Twenty Cigarettes: A Documentary Film from 2011

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When you hear the title of this documentary, you might think that it is only about cigarettes and smoking, or perhaps about why smoking is bad and why you should quit smoking, but that was not the filmmaker's intention at all.

James Benning's Twenty Cigarettes is much different than most movies and documentaries of the 21st century. James Benning, a giant in the field of American experimental cinema, creates minimalistic films that pave the way for reflection upon a variety of avenues. Benning is known for creating unusual films, and Twenty Cigarettes is no exception.

Twenty Cigarettes resembles the legendary filmmakers previous film RR, or Railroad, a documentary where Benning explored the themes of American consumerism and overconsumption. In RR, the film clips are static shots and are only as long as the duration of a train passing by in the background. Benning's filmography is not exactly usual; however, his films are exercises in minimalistic restraints.

Twenty Cigarettes is a film compilation of clips of twenty people, each person representing a cigarette in a usual pack of cigarettes, smoking in front of a camera. According to a New York Times report on the film, each person emits a sense of who they are as a person amidst the plumbs of smoke.

"I wanted to do a portrait film with extended takes," said Benning, "Smoking came into it later, as the ploy to get people to stand still and not be totally conscious of being filmed, although a big part of Twenty Cigarettes is that very self-consciousness of a person in front of a camera and how that changes over time." Benning's cinematography techniques are unusual in form; however, stylistic in nature.

"Smoking has such a stigma now, especially in the U.S., so I thought it would be interesting to make a film where I won't have any value judgment at all on smoking," said Benning in an interview with the New York Times about his film early-September.

While many people are stigmatizing smokers, demanding smoking bans, and pushing the passing of electronic cigarettes and other methods to help smokers quit smoking, not all people are focusing on stop smoking efforts.

Check out Twenty Cigarettes for yourself and experience a unique piece of minimalistic restraint cinematography, and experience a non-judgmental approach to smoking in a world filled with stop smoking efforts and quit smoking ads.

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