Fresh Kill, Freshly Restored

A new 35mm print of Shu Lea Cheang's 1994 fever dream premieres at BAM tonight

Shu Lea Cheang’s Fresh Kill is a fever dream of New York City at the dawn of the internet. Unfolding in a series of vignettes that are structured like the stanzas of an epic poem, interrupted by ad breaks and news flashes, it portrays a sci-fi world of collapse, corporate control, media saturation, and environmental disaster, inhabited by a creative resistance of foragers, artists, queer lovers, and hackers. It fluidly links two islands where waste is dumped: Staten Island, in NYC, and Orchid Island, off the coast of Taiwan, where a man announces on a megaphone, “The landfill is here!” while the locals follow along with imported American fitness television.

The narrative it weaves of corporate malfeasance through technology, and underground communities that oppose it, is timeless, but the film is especially rewarding as an early vision of how online communication might change communication and refigure power, and the glimpses it offers of NYC and its artist community. A new 35mm restoration of Shu Lea Cheang’s Fresh Kill premieres tonight at BAM in Brooklyn and Thursday in Chicago at Gene Siskel Film Center – don't miss it!