Close Up

17 November 2022: John Smith: Introspective Programme 7 (2001-07)


In celebration of John Smith’s 50 years of radical filmmaking, and Close-Up present the most extensive survey of his work to date: screening 50 films by Smith, organised into 10 weekly programmes. For the season's full programme visit:

Programme 7 (2001-07)
With John Smith and Alia Syed in conversation

Hotel Diaries
John Smith, 2001-07, 82 min

Made over six years in the hotels of six different countries, Hotel Diaries charts the ‘War on Terror’ era of Bush and Blair through a series of seven video recordings that relate the ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and Israel/Palestine to Smith’s personal experiences while travelling. In these works, which play upon chance and coincidence, the hotel room is employed as a ‘found’ film set, where the architecture, furnishing and decoration become the means by which the filmmaker’s small adventures are linked to major world events.  

Frozen War (Ireland, 2001)
Museum Piece (Germany, 2004)
Throwing Stones (Switzerland, 2004)
B & B (England, 2005)
Pyramids/Skunk (The Netherlands 2006-07)
Dirty Pictures (Palestine 2007)
Six Years Later (Ireland 2007)

"Several years ago I watched John Smith’s Hotel Diaries at a festival in Tampere, and left the theatre with the feeling that my idea of what film could and should do had changed forever. These short films, made in uncomfortable hotel rooms where the director stayed – almost impromptu, without any budget, with a small amateur camera and his own voice – keep the viewer’s attention just as well as a good thriller, although they have nothing in common with one. Smith does not look for 'beautiful' and large-scale shots as an occasion to express himself. Some little thing in an utterly unremarkable hotel room is quite enough for him to launch a chain reaction of associations and cause and effect relations in our heads. They take us so far from the two-dimensional everyday 'reality' on the screen that the inevitable return to the 'here and now' of the filming location resembles the sudden wakening up from sleep." – Mikhail Zheleznikov

Screening as part of John Smith: Introspective (1972-2022)