Monday, June 6, 2011

My introduction to experimental films

I’m not an experimental film festival guy. Short films looking at patterns in water tend to provide the nap I should have taken earlier in the day. But this year I went to an experimental film festival, if only for one night. I was at Windsor’s Media City now in its 17th year (see May 15 post below)....There were two programs. One was of the films of British director William Raban (who of course I had never heard of), the other of several international films......Raban is a resident of East London, home of Canary Wharf, the huge financial district built by Canada’s Reichmanns. Raban, a left wing filmmaker, depicts that development in the 1990s in several films including Sundial (where the mammoth central office tower serves that purpose), A 13 (about the local expressway that winds through the district), Island Race (a political take on the fight between Right and Left in a local election) and MM (about the nearby and controversial Millennium Dome).....Raban was in the audience and described the building of Canary Wharf as a kind of fitting end to the capitalism-on-steroids Thatcher era. The films varied from one to 28 minutes. Sundial, A13 and MM all had a sinister feel as if the architecture was brutal and a symbol of political policies.....But my favourite Raban film was something quite different. Called Beating the Bridges it was about a boat ride from the far west side of London to the east side travelling under the 30 bridges that span the Thames River. There was something poetic in these images taken of the underside of often beautifully designed Victorian bridges with a soundtrack by percussionist Paul Burwell.....I found the international program more interesting. And the most interesting was the kind of film I would have sworn never to see. It was one continual shot for 23.5 minutes of two mountain peaks as night broke to dawn with only occasional subtitles at the bottom of the screen. The subtitles were of a conversation by people obviously dispossessed, some brutally. But where was this? At first I thought of Central America. But no, it was of Turkey’s Mt. Ararat (where Noah’s Ark was said to have come to rest) and the more modern day conflict that forged the Armenian nation. The film is called Relocation by Belgium director Pieter Geenen.....Another fascinating film, of similar political content, was John Smith’s (British) Flag Mountain (picture above). Only eight minutes in length it was shot from the rooftops of Cyprus’s Greek Cypriot community looking north across the divided city of Nicosia to the Muslim Turkish Republic. A mosque is in the foreground. But what was amazing was a mountain behind with a gigantic Turkish Cypriot flag and which lights up like a neon advertising sign at night. Talk about rubbing one nation’s politics in another’s face.


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