'un-Australian' content. Now based in New York and having taken the film to festivals around the world, the duo are set to bring TERROR NULLIUS to the Glasgow Short Film Festival, where they'll also be presenting an installation of four of their Astro Black Afrofuturist video cycle. We caught up with Dominique and Dan to talk about the film, their creative practice and their work within the context of our current political climate.

How did Soda_Jerk come together and what were your original creative goals in terms of image making and sampling?

We were first switched onto sampling through the experimental hip hop and queer performance scenes that we were part of in the late 90s. It wasn't just that audio sampling was a big part of the way that artists were working, but also that these scenes were intertwined with a pervasive DIY, punk and squat culture. So the idea of seizing privatised resources and politically appropriating them was running parallel to the ways that people were engaging with technology, and even real estate. We understood sampling as part of a broader resistance to cultural privatisation.

You describe TERROR NULLIUS as part political satire, eco-horror and road movie. How influenced are you by history and current politics?

For anyone that cares about social justice and the environment, these can feel like incredibly grim times. It's hard not to feel overwhelmed by the apocalyptic conservatism and bigotry that's fueling politics in Australia and abroad. TERROR NULLIUS was our way of dealing with that, of upending our feelings of despair and channeling them into an unapologetic rage and defiance.

Had the idea for the film been brewing for a while?

We'd been developing the idea of an ambitious political revenge film since 2006 when we made a short Australian remix called Picnic at Wolf Creek. But by 2016 we were feeling a growing sense of urgency to respond to the increasingly sinister conservative turn in Australian politics. It's debilitating to encounter these obscene national narratives and feel powerless to effect change. So we wanted to create a vigilante fable of social justice that reversed these dynamics of power and oppression.

Soda_Jerk: 'It's hard not to feel overwhelmed by the apocalyptic conservatism and bigotry that's fuelling politics'

What did the experience of losing key support for TERROR NULLIUS teach you and do you think that there's a genuine issue with people's willingness to have conversations about difficult topics when it comes to art?

The experience has definitely piqued our concern about the kinds of partnerships that are encouraged between art and capital. In order for an artwork to be political we feel it has to have a potentially disruptive dimension, or the capacity to unsettle. So it's hardly surprising that the provocations posed by political art aren't always a comfortable fit with the priorities of private funding and corporate sponsorship. Art feels like one of the last bastions where it should feel safe to have open and uncensored conversations about things that are divisive and challenging. And that's something we need to protect at all costs.

How did you find the overall reaction to the film when it was first shown?

We're big fans of film experiences that encourage audience misbehavior like grindhouse and cult cinema. And that's something that we were thinking about as we made TERROR NULLIUS. So it's incredibly satisfying to sit in on screenings where crowds laugh and heckle at the screen. But what cuts even deeper is when people reach out to us to say they've felt moved or empowered by the film. Or the silence that comes at a moment of heavy reckoning.

What are you hoping that audiences at the Glasgow Short Film Festival will take away from the film?

As filmmakers, we're not the least bit interested in delivering tidy answers. We're much more interested in TERROR NULLIUS as a kind of provocation, an invitation to further thought and conversation. The film has some weighty ideas for sure, but it's also heaps of fun. Sort of arthouse meets grindhouse. Beautiful and bloody, urgent and irreverent, optimistic and apocalyptic, funny and full of rage.

Glasgow Short Film Festival, Glasgow Film Theatre, Wed 13–Sun 17 Mar. TERROR NULLIUS opens the festival on Wed 13 Mar.

Glasgow Short Film Festival

The largest competitive short film festival in Scotland celebrates diverse forms of cinematic expression that transgress the boundaries of conventional narrative film. The online 2021 festival will feature competitions and many special programmes, alongside some new specially curated programmes, filmmaker interviews and…