In the Badlands of the American Midwest, a ‘bad’ landscape is teeming with life and crucial lessons about environmental entanglement and the complexities of stewardship.
Topography: Badlands (working title) is set in and around the Badlands of South Dakota, a landscape sculpted by erosion, the Great Plains, and vast skies. The film explores the ways people relate to the land, investigating histories of settler-colonialism, environmental preservation, and how perceptions and ideology shape the land itself. Considering the Badlands as a protagonist, the film becomes a vast and deep frame through which uncountable flora and fauna, human and non-human have moved through for millennia. Woven together, these create a deeply nuanced portrait across time, history and species.
About the Filmmakers
Hannah Jayanti (director, producer, editor, cinematographer, sound) is a documentary filmmaker, organizer, and educator. Her work explores ethics and politics through process and form, centered around questions of landscape, listening, memory, time, capitalism, and interdependence. Her first feature documentary “Truth or Consequences” premiered in competition at the 2020 International Film Festival Rotterdam, and was screened at over 20 international film festivals including nine nominations and three awards. Her directing work includes the mid-length film “The Phantom Tollbooth: Beyond Expectations” which premiered at the 2013 New Yorker Festival, and the short film “Gasper & Son” which won Best Short Documentary at the 2015 Queens World Film Festival. Her producing work includes the groundbreaking virtual reality documentary Blackout (Tribeca Storyscapes, 2017), Neanderthals - Meet Your Ancestors (PBS & BBC, 2018), The Secret Life of Uri Geller (BBC, 2013). Her directing work has been supported by Sundance Institute, Sundance Edit & Story Lab, Tribeca Film Institute, New York Council on the Arts, New York Foundation for the Arts, Jerome Foundation, Puffin Foundation, MidAtlantic Arts Foundation, among others. Her work has screened at institutions and festivals including the Smithsonian, Museum of the Moving Image, Sheffield Doc | Fest, Dok Leipzig, Camden International Film Festival, DOXA, Tribeca Film Festival Storyscapes, Maysles Documentary Center, UnionDocs, among others. Her organizing work includes co-creating spaces that model anti-capitalist practices while creating surprising futures. Her work as an educator is focused on free and low cost media training and literacy through community media centers and public access stations.
Alexander Porter (co-director, co-producer) is an Emmy award-winning immersive director, documentarian, and educator. He is recognized for defining the discipline of Volumetric Filmmaking through immersive productions, and creating virtual and augmented reality creativity tools. Alexander is an inventor and designer behind the first and most widely used software for volumetric video production. Alexander creates transmedia documentary projects with his partner, Hannah Jayanti. The most recent is the feature “Truth or Consequences” (Rotterdam, 2020), a ‘speculative documentary’ film about the world’s first spaceport and the town nearby. The project comprises a feature film, a local film festival, and a bespoke virtual cinematography tool, designed to virtually film 3D reconstructions culled from video footage and brought to life in virtual reality. Recent VR credits include “The Changing Same” (Sundance, 2021), directing “Blackout” (Tribeca Storyscapes, 2017), directing “Styles & Customs” (Carnegie Museum of Art, 2017). Alexander was nominated for a Cinema Eye Honors Award for Alex Gibney’s “Zero Days” (Berlin, 2016), won an Emmy for “Zero Days VR” (Sundance, 2017), other credits include “Love Child” (Sundance, 2014), “CLOUDS” (Sundance, 2014). He has taught at NYU’s ITP, SVA, JHU, and spoken at MIT, Museum of Art & Design, Carnegie Museum of Art, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and Eyebeam among many others.