Review of “In Pursuit of Silence” A film by Patrick Shen, at the Sarasota Film Festival #MySFF #Sarasota

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By: Marikje

The film “In Pursuit of Silence” was shown at the Sarasota Film Festival to an audience of mainly retired people—perhaps as it was in the afternoon and working people were not able to attend.

A very unusual beginning to the film was given with two (2) musicians, one with a cello and the other with an electric guitar, at the front of the screening room.  What erupted was an ear piercing, rapping across the strings performance of ????? which endured for many minutes.  The audience of mostly elderly people had no idea what this “noise” was to lend to or add to the up coming film to be shown.  Then equally abruptly, the “noise” stopped and the two musicians just stood there motionlessly for what  seemed an eternity, probably close to five (5) minutes, before the actual film began.

Several scenes of quiet landscape were shown—albeit not so quiet as there was background music on the film being played during these scenes.  Then scenes of daily life started to be shown, each with a decibel level of what the scene was all about—down town street scenes, subway scenes and many, many scenes in Japan.

As it turns out, the film was what could be called a narrated documentary, at times with sub titles for the scenes in Japan, telling how quiet and silence are an ever more futile pursuit to attain in this world of ours.  A few words of dialogue from learned people were sprinkled in amongst the narrations, to illustrate that noise is an ever growing stress level that society had created for itself.  As one watched, one had to wonder if the film was not more about the ever increasing level of noise pollution that we as a civilization are forced to endure, rather than the possibility of finding a silent spot on this earth for a few moments of calm and reflection.  Yet no solution was offered in the film to all the noise around each and every one of us all day long.

When the producing crew were asked, at the end of the film, why even when there were the few scenes of calm being shown—why those scenes had to be punctuated with composed music noise as well—the producers indicated that they had wrestled with the idea of whether to have or not to have music in the quiet scenes.  It seems that even they, were addicted to noise and did not get the meaning of what they were trying to convey—which was that in order to pursuit silence you actually have to have silent moments that are not interrupted with music of questionable quality.

In conclusion.  An interesting idea for a film that was not really showing where to find silence, as may have been implied by the title, but rather more a film about the constant invasion of noise into our everyday lives, without coming up with a solution or ideas as to where to actually pursuit silence.


In Pursuit of Silence is a meditative film that explores our relationship with silence, sound, and the impact of noise on our lives.

In our race towards modernity, amidst all the technological innovation and the rapid growth of our cities, si-lence is now quickly passing into legend. Beginning with an ode to John Cage’s seminal silent composition 4’33”, the sights and sounds of this film delicately interweave with silence to create a contemplative and cinematic experience that works its way through frantic minds and into the quiet spaces of hearts. As much a work of devotion as it is a documentary, In Pursuit of Silence is a meditative exploration of our relation-ship with silence, sound, and the impact of noise on our lives.

In Pursuit of Silence is a meditative film that I also consider a piece of devotional work about a subject that many have tried to encapsulate in some form or another for ages. Rather than encapsulate we’ve tried in a sense to free it, paying homage to the ineffable qualities of silence. The film was shot and edited in a way that mimics our experience of the world when we are still; you won’t see any crane moves, sweeping drone shots, or pans. The overall rhythm of the film was carefully crafted with the human metabolism in mind. Ultimately, I hope that the film challenges audiences to slow down and on some level make the world new again for them.

“In Pursuit of Silence” is screening as part of the Documentary Feature Competition at SFF this year.

The film is hot off our North American Premiere at the prestigious South By Southwest film festival in Austin where the film sold out all 3 screenings and racked up some reviews we are very happy with. The Austin Chronicle said, “I am undone by this film…it lands in the mind, at least to this reviewer, with an impact reminiscent of seeing 1982’s Koyaanisqatsi for the first time…Shen’s In Pursuit of Silence incessantly inspires and sometimes takes the breath away and can even accomplish both at once.”

IN PURSUIT OF SILENCE is a meditative film that explores our relationship with silence, sound, and the impact of noise on our lives.

Check out the trailer here:

We are doing some really special performances for our SFF screenings. For each screening we have curated performers to begin the event with a live performance of a piece of original music followed by a performance of John Cage’s seminal silent composition, 4’33”. This bleeds seamlessly and silently into the beginning of the film.

For both screenings we will have the experimental pop/post-classical duo, Teach Me Equals opening the screening. Their sound is characterized by the unorthodox use of electric stringed instruments, live loop manipulation, and rhythmic textures that utilize the techniques of musique concrete. The project originated in Sarasota, FL, and is now based out of Olympia, WA. Culture Collide said, “They are able to deliver a unique sound that is at times reminiscent of electronic artists like The Xx, but with an edgier, industrial-meets-orchestral vibe.” More info here:

Here are the screening times:
Friday April 8 @ 2:15pm
Regal Hollywood 20 Theater 7
Teach Me Equals original piece & 4’33” performance preceding screening of IN PURSUIT OF SILENCE

Sunday April 10 @ 5:15pm
Regal Hollywood 20 Theater 12
Teach Me Equals original piece & 4’33” performance preceding screening of IN PURSUIT OF SILENCE

Brandon Vedder

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