casting a glance

Director: James Benning

Institute History

  • 2008 Sundance Film Festival


A strange lake with an incredible amount of salt content in the water. A distinct artistic vision forming a 1,500-foot-long spiral-shaped jetty into the water, created from 7,000 tons of basalt rock and earth. Clouds, reflections, odd algae, and a few people far away. These are the elements of casting a glance, James Benning’s latest stunning film.

A huge earthen artwork in Utah's Great Salt Lake, the Spiral Jetty was made in 1970 by storied artist Robert Smithson. Between May 15, 2005, and January 14, 2007, Benning made 16 trips to the jetty. On each visit, Benning set up his 16mm film camera and took beautifully framed shots of the ever-changing jetty in a similar way to his past landscape films.

The finished movie is a new form of art documentary, recreating the 37-year existence of the jetty with its many water levels (it was under the surface for almost 30 years), visitors, and seasonal markings. Educated and poetic hints to history are layered throughout the soundtrack. The sunlight is incredible as the rocks reshaped by human beings are now distorted by nature. The sky and the water provide the perfect paint for Benning, who has voiced that this could be his last film project. It’s one of his most hypnotic.

— Mike Plante

Screening Details


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