one hand on open

an experimental feature-length narative film by stefan pente and william locke wheeler


Tracey Niles sits at a plain white table in a limitless, greyish green, monochromatic space, trying to play the card game, Memory, and losing. Dark circles cradle her eyes as she stares in disbelief and frustration at the backs of the cards laid in perfect order before her. She can’t remember anything. In a different space, another boundless monochromatic color field, this time in greyish blue, an interrogation is taking place. Tracey is being questioned: “The last time you remembered something, what was it?” “It felt like some violence…in a dream” “Are you sure it was your memory?” As Tracey tries to respond, slowly, with uncertainty, the edge of her profile fizzles against the background as if she is about to disintegrate. “I don’t know. I’m filtering through violence.” Tracey’s disintegration, her trauma, derives from her own unspeakable experiences as victim of “violence of normalization and segregation”, a category of violence more broad and specific than “hate violence”. Having long since recovered from her physical wounds, she is left behind by her own memory, mentally bruised and baffled.

When does the memory of trauma and the necessity of self-defense transform into an offensive, territorial strategy? What happens when one experiences loss, losing touch with the context, the enemy, the normalizing force, and enters a virtual space which is ruled only by what could be? Does the idea of the ghetto exhaust itself within an open space of potential? Does this open space really exist materially, or is it a space of thought? Could the smaller, more subtle differences between individuals – made apparent and unavoidable, paradoxically, through ceaseless repetition and reproduction of sameness – become more important than whom we ourselves as individuals claim to be in our wholeness, namely consistent subjects who obsessively chase and cherish the reproduceability and sameness of the representations of our histories, our bodies, our fantasies, our traumas? Faced with these questions, is there any space in which we could live the life of the nomad, migrate into an open space, open not only to difference but also to inidentificatory practices, to freedom of movement, and to the criticism of self-defensive territoriality? Could this nomadic, open space be found, for example, in cinema?

We move throughout a complex philosophical narrative of memory, trauma and violence with Tracey Niles, Reena Chandrakali, an exotifying militant, and Faith Eatherton, a quietly observant philosopher. They are the three main characters in this abstract drama – or dramatic abstraction ¬– of place and time, of self and history. one hand on open, Wheeler and Pente’s debut feature film, is an experimental fictional feature film which proposes a unique combination of aesthetic and political approaches to experimental filmmaking, aiming to incite confusion and inspire debate, within multiple contexts, between identitarian and non-identitarian approaches to personal trauma and memory. However, it is important to note that the film is not only intended to be an intellectual challenge to the audience’s and filmmakers’ own (re)thinking of identity and trauma; it is also made to be a strongly visceral experience, relaying to some a sensation of nameless loss, to others a hallucinatory richness.

one hand on open is political cinema in a transitory vacuum. Here, as noted by Brian Massumi, the vacuum proper is to be understood, in terms of physics, not as the absence of everything but rather as the presence of all potentialities, not as an emptiness which needs to be conquered and filled but rather as a highly charged and fertile unknown. Cinema as the unknown, as a cloudy ontological mirror which not only reflects our ‘selves’ but also engages us, and our identities, in our own positive disappearance.


Germany, 2008,

84 minutes, English, with German or French subtitles

Original format: HDV Available screening formats: drive

Stefan Pente and William Locke Wheeler:
direction, production, editing, camera, animation, light,.... blue box


Alessio Bonaccorsi: Peg Hershatter, Maltessa Islander, ...... Pink Pistols Pinup

Sophia New: radio voice

Stefan Pente: Faith Eatherton, Jenny Bois, Melanie, Cactus X

William Locke Wheeler: Tracey Niles, Reena Chandrakali, Green Lady, Cactus Y

Idea and first script: William Locke Wheeler
Second script phase: Pente and Wheeler
Sound and music: Stefan Pente

World premiere: 58th International Berlin Film Festival, Berlinale 2008, Forum Expanded



in the bluebox


Each performer was shot one by one, so in a dialogue scene for example, each performer was shot at a different time and later pasted together.

“This scene has two people in it. You’re behind the camera. I’m in front of the camera as the women called Faith, walking through a forest that I have to imagine as really being around me, following the spot of my flashlight onto an opening in the woods. From here I see the shore of a lake, the wilderness in the silvery light of an almost full moon. I’m on an island. Can I really hear the sounds and smell, the fragrance of the flora and fauna in my imagination? It is a clear night and I have an appointment with Tracey, whom you will play three days later, coming through the same forest, the same night, this time in your imagination with me behind the camera inside of the same blue-box studio.
We are meeting several times at the same time in different times as different ones in different positions, coming in from different angles, looking at each other, half-object-subject, invisible but there, crossing the same forest, each in control of ones’ own imagination, yet in the imagination of the other as well.
This small but sweet miracle is visible here in the blue box, where I can see the different layers constituting reality in its divisions, and here it seams to be possible to understand the virtual nature of what I understand as reality. It always happens that all of us permanently find ourselves in spaces that are perceived and imagined and constituted differently by the others inhabiting or using the same space, no matter if it is a physical, a mental, spiritual or philosophical space”.


one hand on open: review

Teddy Queer Film Awards, 2008 by Silke Brandt

An utterly ambitious project engaging themes such as violence, hate crimes, memory and subjective boundaries.Over a period of four years, the filmmakers developed their extremely complex plot framework which, thanks to its playfully light portrayal, never seems too exerted or overburdened.

We find ourselves in an institute for violence studies in the very moment when Tracey tries to reposition her blocked memories with the aid of a surrealistic horror memory game. As the story progresses, she moves across a monochrome labyrinth, curious and lost, through this reflection of her own Self—a psychic landscape that, like all of the film’s spaces, is constructed with fantasy-like computer animations and colored drawings. The mysterious institute director, Reena Chandrakali, observes Tracey with a heightened, almost esoteric interest, hoping to find a soul mate. She heads a radical political platform through which potential victims of hate crimes would be armed with guns as a preventative measure: “ use necessary force against unnecessary violence, if necessary!” Ultimately, however, Chandrakali’s victim philosophy is put to the test in the face of Tracey’s refusal to allow the complete return of her memories of suffering.

This narrative represents only one of the several facets of a film which, as an experimental-philosophical outline, redefines reality and virtuality, as well as the limits of body, space and time. Also, through the character of Chandrakali, it evokes issues of everyday life reminiscent of ugly debates within the lesbian scene of the early 1990’s [as well as within second-wave feminism] in which a hierarchization of personal accounts of suffering took place, where the articulation of the experience of violence could occur only inside the boundaries of strictly positioned norms. Outside the time of terms like transgender and queer, this debate conceptualized victim and perpetrator profiles as being distributed along precisely defined gender lines. In this film, the fact that Tracey—like all the other exclusively female characters—is played by a man in drag appears as an elegant gesture which enables an opening for all genders.

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