Oct. 20, 2016 - Oct. 29, 2016
A chronological viewing of 14 films beginning with Vertovs Man with the Movie Camera, and concluding with Farockis Parallel I-IV; The New Medium presents innovations in Cinema.
At the 18th MAMI Film Festival
20th October to 27th October 2016
When the moving image came into being it was seen as the seventh art, an alchemical medium with the potential to transform the spatial arts: architecture, sculpture and painting, and the temporal arts: music, poetry and dance.
The philosopher Alain Badiou in his recent volume on cinema calls it the most impure art form; the place where impossible movements within and across the arts can happen. And in whose short life, no more than a century and quarter old, we have felt as an audience the double effects of anonymous escapes into the dark room, as well as unforgettable shared experiences.
The New Medium will scour cinema’s living history and take us through space and time to experience first-hand some of its more inventive moments, as a medium of expression and exchange. Where better to begin, than the audacious Man with the Movie Camera, (1929). "This experimental work aims at creating a truly international language of cinema based on its actual separation from the language of theatre and literature", says the opening title of Dziga Vertovs Kino Eye classic. We bring it to you fresh as ever, newly restored and accompanied with live music from Ukraine by the Vitaliy Tkachuk Quartet.
There is a meta-narrative in the fantastical Kalpana (Imagination, 1948), made for a newly formed post-colonial nation anticipating a cultural renaissance. Adapting classical dance for the cinema, Uday Shankar creates a parable in the form of a proposal - to make a film about his vision for patronage, pedagogy and creative experimentation in the arts. Now legally out of copyright and belonging in the public domain, Kalpana’s quest for freedom and generous patronage continue to date, and we do our bit by presenting it in fully restored splendour.
Preceding the music video genre by twenty years, and formally influencing the Third Cinema Movement, Santiago Alvarez’s Now! (1965), made mostly with still photographs, is a visceral and haunting document of racism and police brutality in the United States, its call to action more relevant now! than ever before. Third Cinema was also an influence on French cineastes; and when Chris Marker formed SLON (Society for the Launching of New Oeuvres) and brought together cinema greats Joris Ivens, William Klein, Claude Lelouch, Agnès Varda, Alain Resnais and Jean-Luc Godard to collectively author Far from Vietnam (1967), they affirmed "by the exercise of their craft, their solidarity with the Vietnamese people in struggle against aggression". We present the restored version of this important political film.
In 1969 the Catalan filmmaker Pere Portabela becomes himself a parasite on the shooting of the Technicolour Count Dracula starring Christopher Lee, and films a silent, behind-the-scenes film in contrasty black and white. Vampir Cuadecuc (1970), a relatively unknown cult work is now restored, and presents at once a psychological immersion on the making of films, and an allegorical spin on the dictatorship of Franco. Space is the Place (1974) starring the jazz legend Sun Ra and his Intergalactic Arkestra is an Afro-Futurist Blaxploitation Science Fiction containing interplanetary travels, biting social commentary, and literally out of this world concert performances. Circulating for years on VHS bootlegs, it was digitally re-released to commemorate the film’s 40th anniversary in 2014.
Lis Rhodes set up the feminist distribution and filmmaking collective Circles around the same time she made Light Music (1975), a work of expanded cinema where the images she draws on the optical soundtrack become the visuals of the film. She was intervening with her film form into the world of male-dominated music composers. Viewers become performers in this classic 16 mm dual projection of light, sound and fog.
Two films set in Brahmin-dominated villages and filmed around the same time, approach the medium in startlingly unique ways and become urgent cogitations on caste. In Chhatrabhang (The Divine Plan -1975), Nina Shivdasani Rovshen reenacts the scenario leading up to a real-life incident in rural Maharashtra over the use of a village well by neo-buddhists, but films it with people of Jogia in Eastern Uttar Pradesh, mixing in documentary, voice-over and the poetry of a mill worker. John Abraham’s second feature Agraharathil Kazuthai (Donkey in a Brahmin Village- 1976) takes on caste and bigotry by turning an anthropological gaze onto Brahmin rituals into a surrealistic and tragic-comic fable that features the donkey as the lead character.
The Russian novel has influenced greatly, two of the most avant-garde auteurs from our side of the world. Mani Kaul adapts Dostoevskys Idiot into a mini-series and an experiment for television starring Shahrukh Khan and over 50 other actors. We bring you the four-part Ahamaq (1992) as a single four-hour feature. The now prolific Lav Diaz, master of long takes and protracted cinema and winner of the Golden Leopard, Silver Bear and Golden Lion for the three features he has made in the past two years, took ten years to make his first feature, Evolution of a Filipino Family (2004), which begins on 16mm and ends in miniDV, runs for close to eleven hours and is set in a rural village that is living out Marcos ten year-long imposition of martial law. Watch it in one go if you can, it will leave you changed.
Three works from 2014 cap the contemporary shore of The New Medium programme. Phillip Warnell’s Ming of Harlem: Twenty One Storeys in the Air turns wildlife photography on its head as we experience the life of a tiger and an alligator living in a NY apartment. Jean-Luc Godard brings us a 3-D subterfuge with his Goodbye to Language, pulling our eyes in different directions, experimenting with DIY 3-D rigs, Go-Pro home videos and 3-d graphics. And finally Harun Farocki, who passed away soon after making Parallel I-IV, leaves us with a new history of the computer-generated image in gaming; coming full circle from the celebration of Vertovs all-seeing machine eye.
We dedicate this edition of The New Medium to Harun Farocki.
- Shaina Anand.
Gallery: THE NEW MEDIUM