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March 14th–20th, 2016 / Cinema Muzeul Țăranului, Cinema Elvire Popesco, Universitatea Națională de Muzică / the 6th edition

The Artist Is Present & Danger Is My Business: Theme Programs in BIEFF 2016 International Competition

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The insertion of an artist within her/his work - besides the formal and thematic tropes - is a statement of creative authority, control and self-reflexivity. It also invites the viewer to engage with the artwork on a deeper level of reading, requiring that one goes beyond the surface to extract the suggestive elements that make up its artistic core.
 
The films compiled for the BIEFF 2016 competition program The Artist Is Present offer themselves as meta-texts whose authorial presence manifests itself in a myriad of ways. These are movies about artists and their métier, whose formal and thematic audaciousness will require repeated viewings to decipher.
 
Please Relax Now, by Vika Kirchenbauer
 
In direct address, Vika Kirchebauer invites you to Please Relax Now. You’re about to experience liberty and desire, under the guiding voice of the artist. Calm and composed, Kirchenbauer breaks down the cinematic screen’s barrier of distanciation as she methodically lays bare (pun well-intended) the power-relationships at play between art and its consumer. As spectators, we are encouraged to subvert passivity and reclaim our position within the space we occupy. How? By exploring, here and now, the pleasure principle of art to its extreme. Abandon all preconceptions, democratize the space and fully submit to - and indulge in - the communal experience. Political and playful, Please Relax Now’s deceivingly simple premise will become one of your most challenging viewing experiences. Should you resist? No, just relax. Screened with the kind support of Goethe-Institut Bukarest. Presented at Hamburg International Short Film Festival 2014, Queer Lisboa International Queer Film Festival 2015, Queer City Cinema: Media Arts Festival, Canada 2015, Tel Aviv International LGBT Film Festival 2015 etc.
 
Symbolic Threats

Winner of Best German Short & Audience Award Hamburg 2015, Symbolic Threats traces the lifespan of Leinkauf & Wermke’s art installation – New York’s Brooklyn Bridge’s Old Glory was replaced on July 22, 2014 by two white flags blowing in the high winds. In a post-9/11 New York, this gesture galvanized city officials and the media into knee-jerk reactions of fear, anger and panic. In short, a response that every work of art should produce. Compiled from TV, radio and online reports, the film brings forward the predictable rhetoric seeking culpability rather than discourse. Once the proverbial dust settles and the fever-pitch frenzy of the media machine dies down, we’re afforded poetic tranquility to ponder not only the role of art in our world, but that of our own citizen-selves. (Andrei Tănăsescu, BIEFF 2016). Screened at prestigious festivals such as Berlinale 2015, Clermont Ferrand 2016, Documenta Madrid 2015 etc.
 
Seance, de Yuri Ancarani

In his latest work Séance, visual artist Yuri Ancarani (BIEFF's longtime favorite, author of the fascinating Il Capo and Da Vinci) capitalizes on famed designer and architect Carlo Mollino’s preoccupation with the occult, to conduct a live séance in the artist’s home. Seated at the dining table with the resident caretaker in service, psychic medium Albania Tomassini becomes a conduit for the architect, whose spectral voice reflects on his past life’s work. Ancarani’s aesthetic eye is a perfect match for Casa Mollino’s baroque décor, incubating us within the walls of the lush apartment and its sonic atmosphere of hushed spirits. Séance summons the perfect interlocutor for the intense life-force at work in Ancarani’s films, pulling us into its house of memories and catapulting us into the state of transcendence offered by the act of creation. (Andrei Tănăsescu, BIEFF 2016)
 
Territorial Marking, de Daniel Djamo

Wonderfully refreshing and meaningful in its sub-textual discourse, Territorial Marking (winner of Combat Award for Video Art, Museo Giovanni Fattori, Livorno, Italy 2015) is a beautiful work of naïf art by Romanian artist Daniel Djamo (Best Romanian Short Award winner at BIEFF 2014). We see the artist appear on screen, waving the Romanian flag through a forest. On voiceover, we hear a recording of his anxious mother discouraging him from creating his next controversial art piece. Blessed with an artist’s stubbornness, Djamo refuses to submit to his mother’s fear of the French authorities and continues the back-and-forth until the perfect alternative is discovered (accidentally and under duress) by the matriarch. Yet listen closely, for behind their domestic argument and the mother’s consternation, you’ll find the traumatic paralysis of the immigrant Other, made worse by the scar of Communist oppression, rearing its head like Djamo’s flailing flag. (Andrei Tănăsescu, BIEFF 2016).
 
October Is Over

The analogy of life and cinema has never been so delightfully and cleverly laid bare, as in Karen Akerman and Miguel Seabra Lopes’ October Is Over, winner of New Trends Award at Rio de Janeiro International Film Festival 2015. Cherubic protagonist Tontom declares that ‘film grows old’ and is rightfully met with the appropriate response from his unseen parents (played by the filmmakers themselves). Their gift of a Super8 camera sparks the toddler’s imagination and the journey of life begins. Discovery leads to frustration (there’s never enough funding!) and under the sleep suggestion of his progenitors (Godard, always!) nocturnal inspiration reaps rewards. Constructed with a formal simplicity that reveals deeper layers of Lacanian psychoanalysis and Eisensteinian montage, October is Over is a wonderful homage to cinema and the creative spark that gives it life. (Andrei Tănăsescu, BIEFF 2016) Screened with the kind support of PORTUGAL FILM and IndieLisboa - International Independent Film Festival 2015.

Batrachian's Ballad, 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 Batrachian's Ballad - which just won, a few days ago, the Golden Bear for Short Film at Berlinale - 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. (Berlinale catalogue). Screened with the kind support of Portugal Film.


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.
 
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.

The Breath, by Fabian Kaiser
 
Winner of Vienna Short Film Award at Vienna Independent Shorts 2015 and world premiered at prestigious IDFA International Documentary Festival Amsterdam, 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 labyrinthine 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. (Andrei Tănăsescu, BIEFF 2016). The screening at BIEFF is made possible with the kind support of the Embassy of Switzerland.
 
Above the Weather

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, Romanian visual 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. Showcased at the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Bucharest and Manhattan Gallery, New York.
 
Uncanny Valley, by Paul Wenninger

Like the flicker of silent films or the delay of memory recall, Paul Wenninger’s Uncanny Valley (winner of Best Austrian Animation & Audience Award at One Day Animation Festival) 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 favor of posterity’s superficial representation. Screened with the kind support of BIEFF's longtime partners SIXPACKFILMS and the Austrian Cultural Forum in Romania. Presented  within prestigious events such as Annecy International Animation Festival and Uppsala International Short Film Festival.
 
Nothing Human, by Tom Rosenberg

Using the simplest of cinematic tools, director Tom Rosenberg’s Nothing Human (world premiered at Locarno International Film Festival) opens our eyes to the abstract irrationality of violence and the paradox at the heart of what makes us human. 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, which the director 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. (Andrei Tănăsescu, BIEFF 2016)
 
I Remember Nothing, by Zia Anger

Setting its parameters from the first words spoken, Zia Anger’s I Remember Nothing (world premiered at Locarno International Film Festival) 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. (Andrei Tănăsescu, BIEFF 2016). 
 
The 6th edition of Bucharest International Experimental Film Festival BIEFF takes place between March 14th – 20th, 2016.
 
BIEFF is honoured and grateful to receive support and inspiration from its partners: Quinzaine des Réalisateurs Cannes, Berlinale Forum Expanded, International Film Festival Rotterdam, Oberhausen Film Festival, IDFA Amsterdam Paradocs, Centre Pompidou, Le Fresnoy - Studio National des Arts Contemporains, Cinedans - Dance on Screen Festival Amsterdam, Tampere Film Festival, Sixpackfilm Austria, LIMA, Portugal Gilm and EYE Film Institute Netherlands.
 
BIEFF would not be possible without the support of the Administration of the National Cultural Fund, the Romanian Cultural Institute, the Austrian Cultural Forum, Goethe-Institut Bukarest, British Council, the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Embassy of Israel, Embassy of Sweden, Embassy of Switzerland, Swiss Sponsors' Fund, the French Institute in Bucharest, Instituto Cervantes, Balassi Institute, TNT, NouMax, UniFrance, German Films, the National University of Theatre and Film Bucharest, the National University of Arts Bucharest, the Romanian Filmmakers' Union, MUBI, National Dance Centre Bucharest, Săptămâna Sunetului, Control Club; Lente & cafea; ticketing by Eventbook.
 
Media partners: TVR, HotNews, Radio România Cultural, Radio Tanănana, Zile și Nopți, Cinemap, Cinemagia, CinemaRx, LiterNet, The Romania Journal, Societatesicultura.ro, Revista Arta, The Institute, VICE, Think Outside the Box, SUB25.ro, Decât o Revistă, Psychologies.ro, Graphic Front, Revista Arte & Meserii, Igloo, Ziarul Metropolis, B365, Cinefan, All about Romanian Cinema, IQads, Cărturești, Cooperativa Urbană, Urban.ro, TeenPress, PLIC – o revistă, @FILM, Movienews.ro, Acoperișul de sticlă.