International Film Festival Rotterdam 2010
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Arts Council England axes Animate Projects
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26 January 2011
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International Film Festival Rotterdam 2010
Wednesday Morning Two A.M. by Lewis Klahr

Wednesday Morning Two A.M. by Lewis Klahr

Rotterdam: “audience..industry..with space for ideas and reflection”

APEngine loves the inspirational International Film Festival Rotterdam. More than any other of the big film festivals, by a long chalk, it embraces the breadth of contemporary film practice, and it does so with consideration and in depth.

Certainly, a lot of business goes on – Cinemart participants pitch all day in seclusion. But Rotterdam never feels weighted towards servicing the industry – it really seems to look after filmmakers and artists, and their audience. There’s openness – guests queue for tickets alongside the paying public, and the festival’s rigour and authority gives its audience a confidence to take risks. So that programmes of experimental – often ‘challenging’ work – attracts large and broad audiences.

The shorts/experimental programmes – with over 200 films – is a substantial part of the programme, and whilst the festival talks of how it “does not care about long or short, but about quality”, it still, thankfully, focuses most of its shorts programming over a long weekend. But while the ambition to integrate what are often separate forms – shot, long, experiment, fiction, art – is substantially met, there’s a sense of some retrenchment. Ten years ago, Rotterdam demonstrated a more spectacular understanding of the breadth of moving image culture – exploring gaming, and, in the Boijmans museum, presenting large scale installations by artists, including Shirin Neshat and Isaac Julien. Edwin Carels would curate shows at TENT- as part of the film festival – such as 2008’s 3Radicals, featuring works by Robert Breer, Paul Sharits and Cameron Jamie.

In 2000 (I think), the festival staged a series of public debates – What is Cinema? – that explored the expansion of cinema into contemporary art practice and spaces. Talk was, as I recall, of some kind of a ‘crisis’ – and of how cinema was now colonising the gallery. I thought most film people were getting it the wrong way round then – the appropriation by artists of moving image didn’t seem like an indication that it was the artworld that felt under threat. There was a jockeying..a sense of affront that art dare to be or do ‘cinema’.

Perhaps that was of its time, and whilst this year’s programme of experimental and artists’ works – shown in cinemas – struck me as being as strong as ever – I missed that different contemplation of ‘cinema’ experience that the gallery space can offer.

Maybe Rotterdam thinks we can get that elsewhere now, but I missed that ‘conversation’. Film begins to lose relevance if it only looks to its traditions. Cinema is different now – and Rotterdam has been open to that.

Kino Climates, a series of public and private meetings focusing on independent film exhibition in Europe at least opened things out with performances by Martha Colburn and Greg Pope.

And conversations weren’t in short supply at the Break Even Concept Store – a pop up shop space, curated by Edwin Carels, just around the corner from the main festival centre. “Is this part of the film festival?” someone asked me as I left. Boy. Bookshop, artspace and library, with screenings, conversations, explorations, a daily newspaper..and a sommelier.. And every day at six, anyone could bring along and set up stall. A wondrous site and a context for…thinking, I guess. It was a festival in itself.

The Tiger Short Film Awards went to Wei Wen (Condolences) by Ying Liang (China), Atlantiques by Mati Diop (France/Senegal), and Wednesday Morning Two A.M. by Lewis Klahr (USA).

Atlantiques is haunting and poetic reflection on how different lives can be, shots of the ocean and lighthouses framing a conversation between two friends on a beach in Senegal, about their dreams of leaving. At the q&a, Mati Diop spoke poignantly of the contrast in how easy it is for her to visit Senegal from Paris, and how impossible it seemed for her cousin – one of the friends in the film – to make that journey in the other direction.

Lewis Klahr’s Wednesday Morning Two A.M. is a ‘couplet’ – to a repeated Shangri-Las song. The first part – in Klahr’s characteristic and disarmingly wry and rough collage animation of found cut-outs and seemingly random material – gives way to a second sequence of monochrome textures of domesticity – wallpaper, mesh – that for some reason didn’t feel like abstraction at all.

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