Ramez Silyan is a first generation Syrian-American, born and raised in Los Angeles. After receiving his bachelors from UC Berkeley, he’s written and directed short films, documentaries, and music videos that have screened in competitions around the world. His latest, Everybody’s Everything, a documentary on the life of Lil Peep, debuted at SXSW 2019 and is currently available on Netflix.
Below are Ramez’s selects and what he had to say:
I’m gonna start by breaking the rules and sharing a few short films I love… whoops.
Essential: Shorts & Featurettes
I Signed the Petition (2018)
Directed by Mahdi Fleifel
I originally saw this short last year on Le Cinema club. Incredibly important work that everyone should watch right now. Reminds me of Chris Marker’s ‘La Jette’ in some ways, a visual essay with a really direct message we are seeing play out online at this very moment.
Directed by Bong Joon-ho
A completely mesmerising comment on surveillance culture taken by actual CCTV around South Korea. The camera divorces itself from the subject matter that makes it feel so much more mundane… The way we are so desensitized to seeing brutality through a lens that does not attempt to care… so good. Available on Criterion Channel if you subscribe.
World Cinema (2007)
Directed by the Coen Brothers
This might be a perfect short film. Apparently shot while making No Country. I can only imagine the fun they had taking a break from the bloody violence of Chigurh (and his haircut) to have some fun shooting a cowboy deciding what to see at the cinema.
Directed by Sam Benenati
Notable mention: Stumbled on this on Vimeo one night, stuck in my mind and I kept going back to it. Love the pace, the characters just feel so real so quickly.
Yeah… I broke more rules, but choosing top films is a lot of pressure! Tried my best to make some recommendations aside from the ones we already know and love.
High and Low (1963)
Directed by Akira Kurosawa
One of my favorite Kurosawa films, such a sharp director, I can’t find a single moment out of place. Extremely inspired by his flawlessly executed compositions combined with motivated moves and brilliant blocking…. Nobody does it like him. I feel like I can view all of his films in two ways… as entertainment, or homework.
Come and See (1985)
Directed by Elem Klimov
Horrendous portrait of the effects of WWII. There is something about the absolute beauty of the shots against the grueling unrelenting subject matter. The lead is incredible, you see the pain leaving marks on his face as the film plays out. A true masterwork that paved the way for the likes of ‘Saving Private Ryan’ and ‘1917’.
Prova D’Orchestra (1978)
Directed by Federico Fellini
A less talked about 70 min documentary-style satire. Plays as an extended metaphor for Italian politics, love every minute of it. It really feels like Fellini is having some fun with this one. Watch for free here!
Directed by Sofia Coppola
I rewatch this one a lot, so many moments linger in my mind. Meditative. A very big influence for the video I did for the Neighbourhood’s ‘Pretty Boy’. Some of my favorite cinematography. It’s so simple and evocative. The one-shot I’m thinking of is when Jonny is getting life casted for an effects mask. Sophia just makes you live with his suffocation, I love it.
Hated: GG Allin and the Murder Junkies (1993)
Directed by Todd Phillips
Notable mention: I was way more surprised when I found out Todd Philips directed the Hangover franchise than Joker. This documentary is a fascinating look into GG Allin and the Murder Junkies last tour. It builds up the myth of GG and then tears him down.
Admittedly, I’m not a fan of advertisements in general. The entire idea of trying to sell products just bums me out… so…
‘Welcome to the Third Space’ PlayStation 2 (2000)
Directed by David Lynch
This is immaculate. Lynch just goes nuts. I’m not sure if anyone on this planet understands this ad or if it sold any PS2’s. I think that’s why I like it.
‘Part 1’ Mugler Summer (2021)
Directed by Florian Joahn
Saw this recently and the two-part fashion show floored me. Smartest “digital” fashion show I saw during quarantine. Just a beautiful watch.
‘Dreamer’ Guinness (2001)
Directed by Jonathan Glazer
Glazer takes the ad format and flips it. I’m drawn to these sorts of anti-ads… it feels more like a piece of art sponsored by Guinness. I personally do not want to be within 10 feet of a Guinness after watching this.
Anti-drug PSAs (1980s/1990s)
Notable mention: These never get old. I will always remember seeing the one of the girl whose dog tells her to stop smoking weed, it really made me wanna start. Good job ad people!
Essential: Music Videos
‘Men from the Magazine’ Haim (2020)
Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
Saw this recently and was just impressed by the insanely simple, yet impactful concept. It does everything it needs to do with very little. PTA strikes again.
‘Windowlicker’ Aphex Twin (2021)
Directed by Chris Cunningham
A fucking riot. I love showing this one to people who haven’t seen it. Defies all expectations. What Chris Cunningham does to subvert the form is really inspiring.
‘Time to Dance’ The Shoes (2012)
Directed by Daniel Wolfe
The feeling of this video is one I always come back to. It’s not even a music video in my opinion, it feels more like a short film. So well timed. An early inspiration for me to push myself to try to create as many narratively driven videos as possible. A music video, to me, should always play just as strong with the music on mute.
‘Nikes’ Frank Ocean (2016)
Directed by Tyrone Lebon
The range in this video never ceases to amaze me. It never reuses a shot or wastes a moment, that to me, is so important in music video, this one is brilliant. I remember sitting in my room watching this when it first dropped and just salivating. It feels jumbled yet meticulously planned out. That effortlessness oozes throughout, but every repeated viewing confirms just how difficult it was to bring it all together.