Investigating the Experimental Films of Kalil Haddad

Reece Beckett
Counter Arts
Published in
8 min readOct 24, 2022

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A retrospective looking over the work of experimental video artist and filmmaker Kalil Haddad.

A shot from Farm Boy, via Kalil Haddad.

Recently, I reached out to experimental filmmaker Kalil Haddad in search for access to his latest work, The Taking of Jordan (All American Boy). I watched and was shaken by that film, reviewing it here:

It was a film that mostly grabbed my attention because of its grim subject matter and the way that that subject was treated on film. Haddad, as proven through my adventure through as much of his work as I could get my hands on, turns to video time and time again to toy with its stand-out features in his editing room.

This fascination with video reveals itself in different ways, largely depending on the subject matter of whichever film he is working on. In terms of Jordan, Haddad entered a truly abrasive mode which makes use of these arresting strobe effects which, when mixed with his equally strong sound editing and use of archival footage (using samples like the finest DJ would — something truly unique in film that I have seen done rarely at all, but even less with such quality), bring to life the haunting realities of his chosen subject: the repression and death of gay men in America specifically.

The use of photographs and the focus on memory — a key component of Haddad’s body of work. This shot is from As I Sat In His Car, via Kalil Haddad.

This unique use of video editing meets with Haddad’s eagle-eyed focus on the experience at the centre of film itself. Narrative consistently takes a back-seat across his body of work, as the audiovisual language that he speaks so fluently is given more attention. This attitude couldn’t be more refreshing in a time when narrative cinema is not only the dominant mode of filmic storytelling but when it is made to feel like the only way to make films — Haddad goes against this, focusing instead on using very specific, carefully curated images and sounds to reach deeper psychologically, probing for emotional truths that otherwise may remain…

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