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Masks of Illusion – An Experimental-Documentary Film by Bill Knowland

Filmmaker Bill Knowland works in a style that he calls “experimental-documentary.” Beyond acting as mere observer, he uses his full creative technique in interaction with his subject. 

By interpreting his subject, the work of artists from other media, Knowland creates a vibrant presentational form. 

MASKS OF ILLUSION presents the handcrafted masks of Bay Area sculptor Horace Washington. Knowland describes an abstract chain of images shown as “a trip through the catacombs of the artist’s mind.” From this boldly stated perspective, we see Aztec, East Indian, Afro-Haitian, and European cultures melded in dozens of stylized masks.

Filmmaker Bill Knowland portrays the many masks of sculptor Horace Washington through a variety of film effects. Three time Billboard award composer Ray Lynch wrote and performed the original score for this film.

Masks of clay, cast cement, bronze and porcelain twist, zoom, spin and streak across the screen. Yet the many cinematic and optical effects used comprise more than typical avant-garde mysteriousness. The images are arrayed in a logical universe that conveys Knowland’s theories on creativity.

There’s a destructive side to the artistic act,” Knowland explains. “New ideas and works are constantly built upon the disintegration of your past processes.” In one scene, a mask melts before our eyes and the molten droplets become tiny masks. In a “big bang” effect, a clay mask explodes and then implodes into the sculptor’s hand.

(L to R) Bill Knowland, Steve Mobia and Horace Washington prepare exploding mask sequence.

MASKS OF ILLUSION is an impressive interaction of unique creative visions. As a work of art and as a documentary, it succeeds on its own terms.
–Carson Duper


Bucks County Film Festival
Kinetic Image Film Festival
National Educational Film Festival
New York Filmmakers’ Exposition
Whitney Museum of American Art

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