David Dixon is dead. is a documentary of past events and of events that have yet to come; hence, it is a fiction, but a fiction built solidly on the real-life public declaration by its maker, David Dixon, which states that after his death his head should be removed from his body and cleaned to the skull, the skull then included in an art piece. The film explores the implications of this declaration, going so far as to kill its maker, opening the film to a fictive future where the filmmaker's father comes to New York City to deal with his son's final dispensation. While in the son's studio the father gets to know his son's life through watching fragments of documentary video that have been left behind, one of which is Dixon traveling to Oklahoma City to interview the employees of Skulls Unlimited, a family run company that deals in bones. In this documentary fragment the ethics and legalities of Dixon’s proposal are discussed, and Skulls Unlimited is asked if they would be willing to clean Dixon's skull after he dies. Other documentary fragments are of the fabulous NYC wedding of infamous club kid Ladyfag (whom New York Press named "Queen of the Scene") as well as the spectacular musicianship of Grammy winning composer Fernando Otero. David Dixon is dead. is a film about mortality that is anything but morose; rather, its vigorous "meta/hybrid" structure alone affirms: if there is no longer life after death, at least there is life left in cinema.


Doug Barron as the Father

Dan Snow as the Slave Trader/ Malevolent Messiah

Ladyfag as herself

Fernando Otero as himself

David Dixon as the Son

Director’s Statement:

After seeing the ancestral skulls of the Asmat people at the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris, I had the distinct desire to posses my own recently deceased mother’s skull.  Frightening images of Hitchcock’s Psycho immediately came to mind, but after some research into traditions of death ritual I came to understand that my desire was not so perverse, nor so distant.  As recently as the early 20th century, Christian missionaries were still eliminating the practice of ancestral skull veneration in central Africa and New Guinea.  David Dixon is dead. takes as a starting point the revival of ancestral skull preservation as an option for our own secular culture. 

I was born in 1968, the year Roland Barthes wrote his famous essay ‘Death of the Author’, making artist/authors of my generation the first to be, paradoxically, born dead.  Therefore, it is not coincidental that it should be left to us to develop new paradigms of death ritual.  Currently, it is culturally acceptable to preserve and collect human skulls that are to be used as specimens for “disinterested” scientific investigation.  My work expands this established norm by maintaining a relationship between the skull and its specific lived history – its identity – with the expressed hope that respect fostered by close proximity to the dead could undermine inhumanity in life.

**David Dixon is dead. won Best Feature Film in the 2012 Queens World Film Festival.


Ithaca Times

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