Artists’ Cinema, the film programme running parallel to the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, showcases art films, documentaries, and feature films from across the world in packages curated by filmmakers and film scholars. The first edition of Artists’ Cinema was put together by 12 curators, with 163 films screened over a period of 100 days. The 2016 edition of Artists’ Cinema had 9 curators and several institutional collaborations such as Forum Expanded of Berlin International Film Festival, Lux- Scotland, and National Film Archives of India among others.
KOCHI-MUZIRIS BIENNALE 2018 PROGRAMME
Curated by Anita Dube
I Can’t Sleep (1994) dir. Claire Denis
I Am Not Your Negro (2017) dir. Raoul Peck
Ghode Ko Jalebi Khilane Le Ja Riya Hoon (2018) dir. Anamika Haksar
Laurence Anyways (2012) dir. Xavier Dolan
Muktir Gaan (1995) dir. Tareque Masud and Catherine Masud
Curated by Chris Dercon
Jardin-Theatre Bestiarium dir. Gilles Coudert
Repetitions dir. Marie Andre, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker
Die Afrikanische Frau dir. Alexander Kluge
The Coming Society dir. Susanne Kennedy, Richard Janssen
Roi Soleil dir. Albert Serra
A Letter to Uncle Boonmee dir. Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Casanova Gene dir. Luise Donschen
Guards dir. Hito Steyerl
Curated by Faisal Khan
January 14, 2019
Kaiser: The Greatest Footballer Never to Play Football dir. Louis Myles
Forever Pure dir. Maya Zinshtein
Sudani from Nigeria dir. Zakariya Mohammed
Just Charlie dir. Rebekah Fortune
17 dir. Widad Shafakoj
YOUNG MALAYALAM CINEMA
Curated by CS Venkiteswaran
January 20, 2019
Aedan dir. Sanju Surendran
Bilathikuzhal dir. Vinu Kolichal
Sleeplessly Yours dir. Gautham Soorya & Sudeep Elamon
Eeda dir. B Ajithkumar
Ee Ma You dir. Lijo Jose Pellissery
Prathibhasam dir. Vipin Vijay
S Durga dir. Sanalkumar Sasidharan
CONTEMPORARY VIETNAMESE CINEMA
Curated by Shweta Kishore
February 1, 2019
Vietnam The Movie dir. Nguyen Trinh Thi
Letters from Panduranga dir. Nguyen Trinh Thi
Love Man Love Woman dir. Nguyen Trinh Thi
On the Endless Road dir. Siu Pham
The City of Mirrors dir. Trương Minh Quý
Mars in the Well dir. Trương Minh Quý
My Father, the Last Communist dir. Đoàn Hồng Lê
Summer! Attention! dir. Lê Thu Minh
DOCUMENTATION IN DIGITAL HUMANITIES
Curated by Li Zhenhua
There’s a Strong Wind in Beijing dir. Ju Anqi
Poet on a Business Trip dir. Ju Anqi
I am Chinese dir. Shen Shaomin
The Swim dir. He Xiangu
Ms. Fang (2017) dir. Wang Bing
SHOWCASING THE WOMEN IN CINEMA COLLECTIVE
Curated by Bina Paul
Counterfeit Kunkoo Dir. Reema Sengupta, 2018, 15 mins, Hindi
Aabhasam Dir. Jubith Namradtah, 2018, 121 mins, Malayalam
Happy Journey Dir. Anjali Menon, 2009, 14 mins, Malayalam
Makal Dir. Revathy, 2009, 14 mins, Malayalam
Manhole Dir. Vidhu Vincent, 2017, Malayalam
Nilam Dir. Vineeth Vasudevan, 2015, 4 mins, Malayalam
Maya Dir. Anirudha Roy Choudhary, 2018, 20 mins, Bengali
Chembai, my discovery of a legend Dir. Soumya Sadanandan, 2017, 36 mins, Malayalam
7.6 Richter Dir. Jeeva, 2018, Malayalam, 72 mins
Ore Udal Dir: Asha Joseph, 2017, 23 mins, Malayalam
Liars Dice Dir: Geethu Mohandas, 2013, Hindi, 104 mins
Pandibhojanam Dir. Sreebala Menon, 2009, 25 mins, Malayalam
Davidji Code Dir. Fowzia Fathima, 2019, 23 mins, Malayalam
Sword of Liberty Dir. Shiny Benjamin, 2017, 52 mins, Malayalam
SELECTIONS FROM NATIONAL FILM ARCHIVE OF INDIA
Democracy & Film: Multiple Gazes, Diverse Vantage Points
Curated by Rakesh Sharma
17 to 19 March 2017, 6:30 pm, Pavilion, Cabral Yard, Fort Kochi
March 17: Voices from India’s Heart – the Tribal lands
1. The Hunt directed by Biju Toppo (2015), 27 minutes
2. A Short Term Memory of Atrocity directed by Javed Iqbal and Bastar Collective (2015), 35 minutes
3. Encountering Injustice: The Case of Meena Khalko directed by Bastar Collective (2015), 18 minutes
4. Meanwhile the Killings Continue: The Encounter at Rewali directed by Bastar Collective (2015), 17 minutes
Followed by Discussion with Biju Toppo, Malini Subramaniam, Rinchin and Maheen Mirza
March 18: Women on Violence and Peace
1. Khoon Diy Baarav (Blood Leaves Its Trail) directed by Iffat Fatima (2015), 90 minutes
2. Where Should The Birds Fly directed by Fida Qishta (2013), 58 minutes.
Followed by discussion with Iffat Fatima, Moderated by C S Venkiteswaran
March 19: The Violence of Intolerance
1. Kairana: After the Headlines directed by Nakul Sawhney (2016), 27 minutes
2. Final Solution Revisited directed by Rakesh Sharma (under production), 35 minutes
3. Going Gonzo: Independence Day by Falah Faisal and others (2016), 36 minutes
4. Dalit Camera shorts, 20 min
Followed by Discussion with Rakesh Sharma, Nakul Sawhney, Venkat Ravichander and Mriduladevi Sasidharan of Dalit Camera
Moderated by C S Venkiteswaran
Opening week films of Artists' Cinema
Marathi/Hindi/India/2016/96 mnts/with English Subtitles
A documentary feature by Shirley Abraham & Amit Madheshiya
Friday 16th December 6:30 pm, Pavilion, Cabral Yard, Fort Kochi.
Cannes prize-winning The Cinema Travellers is a journey with the traveling cinemas of India, which bring the wonder of the movies to faraway villages annually. Seven decades on, as their lorries and cinema projectors crumble and film reels become scarce, their audiences are lured by slick digital technology. Filmed over five years, The Cinema Travellers accompanies a shrewd exhibitor, a benevolent showman and a maverick projector mechanic who bear a beautiful burden – to keep the last traveling cinemas of the world running.
Special Jury Prize, L’Oeil d’or: Cannes Film Festival (Official Selection)
Grand Jury Award for Documentary: New Hampshire Film Festival
Young Critics’ Choice Award: Mumbai Film Festival
Special Jury Award, India Gold: Mumbai Film Festival
Best Documentary: Batumi International Art House Film Festival
Golden Orchid Award for Best Documentary: Hawaii International Film Festival
Directed by Stephen Page
Sunday 18th December 7:00 pm, Pavilion, Cabral Yard, Fort Kochi
Spear is a contemporary Aborginal story, told through movement and dance, of a young man Djali as he journeys through his community to understand what it means to be a man with ancient traditions in a modern world. Spanning from the outback of Australia to the gritty city streets of Sydney, Spear is a poignant reflection of the continuing cultural connection of Indigenous people. Spear is an intimate journey with Stephen Page, one of Australia’s most celebrated artists, as he brings this modern day mythological story to the screen.
Awards & Festivals
Asia Pacific Screen Awards, Brisbane 2015
Adelaide Film Festival 2015
Toronto International Film Festival 2015
Soz – A Ballad of Maladies
Directed by Tushar Madhav & Sarvnik Kaur
Monday, 19th December 6:30 pm, Pavilion, Cabral Yard
Rhythm and Blues of Kashmir valley: from traditional poetry and Sufiyana Mosuqi to modern hip hop; negotiating questions of survival, expression and resistance deeply embroiled in the complex conflict of Kashmir.
Of folk, rock and hip-hop, ‘A Ballad of Maladies’ is a portrait of different cultural practitioners whose work engages with the political upheavals and its social costs in contemporary Kashmir. The film is a glance into the collective memory of a people and the expressions of its history to understand the emerging voices of resistance and their resonance in the world’s most militarized zone. In a journey through the metamorphoses of Kashmir’s traditional art practices into its contemporary arts of resistance, the film unfolds a transformed cultural fabric of the valley, which departs from the notion of Kashmir as a paradise’.
Kinetic Power Called Caste
A package of films on caste life in Kerala curated by Dr. C S Venkiteswaran
December 23, 24, 25 & 26
Kerala, considered to be an internationally acclaimed ‘model of development’, prides itself as ‘progressive’ in its outlook and egalitarian in it socio-economic policies. A long tradition of vibrant social reform movements, and the spread of socialist and communist ideas especially during the early part and middle of last century, all contributing towards the making of Kerala’s secular, democratic fabric. In public discourses Kerala society appears as if it has cleansed itself of the vestiges of caste discrimination. But what is the reality of caste in Kerala today? One gets a feeling that, in contemporary Kerala society and polity, caste is an underground river that is invisible on the surface and unutterable in public discourse, but very much alive and flowing, feeding everything above the ground. These films probe at caste life and life of caste in Kerala society today.
Curiously, all of them are road movies and their narratives unfold during the course of a day. What is it that prompts these young filmmakers – three of them debutants – to structure their narrative in the immediacy of space and the real flow of time? Most probably because the intricate and subtle workings of caste in Kerala society today can only be captured ‘on the move’ and in its instantaneity, as it has been formally erased from surfaces, and officially overcome in public and formal exchanges. In these narratives, we find the curious lives of caste surging and overflowing through every fissure in the social fabric and gaps in the very real power hierarchies that hold Kerala society and economy together. Caste in Kerala works as a kinetic power, not visible or charged in its static states, but very much at work in any move or movement – social, political or economic.
India/2015/100 min/Malayalam with English subtitles
Directed by Shanavas Naranipuzha
Gopukesav Menon, an upper-caste Hindu, and Bilal a Muslim, travel from south Kerala to the north to visit the house of Dineshan, a member of the scheduled caste, where preparations are on for an offering to a nearby temple in the form of a mythical dance named karinkaliyattam (karie). Dineshan is an employee of Gopu, who runs an establishment in the Gulf.
Through Gopu’s and Bilal’s journey and meetings with several people on the way, the caste map of Kerala, in all its cruel, discriminatory manifestations, come to the fore.
India/2015/106 min/Malayalam with English subtitles
Directed by Sanalkumar Sasidharan
The film opens on the high-pitched noise and bustle of the last day of an election campaign in a small town in Kerala. It being a holiday, a group of five friends decide to spend the day in a remote building. The film focuses on the group as they indulge in all sorts of banter that one normally associates with the Malayali male populace. The film thus becomes a journey into their innards, their primal instincts and bestial nature.
India/2016/76 min/Malayalam with English subtitles
Directed by Ranjit Chittade
James, a taxi driver in Wayanad, hesitantly takes up a driving assignment on Easter, when he should be spending his day with his family. He is an ambitious young man like any other settler whose roots are shallow, and always on the lookout for opportunities to make quick profits. This road movie through the winding ghat roads of Wayanad takes the viewer on a poignant journey though the most ravaged of landscapes in Kerala – whose natural wealth and beauty is being systematically plundered and its cultural identity and historical depth denied any expression.
India/2016/100 min/Malayalam with English subtitles
Directed by Saji Palamel Sreedharan
The film begins with the death of Kunjikkoru Master, a freedom fighter, thinker, teacher and Sanskrit scholar belonging to the dalit community in Kerala. In a state that swears allegiance to secular ethos,democratic values and egalitarian ideals, caste slowly creeps in, taking the form of denial of respect and honour for the departed’s contributions to society, proving false the dictum that ‘six feet of earth makes us all equal’.
Tangentially Speaking - A Slice of Young Malayalam Cinema
December 29, 30, 31, January 1, 2 & 3
This package presents young filmmakers from Kerala going beyond the dictates of the market, experimenting with daring themes and fresh narrative styles probing the undercurrents in contemporary Kerala. Working beyond the confines of mainstream cinema, formulae and industry ‘norms’, these films extend the horizons of film language and propose certain tangents that interrogate our taken-for-granted lifestyles.
India/2015/92 min/Malayalam with English subtitles
Directed by P S Manu
Keshu, a wayward but loving youngster and his father come to their ancestral home in Munroe Island where Keshu’s grandfather lives with Kathu, the maid. Keshu’s father wants to take him for proper psychological treatment, but the grandfather doesn’t support the idea, instead insisting that his grandson stays back in the island and liberally plan his future. With the father gone, the grandfather tries to develop a genuine intimacy with Keshu by giving him more space. But the space he can afford to give proves too little as Keshu simply defines freedom to extreme limits.
India/2015/83 min/Malayalam with English subtitles
Directed by S Sunil
The protagonist of ‘Marubhagam’ is a drifter whose name is not revealed in the film, who apparently floats through life, people and surroundings. The film unfolds over a period of days in his life, where a number of incidents at work and personal life evoke memories and dreams. Ensconced in his own silences and ethical conflicts, rarely does ‘he’ react or respond to things; but his muted but turbulent inner life is constantly in conflict with the outside world, which constantly demands polemical stances, ready opinions, and readymade answers.
India/2016/97 min/ Malayalam with English subtitles
Directed by Santhosh & Satish Babusenan
Young Akhil lives with his old and crippled father. The two share a difficult relationship, because of the father’s meddlesome, domineering ways. Akhil decides to elope with his girlfriend Nina . But his last day at home doesn’t turn out the way he had planned it.
India/2016/118 min/Malayalam with English subtitles
Directed by Saheer Ali
This film is a journey into the musical tradition of Kochi, where cultures and religions, art and commerce from different parts of the world mingled, mixed and bloomed. The film follows the life and times of H Mehboob, one of the legendary singers and musicians from Kochi whose music transcended the barriers of religion, caste and class.
India/2016/99 min/Malayalam with English subtitles
Directed by KC Cherian
Three young people, Haris, a free-spirited gay painter; Vishnu, a rural kabaddi player and Haris’ object of desire; and their friend Sia, an activist who refuses to conform to dominant norms of femininity, struggle to find space and happiness.
India/2016/85 min/Malayalam with English subtitles
Directed by Vidhu Vincent
The film chronicles the struggles of Shalini, daughter of a manual scavenger to overcome the social exclusion enforced on her by her caste identity. Manhole, the title of the film, becomes a metaphor for Shalini’s predicament.
C S Venkiteswaran is a film critic and documentary film-maker based in Thiruvananthapuram. He has won numerous state and national awards awards for criticism, including the National Award for Best Film Critic in 2009. His publications include A Door to Adoor (editor), Udalinte Tarasancharangal, Malayala Cinema Padanangal and Cinema Talkies.
January 6, 6:30 PM
The Die is Caste
January 7, 8, 9, & 10, 2017
Cry, the beloved country
Indian lives in several centuries at the same time, as filmmaker Shyam Benegal once observed. The more modern India becomes, the more caveman-like Indians become, it seems. India launched the Mangalyaan space probe to orbit Mars, our software giants have conquered the world, and our 220 million smartphone users have surpassed US figures. Yet, the newspapers are full of reports of caste atrocities, like Rohith Vemula, the 26-year-old Dalit PhD scholar, who committed suicide in Hyderabad Central University, following oppression by upper castes. Indian Taliban flourish: Parents arrange honour killings when their children marry into the ‘wrong’ caste, villages are burnt, authors like Perumal Murugan are suppressed; Eramangalathu Chitralekha, a Dalit woman who drove an autorickshaw in Kannur, Kerala, had it destroyed twice in 2013 and 2016. There were 47,064 crimes registered against scheduled castes and 11,451 against scheduled tribes in 2014.
We present a powerful package of films and music performances on burning caste issues from all over the country, that explores why caste continue to tick in a modern, globalised India, and the future of caste in India. Bikas Mishra’s Chauranga (Four Colours, Hindi), Nagraj Manjule’s Sairat (Wild, Marathi), BV Karanth’s Chomana Dudi (Chomas’ Drum, Kannada) and John Abraham’s Agraharathil Kazhuthai (Donkey in a Brahmin Village, Tamil) explore how caste is experienced—and fought—in different parts of the country. They tackle a range of issues, from love, education and landlessness, to religious conversions, superstition and music. The music performances, by accomplished artists from marginalized communities nationwide—Manimaran from Chennai performing the Parai, Bant Singh from Punjab singing protest songs, and Karinthalakkoottam from Thrissur, whose songs question caste practices so common, that we scarcely notice them. Nobody will forget Sairat’s climax, in which a child –the next generation–races out terrified by an atrocity, its tiny footprints red with blood. Cry, the beloved country! A time to think, be entertained, provoked, and reflect on what we have become as Indians, and what we want our children to be.
Saturday, January 7th
CHAURANGA (FOUR COLOURS)
6.30pm, January 7
India/2014/88 min/Kortha dialect with English subtitles
Directed by Bikas Mishra
When young, lower caste Santu demands to go to school like his brother Bajrangi, and falls in love with an upper-caste schoolgirl, it can only mean trouble. The upper caste landlord married with a family, sexually exploits Santu’s mother who hopes he will help her children get educated. Caste continues to hold India in a boa constrictor’s grip: the lower castes, when not exploited for labour and sex, are casually discarded or killed if inconvenient. The sexual undercurrents of the blind priest makes one shudder long after. Produced by Anticlock Films, Surya Ventures, Drishyam and NFDC, the film’s prizes include the Grand Jury Prize (Best Feature), Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles, and Best Film, India Gold, Mumbai Film Festival.
Screening to be followed by music performance and Q/A moderated by Meenakshi Shedde.
9 pm: Performance by Manimaran, Parai artist and social activist from Chennai, his singer-wife Magizhini Manimaran, and their sons Samaran and Iniyan. Parai expert and composer Manimaran has a Buddhar Kalai Kuzhu (Buddha Art Group) folk troupe, which tries to dismantle caste through music and dance. The Parai is an ‘open drum’ with cowhide stretched on one side of a circular frame. While Parai percussion is popularly associated with the low castes, Manimaran is feistily moving it mainstream, teaching it in corporation schools, and at ‘Spaces’ in Chennai. Magizhini, his wife, is a playback singer for Tamil films. They have performed in the US, Singapore and Malaysia.
6pm, January 8
India/2016/174 min/Marathi with English subtitles
Directed by Nagraj Manjule
Sairat is that rare film on caste, whose story comes from the director’s lived experience. Opening at the Berlin Film Festival, it won critical acclaim and was a sensational box office hit. Parshya, a low caste, teenage village boy, pays a terrible price for falling in love with the upper caste Archie, with a climax that socks you in the solar plexus. Manjule goes mainstream with song and dance. His feminist film proposes that when women get power, it will tend to dismantle caste. Produced by Zee Studios and Aatpat Production, Rinku Rajguru won a National Film Award Special Mention. Sairat Marriage Groups have sprouted in Maharashtra to help eloped lovers.
Screening to be followed by music performance and Q/A with Bant Singh, moderated by Meenakshi Shedde.
9.30 pm: Bant Singh, a Dalit farm labourer, activist and extraordinary protest singer from Punjab, will perform, along with his daughter Bajlit Kaur. Bant Singh sings revolutionary songs of protest, and the fight for equality. He lost both arms and a leg when savagely attacked by upper-caste Jats, for daring to file a court case when his then minor daughter was gang-raped. Remarkably, a low caste man could actually get justice against upper castes in modern India, as he succeeded in having the culprits sentenced to life imprisonment. His spirit unbroken, he has become a symbol of resistance in Punjab, he continuing his fight for equality and dignity for millions like him.
CHOMANA DUDI (CHOMA’S DRUM)
6.30pm, January 9
India / 1975 / 141 min / Kannada with English subtitles
Directed by B V Karanth
This classic film, based on K Shivarama Karanth’s novel of the same name, is about the untouchable bonded labourer Choma, whose dream is to till his own land. But custom forbids him from owning or tilling his own land, which means he cannot repay his debts to the landlord, despite owning two buffaloes he found in the forest. His family disintegrates: two sons die (one drowns as Brahmins refuse to touch him), and the third converts to Christianity. His daughter sleeps with the landlord, hoping to redeem his debt. Choma dies shattered and lonely, beating his drum till the end. Produced by Praja Films, the film won three National Awards–for Best Film, Best Actor Vasudeva Rao and Best Story by K Shivarama Karanth.
AGRAHARATHIL KAZHUTHAI (DONKEY IN A BRAHMIN VILLAGE)
6.30pm January 10
India / 1977 / 90 min / Tamil with English subtitles
Directed by John Abraham
A stinging classic from John Abraham, Kerala’s cult, avant garde filmmaker. It is his second feature and only film in Tamil. Abraham takes on Brahminical bigotry and superstition in this satire. When a baby donkey strays into an upper caste Brahmin village, Prof Narayanaswami adopts it. Ridiculed by the upper castes, he asks a mute maid Uma to look after it. When Uma’s stillborn baby is found outside the temple, the donkey is blamed and killed. The guilty priests now worship the donkey and ritually burn its corpse, but the fire engulfs the entire village, except the professor and Uma. The Brahmins tried to ban it, but the film, produced by Nirmiti Films, won the National Award.
Screening to be followed by music performance and Q/A with Karinthalakkoottam, folk music group from Thrissur, Kerala. Moderated by Meenakshi Shedde.
9 pm: Performed by Karinthalakkoottam, folk music group from Thrissur, Kerala. Karinthalakkoottam is an ethno-music and folklore study group. An 18-member troupe will perform, led by PR Remesh, an employee of the state road transport corporation, who won the Kerala Folklore Award for folk music. Their repertoire includes songs questioning caste and untouchability, working class farming songs, and songs of aboriginal communities like the Parayas and Pulayas. “When we dance the ‘theyyam’ we are your gods, but once we remove our theyyam ornaments and dresses, we are sent beyond the fence,” goes one of their songs. Traditionally, while the men sing, the women dance with their hair loose, and Karinthalakkoottam means ‘the group dancing with its long, black hair.’
Meenakshi Shedde is South Asia Consultant to the Berlin and Dubai International Film Festivals, based in Mumbai. Winner of India’s National Award for Best Film Critic, she has been on the jury of the Cannes, Berlin and Venice festivals. She has been India/Asia Curator/Consultant since 18 years to festivals worldwide, including the Toronto, Locarno, Busan, IFFI-Goa, Kerala, Mumbai and Colombo Film Festivals, and is on the APSA Nominations Council, Brisbane. A journalist for 30 years, she freelances for Variety, Screen, Cahiers du Cinema, Forbes, Midday, CNN-News18 and news18.com. A Mentor on Film Critics’ Labs and Script Labs worldwide, she has been Script Consultant to the Locarno Film Festival, Mumbai Mantra-Sundance Screenwriters’ Lab and NFDC. She has also written for 15 books.
The curator would like to acknowledge with thanks many people, without whose generous support we could not organise this programme, including Onir and Sanjay Suri of Anticlock Films, Zee Studios, Nishant Roy Bombarde, Nagraj Manjule, Aatpat Production, Ashok Suvarna, V Lakshmikanth of Total Kannada, Prakash Magdum, Director, National Film Archive of India, Pune, and Kiran Dhiwar (NFAI), Shaina Anand, Sadanand Menon, Reena Agrawal, Karthikeya Prabu, Jeeva Giridharan, Nirupama Dutt, Shellee, Neha Arora, Bandhu Prasad and Vijeesh Lal AV.
Three Films by Rajeev Ravi
Annayum Rasoolum – January 20
A tale in the mould of a classical love story set to a backdrop of Kochi’s dark underbelly. Rasool (Fahadh Faasil) is a taxi driver, a lucrative career option for under-educated youngsters in Kerala, while his friends lead a life on the edge to make a quick buck. Anna (Andrea Jeremiah) is a salesgirl in an upmarket garment store. The love story takes shape during their boat rides from Vypeen to the city, but the narrative is about life on the margins of mainstream society.
India/2014/116 mins/MalayalamThis film, set in Thiruvananthapuram and starring Farhaan Faasil in the titular role, is about loss of innocence as teenage college student Steve begins to see life in all its murky hues after a number of incidents push him into taking off the rose-tinted glasses. Alcohol, drugs and social media addiction share space with a budding romance as Steve finds life isn’t smooth sailing.
India/2016/180 mins/MalayalamThe film is a hard look at unchecked urbanization set in Kammatipaadam, a slum locality in Ernakulam. The narrative – told via flashbacks experienced by Krishnan (Dulquer Salmaan), a former petty criminal who returns to the city from Mumbai – is woven around the plight of the Dalit community, which was forced to give over their lands to the real-estate mafia.
Water Wets Sari, Sharira and Cinema Too!
The Indian Cinerotica
Indian Cinema: A Female Narrative
In the year when Hollywood has revealed that only 4% women work behind the camera, it is interesting to look at our own cinema and see how the female presence has worked. The films will look at work of women in Indian Cinema and its historical context and examine if these films did anything to the narrative of cinema in India.
Bina Paul is a film editor who has been a part of the film industry for more than two decades. She has worked with leading filmmakers in India and has won several state and national awards for editing. Bina has also served as the Artistic Director of the International Film Festival of Kerala for the past ten years, Senior Editor at Center for the Development of Imaging Technology in Thiruvananthapuram and is currently the Regional Director of the LV Prasad Film School in Thiruvananthapuram. She has also served on film juries at several international festivals.
February 9th: Parched directed by Leena Yadav/118 mnts
(Q & A with Leena Yadav and Bina Paul after the screening)
February 10th: Beyond the Wheel directed by Rajula Shah /59 mnts
Panthibhojanam directed by Sreebala K Menon/20 mnts
February 11th: Manjadikkuru (Lucky Red Seeds) directed by Anjali Menon/133 mnts
February 12th: Scribbles on Akka directed by Madhusree Dutta / 60 mnts
Daily 6:30 pm onward
Where Documentary meets the Political Popular: Cinema in the Wake of Kamal Swaroop
Feb 16-18, 2017
Kamal Swaroop effectively hit the Indian film scene with his now-classic Om Dar-b-Dar. Made in 1988, true to its own preoccupations, the film was reborn a decade later as a cult classic. He was known already by then to many as an artistic savant, scenarist and writer extraordinaire, and the conscience-keeper of the cinematic independent. Part of the cult following that Kamal Swaroop enjoys is to do with autobiography, subjective memories and history, and the popular as the privileged site for hard and contentious sagas of birth, death, violence and compassion.
This section of Artists’ Cinema is a tribute to Kamal Swaroop and is planned around the first public screening in India of Battle of Benares (2014). This documentary epic, about the primal political fight between Narendra Modi and Arvind Kejriwal, also continues the Swaroop persona has entered his own film frame as the wanderer: originally entering in Rangbhoomi (2013), which is also on display, and continuing in his film Tracing Phalke (2013).
Parallel screenings of younger filmmakers includes a special focus on Renu Savant. We have the first-ever public screening of Savant’s epic four-hour documentary Many Months in Mirya. The filmmaker spent several months in her native village making what she calls a ‘whimsical ethnographic documentary’, an effort at ‘documenting time’ in her native village of Mirya on the coast of Konkan, Maharashtra. It also includes Savant’s 2014 student film Aranyak: a remarkable whirl of intersecting stories of young men, women, nature, drying rivers, industrial pollution and science fiction.
There is a special presentation of student films at the Film & Television Institute of India that Swaroop directly mentored. We show Pranjal Dua’s extraordinary Chidiya Udh (2014), Prantik Basu’s Makara (2013) and Satinder Bedi’s Kamakshi (2015)
11:00 am: Makara directed by Prantik Basu/20 min/2013
11.30 am: Chidiya Udh directed by Pranjal Dua/20 min/2014
12.00 noon: Kamakshi directed by Satindar Singh Bedi/25 min/2015
3:00 pm: Aranyak directed by Renu Savant, 20 min/2014
4:00 pm: Many Months in Mirya directed by Renu Savant/240 min/2017 (World Premiere)
2:00 pm: Tracing Phalke directed by Kamal Swaroop/105 min/2015
4:00 pm: Om Dar-b-dar directed by Kamal Swaroop/101 min/1988
6:00 pm: Rangbhoomi directed by Kamal Swaroop/80 min/2013
6:00 pm: Atul directed by Kamal Swaroop/52 min/2017
7:00 pm: Battle for Benares directed by Kamal Swaroop/133 min/2014
Ashish Rajadhyaksha is a film historian. He co-edited the Encyclopaedia of Indian Cinema (1999) with Paul Willemen, and is the author of Indian Cinema in the Time of Celluloid: From Bollywood to the Emergency (2009). He has curated a number of film and art events, including Bombay-Mumbai 1992-2001 for Century City: Art & Culture in the Modern Metropolis (with Geeta Kapur, 2001, Tate Modern), Memories of Cinema (IV Guangzhou Biennial, 2011) and You Don’t Belong, a major festival of Indian documentary, video and fiction films shown in several cities in China (2011).
Marupakkam - The Other Side
About the Curator
Amudhan R.P. is based in Chennai, is a documentary filmmaker, media activist and an obsessive festival organiser. Among his 19 films are a trilogy each on Caste, Nuclear Radiation and Development. Amudhan founded Madurai International Documentary and Short Film Festival in 1998 and has been organizing it every year since then along with local artists, filmmakers, writers, teachers, students and activists.
Antiphon presented by LUX Scotland
Curated by Nicole Yip for LUX Scotland and presented with the support of the British Council Scotland. With thanks to LUX.
Friday 3 March, 6:30 PM
- Duncan Marquiss, Evolutionary Jerks & Gradualist Creeps, 2016, HD video, 38 min
- Copy Errors, curated by Duncan Marquiss, 34 min
Total running time: 72 min
A screening of Duncan Marquiss’ recent documentary film Evolutionary Jerks & Gradualist Creeps (2016), which considers analogies and differences between the cultural and biological realms. Comparing the history of life within the fossil record with the evolution of popular music, the film takes patterns of evolution as cues for image-making and editing structures. This film is presented alongside Copy Errors, Marquiss’ curated programme of research material and archival films that informed the development of Evolutionary Jerks & Gradualist Creeps.
Saturday 4 March, 6:30 PM
- Duncan Marquiss, Late Cinema, 2009, HD video, 6 min
- Duncan Marquiss, Midday, 2011, HD video, 3 min
- Duncan Marquiss, Midgie Noise from Video Artefacts, 2008, HD video, 2 min
- Duncan Marquiss, Search Film, 2015, HD video, 23 min
Total running time: 34 min
A programme of films by artist Duncan Marquiss from the last nine years, revealing shifts in style and execution. This body of work ranges from the material experimentation of his flicker films, to recent documentary videos that stem from his interest in biology.
The screening will be following by a Q&A with Duncan Marquiss and Nicole Yip, Director of LUX Scotland
Like Stroking a Shadow
Monday 5 March, 6:30 PM
- Sarah Forrest, Again, it objects, 2016, HD video, 6 min
- Jane Topping, Peter, 2014, SD video, 30 min
- Torsten Lauschmann, Crazy Paving, 2014, HD video, 17 min
- Adam Lewis Jacob, Vision, 2016, SD video, 15 min (produced by Elizabeth Murphy)
Total running time: 68 min
A programme of films on perception and understanding, fiction and reality, truth and uncertainty, and the unexplained.
Tuesday 6 March, 6:30 PM
- Katy Dove, Fantasy Freedom, 1999, HD video, 2 min
- Katy Dove, Luna, 2004, HD video, 3 min
- Katy Dove, Meaning in Action, 2013, HD video, 4 min
- Charlotte Prodger, BRIDGIT, 2016, HD video, 33 min
Total running time: 42 min
A screening of BRIDGIT (2016), a new work by artist Charlotte Prodger, preceeded by three short animations by the late artist and musician Katy Dove, whose works conjure life as an irrepressible internal rhythm, as well as an external world of colour, music, birdsong, woodland and sky.
Wednesday 7 March, 6:30 PM
Margaret Salmon, Eglantine, 2016, 35mm film and video, 71 min
The Indian premiere of acclaimed artist and filmmaker Margaret Salmon’s debut feature film Eglantine (2016), an intimate and vivid account of a young girl’s real and fantastical adventure in a remote forest one evening. Shot on 35mm in various locations around Scotland, this film draws inspiration from a range of cinematic movements as well as wildlife documentaries to produce a lyrical and sensual portrait of a child’s eye perspective on the natural world.
About the curator
Nicole Yip is a curator and writer based in Glasgow and London. She has been Director of LUX Scotland since September 2016 and was previously Special Projects Curator at LUX. She has curated exhibitions, film screenings and projects at venues including the Centre Pompidou, Paris; Firstsite, Colchester; Institute of Contemporary Arts, London and The Showroom, London. She is a contributor to Frieze magazine and was a member of the international jury for VIDEONALE.16 (2017) and Document International Film Festival (2016).
Forum Expanded / Berlinale Shorts
Curated by Ulrich Ziemons
Program 1: 6:30 pm
Lembusura Indonesia 2014, 10 min by Wregas Bhanuteja
Lembusura, or the legend of the mountain demon. A rain of ash falls on Java. Kelud, a volcano located to this east of the Indonesian island, is active. As one of the island’s most dangerous mountains, it is known for violent and explosive eruptions. And when it rains ash, it pours. Time and again, everything gets covered in fine grey dust – houses, streets, blossoms and umbrellas. According to legend, the ash rain is caused by an angry demon named Lembusura who wears a magic hood and lives inside the volcano.
Young men set off to conquer their mythical past. One is dressed as a demon – with the largest breasts, immediately provoking the others to laugh. The enactment of the search is shown in its entirety. Lembusura dances, climbs over trees and hills. All the earnestness applied in ethnological and particularly, in postcolonial discourse when referring to the mysticism and tales of other cultures is suspended. Suspended from the legacy of the story itself. The rain of ash falls relentlessly, and the muezzin calls.
Have you ever killed a bear? or Becoming Jamila Lebanon 2014, 25 min by Marwa Arsanios
A video that uses the history of a magazine – Cairo’s Al-Hilal ‘50s and ‘60s collection – as the starting point for an inquiry into Jamila Bouhired, the Algerian freedom fighter. An actress designated to play her role is showing the magazine’s covers to the camera. From the different representations of Jamila in cinema to her assimilation and promotion through the magazine, the performance attempts to look at the history of socialist projects in Egypt, anti-colonial wars in Algeria, and the way they have promoted and marginalized feminist projects. The clear gender division used to marginalize women from the public sphere was overcome for a short moment during the Algerian war of independence (Jamila becoming its icon). Different voices and film and print material are used to explore this history. What does it mean to play the role of the freedom fighter? What does it mean to become an icon? Between role playing and political projects, how does the constitution of the subject serve certain political purposes?
Escape from my eyes Brazil / Germany 2015, 33 min by Felipe Braganca
“I want to go back, but my brother is a ghost with no feet. I still dream of diamonds and blood. They see a black man, and think it`s a lion.”
Escape from my Eyes tells three short fables about Mayga from Mali, Elias from Ghana, and Abidal from Burkina Faso, using documentary images and imaginary fiction.
Where are they going now?
The film was shot over the course of four months at the end of 2013 and the beginning of 2014. Felipe Bragança, then an artist in residence with the DAAD Artists-in-Berlin program, facilitated the creation of fictional and poetic images based on a number of interviews made with a group of war and political refugees who at the time were living in tents in a protest camp on Oranienplatz in Kreuzberg, Berlin. In the film, the men re-enact their own stories of escape and struggle, transposed to Berlin in the winter.
El juego del escondite Spain 2014, 23 min by David Muñoz
A film crew visits a Syrian refugee camp in Lebanon. The refugees are hiding from the war. The children play hide and seek. The film crew tries to stay in the background; they too are hiding. The theme of El Juego del Escondite is composed of the synergies of reality, fiction and the filming process itself. Contradictions arise when disparate worlds collide at the same time and place.
According to theory, reality is an occurrence from which only particular truths are extracted in a film. Thereby, it is expected that a film will sort the events in a particular order of significance. This process destroys reality. Simultaneously, film also wants to be recognised as the only real truth. “As a director I try to observe myself when working, how I behave when the realities of refugees and my own converge. I observe myself, watching how I observe. I feel like a stranger who – also – wants to tell his own story.” (David Muñoz)
Program 2: 8:00 pm
Barra Fel Share‘ (Out on the Street) Egypt 2015, 71 min by Jasmina Metwaly, Philip Rizk
Out on the Street is a film about a group of workers from one of Egypt’s working class neighborhoods, Helwan. In the film ten working-class men participate in an acting workshop. Through the rehearsals, stories emerge of factory injustice, police brutality, courts that fabricate criminal charges, and countless tales of corruption and exploitation by their capitalist employers. On a rooftop studio overlooking the heart of Cairo – presented as a space between fact and fiction – the participants move in and out of character as they shape the performance that engages their daily realities. Out in the Street interweaves scenes from the workshop, fictional performances, and mobile phone footage shot by a worker intended as evidence for the courts to stop the destruction of his workplace. This hybrid approach aims to engage a collective imaginary, situating the participants and spectators within a broader social struggle.
“The idea for this project started with a sense of limitation in the making of documentaries. We’ve been working together on short videos since 2011, filming on the streets, in factories, joining marches and sit-ins in cities across Egypt in an attempt to document the issue of a wide variety of struggles. In the case of workers we went to listen, to film, and to try to understand the different dimensions of their protests. Where better pay or better working conditions are the tip of the iceberg, we wanted to know the unseen battles; hierarchies and social manipulations, work-caused illness and injuries and, in severe cases, death. It is always about exploitation and systematic corruption, the effects of capitalism creeping deeper into people’s lives, the closing down of a public sector, privatizing public land and industry for the sake of growth, investment, and the ‘economy’ rather than people. We were inspired by how courageous people are, how strong in the face of their bosses. These workers risk being demoted, losing their jobs, or being beaten by police, military, or hired thugs, arrested or tried before military tribunals. Over time we realized that filming, editing, and posting our material online or occasionally screening it in neighborhoods has its limitations in the audience that it reaches and the effect it has on people. There is only so much one can do with an online intervention or a few street screenings. We don’t want to make a film that turns that harsh reality into a spectacle, a source of entertainment, but a re-evaluation of the past and an imagining of what the future could hold. We believe the film will travel because the stories that emerge are not unique to a neighborhood or a country. The forms of exploitation, dispensability of people is happening across the globe, and this is our audience. It’s this global audience that drives us to keep working on a project like Out In the Street.” (Jasmina Metwaly and Philip Rizk)
Program 3: 6:30 pm
Now: End of Season Lebanon / Syria 2015, 20 min by Ayman Nahle
While US President Ronald Reagan is out horse riding, the Syrian President Hafiz al-Assad tries in vain to reach him by phone. Ayman Nahle’s short film turns us into witnesses of the phone call with White House staff as we watch Syrian refugees waiting in Turkey.
“It’s quiet here, except for the echoes of the noise, the tone of the moment and the sigh of waiting. ‘Time has not passed yet, there’s still some time’. Entire families, elderly, women, children, youngsters, war injured, in addition to the smugglers – all are present here as if they own the location. At Izmir Garage, thousands of illegalized migrants are getting ready daily for the journey to the unknown. Some have chosen a café in the area to be the waiting spot, some talk and laugh, while the rest have settled in silence, contemplating the kids. The state: waiting. Everyone here is waiting for the mediator to arrive with the tickets. Will he come today? Or will the trip be postponed to another day? Izmir Garage represents the mid-point in the long journey of the Syrian migration. After the hassle of arriving in Turkey, another trip on the sea still waits for them before they reach Europe.” Ayman Nahle
Balada de um Batraquio Portugal 2016, 11 min by Leonor Teles
“Once upon a time, before people came along, all the creatures were free and able to be with one another”, narrates the voiceover. “All the animals danced together and were immeasurably happy. There was only one who wasn’t invited to the celebration – the frog. In his rage about the injustice, he committed suicide.” Something Romani and frogs have in common is that they will never be unseen, or stay unnoticed. In her film, young director Leonor Teles weaves the life circumstance of Romani in Portugal today with the recollections of a yesterday. Anything but a passive observer, Teles consciously decides to participate and take up position. As a third pillar, she establishes an active applied performance art that becomes integrated in the cinematic narrative. Thereby transforming “once upon a time” into “there is”. “Afterwards, nothing will be as it was and the melody of life will have changed”, explains a voice off-camera.
The Lamps USA 2015, 4 min by Shelly Silver
“All who want me would like to eat me up. But I am too expansive and am open to all sides, desire this here and that there.” – The Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven
“The Baroness is not a futurist. She is the future.” – Marcel Duchamp
“The Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, née Plötz, was an unsung member of the New York Dada Movement. She was a poet, artist, vaudeville performer, runaway, rabble-rouser, cross-dresser, and all around public provocateur. She actively did not fit into her historical moment, and like most misfits, suffered for it. As with many women artists throughout history, her cultural legacy has been obscured and in some instances appropriated into the oeuvres of better-known male peers. Some researchers believe that the Baroness was the artist behind “Fountain,” the ready-made urinal attributed to Duchamp. The Lamps details her trip to the Naples Archeological Museum in the early 1900s where she breaks into “Il Gabinetto Segreto,“ a secret room filled with erotic objects from Pompeii.”- Shelly Silver
In the Soldier’s Head USA / France 2015, 4 min by Christine Rebet
Bubbling machines, objects that turn, curious levers activated in nothingness, a woman on a divan, yes, no, disappears, reappears. Directly from the core of the imagined, those invisible thoughts are transformed on the screen into the concrete of the experienced, simultaneously setting the unyielding concept in motion. Images in the mind are superimposed by the destruction that is both colour and life. The ink transforms itself like a fuel-powered illusion, that begins and ends like a Fata Morgana – barely there, and then once again vanished. The synapses of a hyperactive psyche – transposed on paper. “Beyond eroticism, it was clear to me that I wanted to talk about cognitive fragmentation as a reflection of the collective experience of colonisation, and that I wanted to achieve that through the break with animation itself”, says Christine Rebet about her work.
personne Germany 2016, 15 min by Christoph Girardet, Matthias Müller
A broken bottleneck lies on the ground. An analogue telephone with a blank dial plate. The hero of the film, Jean-Louis Trintignant, in younger years – in older years. A man huddled on an elevator floor. Skewered butterflies. He is all alone in the world. The external is sealed off. The internal barricaded. He shifts between times. His focus is always trained on the other. Is he wanted, condemned, persecuted? The man whom we observe from the rear, is only able to see his back in the mirror. His face cannot be recognised. All the actions and movements, all the seeking and striving, all the alterations and associations revolve around the view and excerpt from “La reproduction interdite”, painted by Belgian surrealist René Magritte in 1937. The mirror axis of the film, and yet, and simply for that reason, one becomes the other. The other becomes many.
“personne – that is somebody and nobody and anyone. That is us in the course of time. Persistently, in vain. The self is the need for permanent self-assertion,” write Christoph Girardet and Matthias Müller.
In the future, they ate from the finest porcelain Palestine / Denmark / United Kingdom / Qatar 2015, 29 min by Larissa Sansour, Søren Lind
In a temporal twist, as suggested by its title, In the Future They Ate from the Finest Porcelain tells the story of an intervention into the future perception of a territory’s political history.
A self-proclaimed narrative resistance group makes underground deposits of elaborate porcelain – suggested to belong to an entirely fictional civilization. Their aim is to influence history and support future claims to their vanishing lands. Once unearthed, the buried tableware will prove the existence of this counterfeit people. By implementing a myth of its own, their work becomes a historical intervention – de facto creating a nation.
The film takes the form of a fictional video essay, combining live motion and CGI, and taking clues from archeology, politics, and science fiction. A voice-over based on an interview between a psychiatrist and the leader of the narrative resistance group about her thoughts on myth and fiction as constitutive for fact, history, and documentary reveals the philosophy and ideas behind the group’s actions.
Program 4: 8:00 pm
La Cupola Germany 2016, 40 min by Volker Sattel
The portrait of a house without supporting walls. A bold dome made of concrete, an open space – right in the middle of the bizarre rock formations of a rugged coast made of reddish granite. The house belonged to actress Monica Vitti and director Michelangelo Antonioni. The emptiness of the “cupola” and the deserted quality of the site are the starting point for speculating – seemingly at random, figures wind up in the image and enter the dome, and even today, the utopia of an alternative concept of living seems to float above its form.
Jokinen Finland 2016, 45 min by Laura Horelli
In 1931, the so-called Yokinen Trial, organized by the Communist Party of the USA in Harlem, New York, brought the Finnish immigrant August Jokinen to public attention. Jokinen, a janitor at the Finnish Worker’s Club, was accused of not defending three African-American communists who had been mistreated at one of the club’s dances. Following his admittance of guilt, Jokinen became an outspoken civil rights advocate until he was arrested for membership in the Communist Party and subsequently deported to Finland.
Laura Horelli tells Jokinen’s migration tale as a mixture between historical research, detective story, and arts and crafts club. Arranging her archival findings – ranging from newspaper articles to books and historical photographs – on a physical desktop, she constructs a narrative by positioning, highlighting, cutting out, masking, and coloring. Her ‘analogue desktop-documentary’ follows August Jokinen’s public story all the way to the present, to a mailbox message on a Russian mobile phone.
Program 5: 6:30 pm
Estás Vendo Coisas Brazil 2017, 18 min by Bárbara Wagner, Benjamin de Burca
“It is all a dream”, she sings, “a hallucination. You are seeing things… estás vendo coisas!” In Estás vendo coisas, two protagonists of the Tecno brega scene stage a musical in which they appear as the stars.
Tecno brega is the name of a music style from the north of Brazil: The music is produced and distributed at low cost and without any regard for copyright law. Music consumers assert themselves as producers, passive is transformed into active. The region characterised by poverty and restructuring has acquired a new and sexy self-confidence. Parties are a part of the distribution process, music videos are another. The pictorial world of the videos, which are largely shot in immediate living environments, is characterised by kitsch texts and depict unattainable dream worlds.
Sokun Al Sulhufat Qatar / Lebanon 2016, 12 min by Rawane Nassif
I left Lebanon in 2006. For the past 10 years I have lived in seven countries, 10 cities, and 21 homes. I have slept in 21 beds, cooked in 21 kitchens, cleaned 21 bathrooms, written on 21 desks, and locked 21 doors behind me. I packed all of my life into two suitcases and a backpack. The rest stayed behind. Somebody somewhere uses my bed, somebody somewhere has my shoes, somebody somewhere maybe remembers me in those fragmented traces of mine.
I was there. But now I am here. In Qatar. In a fake Venice with colorful houses.
Houses have memories too. They hide them under their windowsills, tuck them in layers of paint and sometimes whisper them to birds passing by. I wonder whose memories these houses will keep. I live here but I am unable to leave a trace. I try to attach myself to the walls, dirty them, mark them… but I fail. They are constantly cleaned, watched, and protected. I caress them instead. And I film them, lest I forget.
Home is where the heart is, they say. I disagree. My heart is everywhere. It left with the music. Like a turtle, I am always home.
Camera Threat Germany 2017, 30 min by Bernd Lützeler
Set in the dreary nooks of Mumbai’s film industry, stuck between star-cult, superstition, and the daily gridlock, Camera Threat explores the ambivalent and sometimes paranoid relationship that this film city has with the moving image itself.
Seated on a casting couch, a director and an actress get trapped in their impromptu conversations on the unwanted side effects of a world that no longer bothers to tell facts from fiction. An expanded multi-genre film.
Ride Like Lightning, Crash Like Thunder USA 2017, 9 min by Fern Silva
“Framed within the vision of the Hudson River School and the legend of Rip Van Winkle, Ride Like Lightning, Crash Like Thunder unfolds as a storm approaches on the horizon. An uncertain future is in store as the creeping hand of history disrupts nature and civility in the Hudson River regions of Upstate New York.” Fern Silva
Fern Silva’s associative 16mm film is at times a portrait of a multi-generational artist community, a meditation on landscape, and a swan song for the idyll of rural America.
The Crying Conch Canada 2017, 20 min by Vincent Toi
“It all began when a boat moored in Guinea, carrying people of light colour, with green and blue eyes and weapons on their backs”, yells a man into the dark of night in fury. “What did those people want? They came to buy children from Guinea, and why? In order to sell them on the other side of the ocean. Some call it work, I call it slavery.” The stylistic device of the direct address as a reduced form of Greek tragedy chorus expresses the urgency of the concerns, rendering costumes superfluous. Vincent Toi’s film takes the historic figure of Franswa Mackandal, who in the 18th century was abducted and taken to Haiti as a slave, only to become the leader of a revolt against the French colonial rulers, and re-enacts his plight in a contemporary work context. Mackandal sees through the mechanisms of power and logic of violence, both then and now. The implementation of violence is not debated in today’s workplaces, it is practised: from top to bottom. Mackandal refuses to accept it. He remains undaunted. He is astonished. Wandering around the island he becomes, when a woman asks for his help, a midwife. As she holds the child in her arms, he comprehends the strength which lies in endurance.
Program 6: 8:00 pm
Symbolic Threats Germany 2015, 15 min by Mischa Leinkauf, Lutz Henke, Matthias Wermke
On the night of 22 July 2014, Matthias Wermke and Mischa Leinkauf hoist two white American flags on the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City. They take the US flags down and fold them in the prescribed orderly fashion.
Poetry or threat? An act of surrender or perhaps art? These were the theories that New York puzzled over last summer. How can one incident be interpreted in so many ways? By means of press reports, Symbolic Threats allows the public at large to express their extreme disparity of interpretation. Inspired by the heated debate over the two flags that suddenly appeared on the towers of the bridge, the film asks what kind of societal scope art has in the present day. What happens when threatened freedom reinstates art with the element of danger? Who or what makes it into a threat? Are we safe in the city? What is next?
The Illinois Parables USA 2016, 60 min by Deborah Stratman
Eleven parables recount events from the history of the state of Illinois: regional vignettes about faith, force, technology, and exodus. From the violent eviction of the Cherokee to the establishment of a utopian community of French Icarians, the invention of the nuclear reactor, and the murder of Black Panther leader Fred Hampton, the film relays histories of settlement, removal, technological breakthrough, violence, messianism, and resistance. Illinois, here, functions as a convenient structural ruse, allowing its histories to become allegories that explore how societies are shaped by conviction and ideology.
The Illinois Parables suggests links between technological and religious abstraction, placing them in conversation with governance. Its locations are ‘thin places’ where the distance between heaven and earth has collapsed, or more secularly, any place that bears a heavy past, where desire and displacement have led us into or erased us from the land. Utilizing reenactment, archival footage, observational shooting, intertitles, the film asks who or what we end up blaming or endorsing in our desire to explain the unknown.