Los Angeles-based Nina Menkes blends mysticism, a powerful feminist sensibility, and a gift for composing beautiful and striking images to make complex, compelling experimental narratives that often explore the intersection between sexuality and violence. She has referred to her filmmaking as a kind of sorcery and the hallucinatory feeling of her films gives the impression that they truly have been conjured rather then written in any traditional sense. Indeed, her films never have writing credits. Menkes, who produces, directs, and shoots all of her films, instead credits herself and her sister Tinka Menkes as co-conceivers and co-editors. Tinka Menkes also stars in her sister's films and her performances lend them a unique form of slow-burning intensity.
Nina Menkes' first full-length feature, Magdalena Viraga, which depicts the inner life of a prostitute who murders her pimp, was made while she was still in film school. It immediately won an award from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, paving the way for the numerous other awards and grants which allow her to continue to make films so uncompromising in structure and scope that producing them through commercial means would be impossible. Queen of Diamonds is a demanding but visually stunning portrait of an alienated Las Vegas blackjack dealer and the equally gorgeous The Bloody Child uses the murder of a Marine's wife in the California desert as the starting point for a hallucinatory meditation on violence.
While Menkes remains an underground figure, her films have garnered enthusiastic praise from critics and fellow filmmakers. She counts among her many admirers such independent film luminaries as Allison Anders (Gas Food Lodging) and Gus Van Sant (Good Will Hunting). It is perhaps ironic that Los Angeles, home of America's gargantuan film industry, is also home to Menkes, an artist whose work so resolutely refuses to conform to commercial standards.