Made over six years in the hotels of six different countries, Hotel Diaries charts the 'War on Terror' era of Bush and Blair through a seven-part series of video recordings that relate personal experiences to the ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and Israel/Palestine. In these works, which play upon chance and coincidence, hotel rooms are employed as 'found' film sets, where architecture, furnishing and decoration become the means by which the filmmaker’s small adventures are linked to major world events.
"Several years ago I watched John Smith’s Hotel Diaries at a festival in Tampere, and left the theatre with the feeling that my idea of what film could and should do had changed forever. These short films made in uncomfortable hotel rooms where the director stayed – almost impromptu, without any budget, with a small amateur camera and his own voice – keep the viewer’s attention just as well as a good thriller, although they have nothing in common with one. Smith does not look for 'beautiful' and large-scale shots as an occasion to express himself. Some little thing in an utterly unremarkable hotel room is quite enough for him to launch a chain reaction of associations and cause and effect relations in our heads. They take us so far from the two-dimensional everyday 'reality' on the screen that the inevitable return to the 'here and now' of the filming location resembles the sudden wakening up from sleep." (Mikhail Zheleznikov, 'Message to Man' Film Festival, St. Petersburg)
Part 1 – Frozen War (Ireland, October 8th 2001)
A disorientating experience while attempting to watch the TV news in an Irish hotel room triggers a spontaneous response to the bombing of Afghanistan.
Part 2 – Museum Piece (Germany, October 14th 2004)
While the Iraq war continues, a day's sightseeing and the features of a German hotel provoke a stream of thoughts about events large and small.
Part 3 – Throwing Stones (Switzerland, November 13th 2004)
As the camera looks out through a barred window and the clock strikes four in a Swiss city, the death of Yasser Arafat provides the starting point for a journey back in time.
Part 4 – B & B (England, November 26th 2005)
The perception of an Anglo-American hotel room is coloured by new revelations about 'The War on Terror' and 'The Special Relationship' that exists between Britain and the USA.
Part 5 – Pyramids / Skunk (Netherlands, January 29th 2006 / January 29th 2007)
Hamas have just won the Palestinian elections and a chocolate bar in a Rotterdam hotel room eventually reminds the filmmaker that there are more important things going on in the world outside. Exactly one year later he returns to the same city and checks in at a very different hotel.
Part 6 – Dirty Pictures (Palestine, April 15th / 16th 2007)
Moving from one hotel in Bethlehem to another in East Jerusalem, the filmmaker encounters a series of problems involving a ceiling, a video camera and the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
Part 7 – Six Years Later (Ireland, October 20th 2007)
The filmmaker returns to the city where he made the first video in the series and looks back at the events of the past six years.
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