Dir: Andread Esteban
Review by Jack Wormell
A while ago I had a debate with a friend of mine about the term ‘sex’ and whether or not I thought the way she, as a lesbian, defined sex was the way I, as a straight man, defined sex. The intimate act that for her was having sex, when I have done with a woman, is not something I would define as ‘sex’. During the ensuing heated discussion I was smugly convinced I was coming from a position of pure logic: sex was the act of sexual intercourse as defined scientifically, you can’t argue with that; which is when a man and a woman…y’know. Man and a woman. It was probably around this point that looking sideways at myself I thought ‘God, Jack you sound like a socially conservative arse’. I returned again and again to the technical definition of ‘sex’ or ‘sexual intercourse’, this was my rock in a semantic storm, but I could see I was denying my friend and her sexual relationships the grand designation of ‘sex’, which was ludicrous (and of course she witheringly made this clear). I was no longer the permissive advocate I had pictured myself as. Hmmm.
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“DVD is made of rust, film of silver”…
(S8) Peripheral Film Festival (A Coruña, Spain) reaches the fourth edition of an amazing adventure which defends the small gauge film preservation.
The (S8) Peripheral Film Festival A Coruña reaches its fourth edition, establishing itself as a unique event in Spain, not only because of its aesthetic bet (and ethics), but as a survival model based on enthusiasm and rigor. Four years after setting up this “wonderful adventure”, the (S8) has earned a place in the list of the Spanish best cultural events of the year among other events such as the tour of Portishead in Spain in 2012, the PHotoEspaña 2012 (Madrid), Primavera Sound and the In-Edit Beefeater (Barcelona). Without going any further, the image of this fourth edition of the Mostra also represents the kind of people who keep the dream alive: Ümit, who from his small shop packed with Super 8 in London, depicts our utopia with that splendid motto: “DVD is made of rust, film of silver”: the noble material with which is invented and built the desired and potential reality that (S8) seeks.
“New angles. Audiovisual peripheries. This is what the (S8) is about; and not only Super 8… the (S8) relies on unpublished inedited resources originated by the audiovisual non-commercial explorative practice”. Alan Queipo, chief editor of www.notodo.com
Tate Modern, Cinémathèque Française, Georges Pompidou Centre, Harvard Film Archive, the Cinemateca Portuguesa and festivals like such as Xcéntric (CCCB, Barcelona), DocLisboa and (S8) ‘The New Monster’ session… Personal best list 2012 by Francisco Algarín coeditor and co-founder of Lumière.
“To discover Peter Kubelka movies on a big screen, whom I only knew from cinema related readings, has been the biggest filmic treasure, by far, that 2012 has left me. His film Arnulf Rainer (1960) is so universal, so original, that… I could have continued observing it in a loop until the end of time. Films like this, one in a million”. Víctor Paz Morandeira, chief editor and co-founder of A Cuarta Parede.
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by MARUXA RUIZ DEL ÁRBOL
Translation by Ana Penades
At the end of February, I saw for the first time real cinema, in 16mm and with two intervals to change-over to the next reel.
Like every last Thursday of the month, Ümit Mesut’s hands were in charge of giving life to an old roll of film.
Maruxa Ruiz del Árbol
That night it was On the Waterfront (1954), one of the films from the collection of the young filmmaker Liam Saint Pierre.
Ümit and Liam met each other by chance one year infront of Hackney City Farm and, during a drunken night, they put in place this magic initiative that offers the opportunity to discover the taste of the cinema in celluloid.
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A review of ‘The Plague’ by Jack Wormell
Some summers ago I was stuck in an interminable traffic jam going from the French Pyrenees into Spain to board a plane back to London. The grating slowness of this particular jam (we were stuck on that road for four hours) allowed me to closely examine the no-mans land of roundabouts, service stations, underpasses and agricultural land, which the motorway led us through, as well as the figures that populated it: us in our cars, truckers, and prostitutes loitering by the roadside (cigarette in hand, handbag hanging from their shoulder). ‘The Plague’ (Dir: Neus Ballús), which premiered a couple of weeks ago at the Berlinale 2013, takes place in such a landscape, an ‘edgeland’ as is the popular term now; neither city nor rural, the area in the film is for most people a passing landscape, glimpsed as they speed (or in my case crawl) through the fields and the concrete. This transient aspect is established early on when one of the central characters, Raul, walks from the quietude of his flat onto his balcony where an expansive motorway full of speeding lights dominates everything beneath him. And indeed there is a prostitute in the film – Maribel, who stands all day in the unforgiving sun, next to a fast road, waiting for customers. But work is scarce; ‘I can’t live on 20 Euros a day’, she tells Lurie, a Moldovan immigrant in a similar financial position as her.
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¨No man is an island, complete on itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the mainland. If a portion of the land should be washed away by the sea, Europe will rest diminished, as if it was a promontory, or the house of one of your friends, or even your own; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am attached to mankind; and therefore, never send someone to ask for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for you.”
(John Donne quoted by Ernest Hemingway in For whom the bell tolls)
Report by Covadonga G. Lahera from Transit: cine y otros desvíos.
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Article by Lola Clavo
Next week, on the BFI monthly strand Essential Experiments, it’s the turn for “Performing Sexuality”: a North American 60s experimental film tasting, revolving around the performance of sex and gender.
The three main films of the session are already part of the history of the purest underground experimental cinema, in its original meaning. The first one, Flaming Creatures (1963), is “father” of performing art and ground-breaking multidisciplinary artist Jack Smith’s most acclaimed film. The piece explores femininity as something performable, distorting clichés and gender establishments. Using as a clear aesthetic reference the silent cinema romance (with a personal camp touch), the film conducts us on a chaotic trip mix of dream and nightmare, where playing with “the feminine” (like applying lipstick or the fan) and the masculine body (using explicit genital shots under the skirt, for example) is a constant. It’s curious how some of the scenes, which make a clear reference to Spanish folklore, seem directly taken from some of the films that document Ocaña and Nazario’s (and friends) performances, which took place a few years later on the dying Franco’s Barcelona.
The second film is Ron Rice’s Chumlum (1964), a poetic film with surrealistic touches, mainly produced during the preproduction and shooting of Jack Smith’s feature Normal Love, in which Rice collaborated. Chumlum was young Ron Rice’s last film due to his death of pneumonia just a few months after finalizing it.
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Adventures and misadventures
of a naïf character inside a suffocating atmosphere
Interview by Cecilia Díaz
Let’s thank that nowadays there is a program such as DO (Denominació d’Origen, Guarantee of Origin), inside the Tv Locals’ Xarxa, that has as a goal and challenge to become a platform for new creators, holding and promoting audiovisual productions of quality and transgressing, both in shape and content. Every Sunday they bring us the chance to go into different stories in a mini-series format and, that way, to be able to discover new audiovisual talents.
That is the case of Van Velvet, young Argentinean film maker based in Barcelona, that premieres this Sunday Mariel, an experimental fiction micro-series, shot entirely in Super8, produced by LaCamara y XTVL, and co-produced by MAGOPRODUCTION. Thirteen episodes in rigorous black and white, settled in an industrial textile community, showcasing the rough life of Mariel, a young woman that gets involved in an obscure and unfathomable way into a series of misfortunes as a result of her naivety. A drama narratively soap-, but recounted from visual parameters characteristic of the vanguard cinema, that flirts with Black Cinema topics and chases, according to its creator, the idea of the light. In short, a piece of candy for that eager spectator that leaves TV for being impossible and doesn’t know how to come back to it. Maybe this previous full immersion in Mariel’s own universe through its creator, and following the classic parts of the tragedy, will end up convincing and encouraging the skeptics. There’s still light at the end of the tunnel.
‘The idea was to conceive Mariel’s own universe in a place stuck in time’
‘I was looking for an industrial place to make a photography project. In this process I found a web- consortium that unites 18 industrial communities in Llobregat. That idea of a factory with beds inside was caught my attention. My father had a factory and it always was remarkable to me how people would work for so many hours, they arrived at night and left at night and, what happened with life? From there I started to get a little obsessed with these communities and, researching, I found a lot of stories. At the same time, I’d been having in mind to do something in super8 for a while so, around this, I started a more plastic project and, one day, unintentionally, the need of telling something appeared. Mariel is, then, the result of an evolution of all these ideas, and of the way of tackling them. I presented the Project to the DO program of the XTVL and it was welcomed, but from my initial proposal of 7 episodes we went to 13, so everything became a little vertiginous from one day to the other. It was October and we had to start shooting in December,, we had to re-write and adapt the screenplay, the casting process, and adding the fact that each episode would open with a documentary prologue.
Even though Mariel’s story is completely fiction, the documentation process was essential. At that point, the historian Raquel Castellá helped me, but then there’s a moment where you grow apart from all that and say. “Now my fantasy starts, my fiction”, that obviously is supported by everything learnt. In that line, the sense of the prologues was to give the project an historic frame, so that, when watching the complete series, you could have a mental map of how the industrial community was formed, through some stories than took place there. They give the episodes that historic frame and, besides, tell an anecdote, giving a real experience to the fictional space that we will later see. Someone that has lived in that era, in an industrial community, will find features of the story they lived, but in the end the series always goes down to be fiction, that in this case is stronger than history itself.
The idea was to conceive a universe characteristic of a place stuck in time, without the pretension of being faithful to a certain time but based in an esthetic line, in this particular case the 40s. From there on, we modified it to achieve that particular universe of Mariel. The story takes place in an industrial community in the central part of Catalunya, in the river Llobregat bank. A place aside everything, with its own rules and a particular social structure. A grey place stuck in time. Mariel is a 23 years old orphan girl, sensual and innocent, that lives in the community convent. She has a monotonous life, works at the factory and goes to the Vocational School to learn how to be a good housewife. One day, leaving the factory, decides to go to the river and take a bath, willing to break the daily routine.
When she goes out of the water, she finds her clothes and lunchbox missing. Someone stole it. This situation unleash a series of dramatic events that take us to a tense and mysterious outcome that turns the plot in a circular myth.
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Review by Jack Wormell
Dir: Sean Durkin
UK Release: 3rd February
Just released this weekend is Sean Durkin’s Martha Marcy May Marlene and I’ve been unable to banish the rhythmic staccato of the title from my mind ever since I saw the trailer back at the end of December. It’s haunted me, fitting for a film whose titular character is certainly a haunted one. Reviewers have called Durkin’s film this years Winter’s Bone, due to the fact that both films take place in rural settings coursing with an undercurrent of violence, they both have strong lead performances from up-and-coming female actors and they both have the wiry John Hawkes playing a frightening back woods pyscho. In reality they are completely different films; where Winter’s Bone was about a girl overcoming the harsh odds stacked against her and her family, as well as documenting a particular way of life in a specific location (the Ozark Mountains in Missouri), Martha… details one girls loss of her identity and the fractured, haunted state she is left in. There is no familial heart to this film like in Winter’s Bone, although ironically Martha is caught between two different families; Martha… is a much more nightmarish vision of disintegration, one that is deeply affecting, powerful and scary.
The film is told through flashbacks, although you could argue that rather than dealing with past and present, the film’s structure parallels Martha’s (Elizabeth Olsen) mental state, caught as she is between the horror of her life on Patrick’s (John Hawkes) Catskills commune and her sister Lucy’s consumer lakeside haven in Connecticut; the two parallel narratives seem to play out simultaneously for Martha, precipitating her state of confusion, panic and despondency, flitting as she does between them. Martha’s face, in a brilliant performance by Olsen, has a remote expression that belies nothing, creating in her a mysterious obliqueness. This aspect of Olsen’s performance is one of the film’s strongest elements; Martha, although severely disturbed and fragile in many ways, is a strong character; at times she jovial and friendly with her sister Lucy (Sarah Paulson) and her husband Ted (Hugh Dancy) at other times she attacks their lifestyle, their unnecessarily large holiday home, their attachment to social rules such as wearing a swimming costume when swimming. Rather than playing her as a gibbering, fragile wreck (think Natalie Portman in Black Swan) Olsen gives Martha a lot more depth and inscrutability, which echoes the film as a whole. Even though what happens to Martha and what she witnesses on Patrick’s commune is horrific, we can still see the logic in her criticisms of Lucy and Ted’s attitudes; and this is less a discussion of two opposing ways of life, and more of an expression of Martha’s confusion, her inability to settle into normality because perhaps, part of her longs to be back at Patrick’s, ‘I am a teacher and a leader!’, she declaims to Lucy during an argument, practically quoting Patrick verbatim. The outcome of all of this is that internally Martha is desperately clawing around, searching for herself. This is the lasting affect that life at Patrick’s has had on her; he renames her (‘You look like more of a Marcy May’) and slowly breaks down her identity through his simultaneous charity, intimidation, and much worse.
Visually Durkin and D.O.P. Jody Lee Lipes tell the story with magnificent, edgy grace, playing constantly with the idea of identity and the face as a signifier of identity. At times they withhold characters faces from us by framing them out, to strange and disturbing affect, such as when Patrick teaches Martha to fire a gun in the forest, his face entirely in shadow; at this moment his solemn and seemingly charitable mask seems to slip and reveal his true nature. At other times faces are placed front and centre such as when Patrick sings his ‘Song For Marcy’; the camera holds on Martha’s face, allowing us to study it, seeing her expression change from surprise, to pleasure and affection as this enigmatic, rigorous and seemingly magnanimous man sings to her. It’s at moments like these that we sense Martha’s fragility; we see her falling into Patrick’s trap.
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Article by João Serejo, SFFL Festival Programmer.
This year we will be hosting the first Student Film Festival London (SSFL 3-5th Feb) and our goal is to fill in the gap between student filmmakers and the industry. As a just graduated Film Curator, I feel that there are loads of talented filmmakers out there that never get the opportunity to show their films or, if they eventually do, it is very hard for them to make that first step that allows them to be seen as more then just “fresh meat”. In an era of groundbreaking advancements in technology, we want to provide a platform that gives guidance and structure for their first steps.
While looking for universities and institutions, asking them to spread the word, to invite their students to submit their films, I came across ECAM – Escuela de Cinematografía y del Audiovisual de la Comunidad de Madrid. Bearing in mind the Spanish tradition in delivering cutting edge Arthouse cinema and also the fact that, until then, we did not had any submission from Buñuel’s homeland, it only felt right to invite them to show us their films.
Ismael Martín, responsible for ECAM’s promotion, sent us their 13th showcase of short films. From animation to fiction, the quality of this material really surprised me, not only for their provocative and even sometimes sarcastic plots, but also for the refined craft of their visuals. In the slot Out of Competition ‘Film School Focus’, we decided to celebrate this school from Madrid by showing our favorite films.
“Esto te pasa por barroco” Dir. Pablo Serrano
From a dramatic story of a couple on the verge of their nerves (no pun intended with Almodóvar’s masterpiece) to a mockumentary about a misunderstood vampire, not forgetting a very odd family or the so-hyped zombies phenomenon nowadays, we present over an hour of highly entertaining and engaging films, showcasing (we hope) a new generation of emerging Spanish filmmakers.
“La lavadora” Dir. Ana Aurora Rodríguez & Andrea Correa
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Review by Jack Wormell
Playing at the Institute of Contemporary Arts until the 9th February is The Nine Muses, the new film by John Akomfrah, he of Handsworth Songs (1986) fame, which detailed the effect of the Handsworth riots in Birmingham in the 1980’s, and founding member of the Black Audio Film Collective. The Nine Muses were the nine children of Zeus, lord of the Greek gods, and Mnemosyne, who was the personification of memory. These nine goddesses were the deities of the arts and sciences, such as Thalia, the muse of Comedy and Science or Urania, the muse of Astronomy. In his film of the same name, John Akomfrah uses these goddesses as a framework to investigate the immigrant experience in Britain, predominantly from the black point of view, although immigrants from the Indian sub-continent also feature.
Juxtaposing archive footage with footage shot in the snowy wastes of Alaska, it explicates a life of hardship and dislocation, a search for identity and a yearning for ones homeland. Three lonely figures individually trudge through an arctic landscape, sometimes stopping and staring out at the primeval wastes. The figures are hooded, wearing bright, single coloured jackets and goggles; in essence they are faceless, and they march through this frost bitten land looking for an identity, a world to live in. Interspersed throughout the film are readings from famous literary sources: we get the ‘To be or not to be…’ soliloquy from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, we get James Joyce and Samuel Beckett as well as John Milton and Dylan Thomas. Sometimes these readings create a dichotomy between image and sound; in one reading a voice celebrates England for being England, while we see images of separation, poverty and pensive looking immigrants, at other times they consolidate what we are seeing, reinforcing the mournful mood of the film. Just including these quotes creates a dichotomy as the majority of readings are from western, white literary figures. Did Akomfrah do this on purpose to create an even deeper sense of alienation? A particularly powerful quote speaks of setting out on a journey to reach a destination, only to realise that the journey itself is the destination. Like a curse, immigrants in Britain who have come seeking work and a home, a place to build a life, are doomed to be forever journeying, never settling. Akomfrah chooses his stock footage well to illustrate the permanent outsider status of the immigrant; at one point we see a tall black man crossing the road with his child, behind him white people seem to hold back as they also cross, as if they don’t want to get too close to the foreigner.
Through the stock imagery we journey through the last sixty years or so of the black migrant experience in Britain; old interviews, Enoch Powell’s right wing ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech, Paul Robeson, Leontyne Price singing ‘Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child’ (which speaks volumes in this film). We get a sense of the jobs that brought the immigrants over here and how those jobs gradually dried up, how racism spread, how holding onto one’s own identity became harder and harder. Akomfrah shows us an empty boat, half capsized in the icy waters.
The epic nature of the Alaskan landscape segments play well against the more informal reality shown in the stock footage, acting as a metaphor for the immigrants search in this colder, harsher land. It is a stark landscape of mainly white and blacks, and one that dwarfs the hooded figures, increasing the sense of dislocation. Even when occupying the same shot the figures are always looking away from one another, never connecting, just as the cars that drive by them seem like they don’t even realise the figures are there; these are forgotten people with no home. Akomfrah includes a reading of Emily Dickinson’s ‘Eden is that old fashioned house…’ to particularly poignant and quietly tragic effect, expounding the immigrants yearning for a home never appreciated enough when it was lived in. But the figures in the arctic landscape are not weak, they are searching and their full colour jackets present them as well defined figures against the landscape, strong in their step and never ending in their search.
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