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March 28th – April 2nd, 2017 / Cinema Muzeul Țăranului & Cinema Elvire Popesco / the 7th edition

Films to Experience in Your Body in the Next BIEFF Screening at MNAC Bucharest

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On Wednesday, November 29th, Bucharest International Experimental Film Festival BIEFF continues its new series Politics of the Body, created in collaboration with the National Museum of Contemporary Art of Romania (MNAC Bucharest), with the third screening: The Cinematic Body.
Referencing the concept of haptic visuality – as it has been developed in the seminal work The Skin of the Film, by cinema theorist and curator Laura U. Marks the program proposes a unique sensorial journey, unfolding like a love story in itself, from the initial ritual of seduction to the most in depth and unsettling forays into the soul of the loved one. It begins with exploring every inch of the filmic body, of its tactile nature, of celluloid as a stream of physical sensations. Shortly after, just as the loved one is at first a screen onto which we project past experiences and sensations, so do the films here engage in a dialogue with other cinematic bodies, which they recycle, reinterpret and re-analyse in a continuous conscious and subconscious flux. Which turns, over time, into an ongoing and more and more in depth discovery of the Other and of your own self. Gradually, the borders between lovers, between viewer and film start to melt away, and the initial divide between the audience and cinema disappears.

Series curator: Adina Pintilie
Project coordinator: Dan Angelescu
Curatorial texts: Diana Mereoiu, Andrei Tănăsescu
Thanks: Romina Banu
Partners: MNAC Bucharest, Sixpackfilm Austria, Agência da Curta Metragem, Fala Português! Association
Cover photo: Dear Director, courtesy of Marcus Lindeen

The flirt begins with manipulation, not just of the celluloid flesh, but also of the cinematic conventions: Coming Attractions winner of the Orrizonti Best Short Film Award at the prestigious Venice Film Festival – signed by the master of avant-garde cinema Peter Tscherkassky, is an homage to silent film’s cinema of attractions. His celluloid manipulation of fragments from advertising footage references sequences from silent films, by adhering to their respective cinematic language. A pas-de-deux of form and rhythm, Coming Attractions brings the past to the present by offering a lesson in the history of cinema that is as much food for thought as it delights the senses. The film is screened with the kind support of Sixpackfilm Austria.

A hallucinatory LSD trip, gliding from the collective filmic subconscious to the personal, Image Fisherman, by Alexandru Petru Bădeliță – winner of the Best Romanian Film Award at BIEFF 2013 assembles and disassembles the cinematic body, in a mockery reinterpretation of the experimental cinema’s aesthetics. In a collage of live-action and animation, the filmmaker reveals fragments of memories, subconscious thoughts, fears, obsessions, doubts, suggestively released from photo albums and letter-packed suitcases. The ironically grave voice-over commentary is playfully and energetically undermined by the eruption of kaleidoscopic images, in an uncontainable incandescence of imagination that is both fascinating and unsettling.

The interplay between filmmaker and film becomes a conversation between the psychanalytic Child and Parent, in October is Over by Karen Akerman and Miguel Seabra Lopes. The analogy of life and cinema has never been so delightfully and cleverly laid bare as here. Cherubic protagonist Tomtom declares that ‘film never 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. Winner of the Award for Innovation in Language at Rio de Janeiro Short Film Festival Curta Cinema and screened at IndieLisboa, Belo Horizonte, Sao Paolo and many other festivals, October Is Over is presented at MNAC with the kind support of the Fala Português! Association.

The ongoing dialogue between cinema and the subconscious reveals itself as a recurring theme. Inspired from the 19th century photographic practice of Invisible Mothers, visual artist Sarah Vanagt investigates the very act of seeing. If photography was in the beginning perceived as witchcraft, stealing the soul of its subjects, Still Holding Still (world premiered in IDFA Amsterdam) manages to capture that precise moment of magic when the image is born, when the soul transfer happens between the real and the photographed. As a Vipassana meditation exercise which awakens the senses, Vanagt’s cinematic gaze restores transcendence to the real, and we, in turn, become participatory witnesses.

The inherently human need to explore the depths of one’s self is often a difficult process, which mostly requires mediation. The protective and reflective nature of the cinematic space allows for exactly that, the membrane of the screen becoming the membrane of the womb. Winner of the Cinema & Gioventù prize for Best International Short at the 2015 Locarno International Film Festival, Marcus Lindeen’s movie is an absorbing mood-piece on the search for identity within the mirrored reflection of cinema. In 1980 jazz musician Kazzrie Jaxen had a life-changing experience watching Ingmar Bergman’s From the Life of Marionettes. Immersed within his cinematic world of duality and fissured identities, she realized she was a ‘womb-twin survivor,’ the only child born from a dual pregnancy. Lindeen explores this with utmost gentility through a form of cinematic stream-of-sub-consciousness, observing Jaxen episodically as she engages in the process of internalizing this discovery. Accessible but hiding intricate layers of narrative and formal complexity, Dear Director is a wonderful objet d’art of cinematic musicality that unwinds more with each viewing.

A daring playfully-seductive conversation with the viewer, The Shadow of Your Smile, signed by Alexei Dmitriev, looks at the hidden pleasures that lurk behind and in-between the artefacts of VHS adult films. An invisible protagonist starts a video cassette. The enigmatic smile of a young girl fills the screen, in slow motion, making us imagine an unrequited love story between her and the unseen character. Yet, as the source-material begins to censor itself via its unstable image calibration, the film gets fast-forwarded by the typical impatient viewer and the supposed ‘love story’ takes an unexpected turn. The filmmaker plays freely with the viewer’s expectations, while exploring the possibility of reshaping the semantics of the images by manipulating their sound and taking them out of context. World premiered at Edinburgh International Film Festival.

This abolishing of boundaries between the viewer and the cinematic experience is taken further by visual artist Vika Kirchenbauer, who, in direct address, 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. Please Relax Now was screened in the Hamburg International Short Film Festival and was part of European Media Art Festival, Osnabrück (2014) and Videonale, Bonn (2015).

Now that you have, you realize reinterpretation, subversion, exploration and abolition of boundaries, all have led to the creation of a new cinematic body. And not just a body, but a self within which all the elements explored above merge. More simply put, it has led to intimacy a deep emotional sensorial connection between the cinema and the viewer. The hyper-minimalist and sensual What My Love Must See encapsulates this exact feeling, seducing the viewer by subtly modifying his perception of the same image: a living postcard, that contains the aural fingerprint of a love story and, at the same time, a poetical equation about cinema, with essential elements of the cinematic language as variables. François Bonenfant proposes a powerful and touching visual dialogue between the viewer and a man looking unyieldingly into the camera in three different moments of the day, from one of Lisbon’s romantic rooftops. While the sunlight travels over the man’s face towards the sunset and the Portuguese love song, heard first in the distance from a radio, comes closer and closer, hummed by the man's warm voice and finally embracing us as unique soundscape, nostalgia and longing subtly sneak under our skin, until fully possessing our hearts and bodies. The film is screened with the kind support of the Fala Português! Association.