Ivan Weiss is a documentary filmmaker, writer, and photographer based in Durham, North Carolina, and a partner at the multimedia collective Rock Fish Stew.
His work explores the wide emotional range of our everyday lives, from the mundane and boring to the humorous and inspired. He documents the various ways we follow our passions, and the process of artistic creation and professional achievement. He engages in collaborations with a diverse range of artists, and seeks out unconventional ways to tell stories.
The Big Ears Film
A meditation on listening and Knoxville
Knoxville, at the base of the Smoky Mountains, is an unlikely venue for The Big Ears Festival—“America’s (the world’s?) most thrillingly diverse festival,” according to The Guardian in London.
Like the festival, the Big Ears Film detaches music from notions of star power, career trajectories or personal demons. It captures performers at work on the road—unloading gear, setting up shows, rehearsing, sound checking—while exploring the sublime art of listening.
A Month in Durham
“Festival” tells the controversial story of three music events—the iconic electronic music festival Moogfest; the jazz, R&B and hip-hop-infused Art of Cool; and the traditional African American Bimbé—that took place in Durham, North Carolina, in May 2016.
In this fast-revitalizing (some would say “gentrifying” or even “homogenizing”) midsized city, this short documentary offers audiences an opportunity to reflect on the churn of past, present, and conflicting visions of the future.
Travels With Oren
In the fall of 2015, I spent one month on tour with electronic and improvisational musician Oren Ambarchi, kicking things off at Raleigh-Durham International Airport before heading to London, Poland, Portugal, Berlin and, finally, Japan.
Travel is a near constant for Ambarchi—a source of anxiety and frustration as well as an inspiration for his music. This film explores a life of physical movement in search of musical presence.
Nazoranai: A Documentary
”Does he seek out sounds that he doesn’t like?“ ”Yes.“
In March 2014, the improvisational sound trio Nazoranai came together for their U.S. premiere, at the Big Ears festival in Knoxville, T.N. Nazoranai: A Documentary goes behind the scenes, spending time with members Stephen O’Malley, Oren Ambarchi, and Keiji Haino.
Big, Bent Ears
A serial in documentary uncertainty
A 10-part series for The Paris Review—the famed New York literary journal’s first foray into multimedia—Big, Bent Ears combines writing, video, audio and photography.
“a unique and beautifully designed combination of critical literary writing, documentary filmmaking, and event review–seems like a great reason for the Internet to exist. If this is the future of ‘content,’ then…YES!”
— Best Music Journalism: March 2015, Red Bull Music Academy
Surrender to the Situation
Framed around two trips from Durham, N.C., to New York City, this multimedia mini-series (part of “Big, Bent Ears” in The Paris Review) explores the connections between travel and creativity, movement and stasis, and freedom and constraint.
Surrender to the Situation features experimental musicians Tyondai Braxton, Oren Ambarchi, and their collaborators.
Eight (or so) ways of looking at a baseball game
In 2013, a team of artists converged on the stadium of the legendary minor league team The Durham Bulls to document the home season. None had a specific assignment.
“Leaving Traces” chronicles their efforts. Features work by photographers Alex Harris, Frank Hunter, Kate Joyce, Leah Sobsey, Alec Soth, Hank Willis Thomas, Hiroshi Watanabe, and Jeff Whetstone, and writer Adam Sobsey.
The Education of Ida Owens
A story of integration, civil rights, and Duke University
Commemorating fifty years of integration at Duke University, this documentary follows Ida Owens from her upbringing in rural North Carolina to her years at Duke, where she became the first African-American woman to receive a Ph.D.
The Education of Idea Owens—a personal exploration of Southern history, higher education, and the civil rights movement—brings to the forefront the past and its lingering effects.