Young Artist Spotlight: Damir Inbar

Elena Yu


Damir Inbar, a New York City native, is currently an undergraduate film student at CalArts. So, he spends much of his time directing, filming, and editing his films – but he’s also somewhat of a gamer. The label “gamer” doesn’t necessarily mean that he barricades himself in his dorm room, and sits entranced by the digital screen of the video game. It means that Inbar has the ability to translate many aspects of what he sees and experiences while playing video games – such as first person perspective, the particularly mechanical movement of characters, and repetitiveness – into his live-action films.

“Diamond Mask” is Inbar’s first foray into the realm of video games – particularly its surreal, unvarying, and hyper-focused movement. This film was made by chance when Inbar, armed with his video camera, accidentally took the wrong train home and ended up in Chinatown. The resulting documentation is of an encounter with a hypnotically repetitive activity. Inbar has attempted to capture that same repetitive reality in his films every since.

“Steaming Heaps” marks one of Inbar’s most intriguing explorations of repetition. In this particular project, filmed over three nights in November 2012, viewers experience repetition of sound, repetition of shadows, and even repetition of Inbar himself. At one point, he is portrayed as numerous dark figures that continuously and ominously creep along the side of an anonymous building. When asked about the video game references in this film, Inbar said, “the exaggerated and repetitive way my shadow breathes in “Steaming Heaps” is inspired by the way video game characters breathe when you’re not moving them around. In fact, most of my movements in that video are inspired by the cold, mechanical movements of video game characters.”

Inbar’s exploration of virtual character movement continues with “Ball of Rock,” which he describes as “more similar, aesthetically, to most 2-D side-scrolling platform games.” Games like Super Mario Bros., where the characters move left and right on the screen, jumping to and from platforms. Similarly to “Steaming Heaps,” Inbar’s robotic figure moves as if he is a character in a video game; at one point wielding a car-part in the same way a video game character would wield a comically oversized weapon. However, unlike the games it references, Ball of Rock has no clear narrative, or it seems the character does not seem to have any objective goal.

In “Clean the Disk with a Soft Cloth,” Inbar once again plays the central character in the film. “Clean the Disk” is filmed using the first-person perspective of the video game being microwaved. Therefore, viewers have a chance to experience intense, and at time ineffable, emotions that most gamers experience on a daily basis. Here, Inbar achieves a suspenseful, cinematically structured narrative using video game storytelling in conjunction with a constantly progressing story, the combination of which serves to maintain the audience’s interest.

Although Inbar might not call himself a “gamer”, he certainly places the same amount of meticulous attention on every aspect of his films as a “gamer” might pay to his video games. For example, he not only writes, directs, shoots, edits, and acts in many of his films, but he often also creates much of his own music. The repetitive nature of his images synchronizes with the repetitive nature of his music, which, like many video games, is loop and sample based. While some adolescents his age would fall under lazier, less productive definition of the label “gamer,” Inbar’s attention to detail in his work proves that although he spent his childhood playing video games, he’s ready to take what he learned from those games and move on to approach an alternative meaning of the word.