March 14th–20th, 2016 / Cinema Muzeul Țăranului, Cinema Elvire Popesco, Universitatea Națională de Muzică / the 6th edition
Danger Is My Business
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International Competition - Danger Is My Business
Curatorial presentation by Andrei Tănăsescu
Danger surrounds us at every corner. Be it man-made or part of our natural environment, we are placed in constant peril, relying on our instincts of adaptability to help us cope with it. This natural tendency of ours to excel beyond the ‘fight or flight’ survival reactions and observe, rationalize and ultimately, understand, the dangers we face, is what sets us apart from other species. The human spirit as such is a compelling one - willing to put itself at risk, it carries forth, accepting the consequences, for the sake of its evolutionary growth. Adaptability breeds understanding and knowledge, tiny steps along the evolutionary ladder. The films selected for the competition section DANGER IS MY BUSINESS convey the fortitude of the human spirit in light of its battle against the hazards of life. Through their looking-glass, man’s daily entanglement with the elements, health disorders, small and large scale brutality, brings her/himself towards a transcendental state of evolutionary conquest.
Fabian Kaiser’s The Breath offers an entrancing, original look at the fortitude of society’s unsung hero of safety, the firefighter. Heavy on atmosphere and free of dialogue, Kaiser’s hybrid documentary observes a group of firemen as they go about their exercise drills, decked out in recognizable orange suits and hermetically sealed oxygen helmets. Their mechanical movement, assured in its steps and slowed by the weight of their gear, expresses steadfast confidence, but the eyes of their superior hide human vulnerability. When it’s his turn to don the mask, he proceeds down a labyrinthian passageway, on a rite of passage into fear and the unknown. With bated breath we witness his transcendence and inevitable return to our material world, cleansing himself for the next day to come.
For more than 25 years, Louis Akin has retraced Death’s footsteps, separating and re-arranging with detached objectivism the sequential facts of some of the most violent crimes in the USA. Working as a defense forensic investigator, his role in the 2009 mass shooting at a US military base took three years to reconstruct the crime scene that director Tom Rosenberg maps out for us in a spacious warehouse. Within this minimal mise-en-scene, Akin literally walks us through the events of that tragic day, leaving it up to the viewer to mentally reconstruct the carnage mapped out in words and diagrams. As the information accumulates, the mind tries to make sense of it all, but the incomprehensibility of mankind’s constant propensity to violence is too much to bear. Using the simplest of cinematic tools, Nothing Human opens our eyes to the abstract irrationality of violence and the paradox at the heart of what makes us human.
Setting its parameters from the first words spoken, I Remember Nothing exists precariously on the edge of chaos and poetry, structured around the five stages of epilepsy while looking at a day in the life of teenager Joan. Stuck in the tedium of small-town America and the humdrum of high-school, she is the poster-girl of teenage angst, a budding life-force arrested in development. Her only escape appears at a baseball game, as a source of curiosity and excitement offered by her blossoming puberty. Zia Anger purposefully induces a sense of disorientation and peril through casting choices and flourishes of magical realism, framing Joan’s sexual exploration against epilepsy’s impending assault. By the end, we’re left dazed, confused but fully submissive to the powerful impact of love and its menacing consequences.
Like the flicker of silent films or the delay of memory recall, Paul Wenninger’s Uncanny Valley unravels its story of wartime trauma through the camaraderie of two lone soldiers fighting their way out of the trenches of World War I. Employing the aesthetic mechanics found in stop-motion animation, Wenninger’s real-life protagonists move as marionettes in a theatre of war that flashes at every interval with the fear and danger. Impelled by survival instincts and a balletic camerawork that transverses time and space in awe-inspiring long-takes, the two soldiers emerge out of the ruins of war, shell-shocked and spiritually defeated. Atmospheric and compelling, Uncanny Valley offers a potent statement on the inevitable abstraction of history, erasing individual experience in favour of posterity’s superficial representation.
The Bureau of Melodramatic Research delivers the last installment of their Alien Passions trilogy with the video performance titled Above the Weather. Hidden by the genre veil of the road movie, artists Alina Popa and Irina Gheorghe perform as two coquettish socialites on their way back home. Framed in their turn of the century convertible, their preening conversation stands in oblivious contrast to the surrounding desolate industrial landscape of Romania’s oil-fields and the radio announcements forecasting an impending environmental apocalypse. Captive to the pathetic fallacy of 1950s Hollywood melodramas, Above the Weather is an incisive commentary on our catastrophic dependency on fossil fuels, beckoning us to ‘keep calm and carry on’ gently into the good night, to the telling tune of Eurovision’s parochialism.