Growing up in the midwest, activities like deer hunting and cattle ranching were part of everyday life for Bill Basquin, director of From Inside of Here. What would be the Wild West to any coastal inhabitant is simply the backyard for those who grow up in the midwest. For Bill Basquin, his interest and access to nature shaped his sense of aesthetics and childhood play, where ponds and cornfields became his playground and creative landscape. Ever since then he has gravitated towards nature, and the collaboration between space and imagination that it provides. Basquin’s experience of the “wilderness” and “unknown” while in the midwest became a motif in the filmography of his career, but his latest non-fiction feature From Inside of Here provides an account of these regions that is unique to any other.
Now living in California, Basquin spent eight years at various campsites and hunting grounds, documenting the complexities of ecosystems, vulnerability, and connection through the repopulation of Mexican gray wolf. Meditative and experiential, this non-fiction feature film dives into the predator-prey relationship and the nuances between human and animal correspondence.
From Inside of Here is a film that is “trusting of its audience”, allowing for viewers to take on an experiential role that feels firsthand, and differing from the all-too-common modern practice of forcing opinions. In fact, Basquin specifically includes an interview with a Fish and Games specialist to provide a perspective that varies from the majority of the film’s point of view. Rather than tell the viewers what to think, Basquin presents the audience with information from all sides, and trusts the audience to discern what they are hearing.
This trust in the audience continues with the use of intertitles throughout the film. The intertitles allow a platform for the audience to interact with the film in an individual way. Rather than only use voice overs, Basquin prefers to remove himself as a biased force from the film. The intertitles in From Inside of Here narrate interactions and moments where Basquin hopes the audience will have a feeling, rather than just telling the audience how he wants them to feel. This intention can be said for the whole of the film. Basquin does a brilliant job of crafting a viewing experience that is mainly objective, while also providing moments for the audience to become subjective without influence from the filmmaker. Further, by using intertitles, the sounds and locations of the places shown get to take center stage. By highlighting those, Basquin molds the audience’s experience to be one of learning of this wilderness through sight and hearing. Additionally, the intertitles are notably absent from the middle portion of the film. This is done to create a change that the audience notices on a subconscious level. The viewers’ only interaction with humans throughout the film is through these intertitles, and by the lack of them, Basquin hopes to spark a want for companionship in the audience. This theme of desire and vulnerability was important for Basquin to foster, as it is a theme that courses throughout the film.
While on these excursions, Basquin often found himself in hunter territory. These locations are a ground for their own sort of predator-prey relationship, one that involves mainly humans. For Basquin, who was an observer and not a hunter, staying in these areas illustrated a sense of vulnerability that is not often felt. This part of the country is known for violence towards people and their bodies, reflecting a similar hostility from the hunters towards the wolves and their population. It is in this way that Basquin and the viewer do not know if they are predator or prey, asking: how readily will this violence and hostility against wolves turn towards humans?
But as From Inside of Here shows, humans have become the apex predator, and we are the ones to be afraid of. People have sufficiently skewed the balance so that humans are at the top. The film explores the history of this hierarchy, as Basquin’s journey took him into historical cave dwellings untouched from modern beliefs. What was found was evidence of a relationship between humans and wolves that was compatible, sharing the same resources and land. It is only these recent - recent in the eyes of all of history - developments where humans and wolves have become predator and prey. And it is this insight that introduces questions of colonial violence on the wilderness and its respective ecosystems, including humanity.
From Inside of Here also houses spinning montages throughout its runtime, producing a distinct style of non-fiction feature. For Basquin, spinning is a multipurpose tool. First, it is a grounding technique when arriving at a new campsite. Upon starting a new journey, it provides a way to disorient the surroundings to produce a fresh start while simultaneously bringing the surroundings into a clearer focus after the fact. Beyond that, the repeated spinning shots once again portray a body for the audience to connect to. For Basquin, it does not matter that these details and movements are from his life. He uses himself as an experiential organ so that everyone can engage with the film as a mechanism to also have their own feelings and experience. From Inside of Here is a non-fiction feature film like no other, and an experience that every viewer should dare to venture on.
From Inside of Here screens at the Fall 2023 New Jersey Film Festival on Sunday, September 24. The film will be Online for 24 Hours and In-Person at 5 PM in Voorhees Hall #105/Rutgers University, 71 Hamilton Street, New Brunswick, NJ. From Inside of Here Director Bill Basquin will be at the in-person screening and will do a Q+A with the audience after the screening. Tickets are available for purchase here.