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GOCRITIC! Karlovy Vary 2019

GoCritic! Feature: Imagina - In search of a meaning


- Fourteen films of differing lengths, formats and narration styles were screened as a part of KVIFF’s Imagina section.

GoCritic! Feature: Imagina - In search of a meaning
Pwdre Ser: the rot of stars by Charlotte Pryce

Imagina is a word with several meanings: it could either refer to the third-person-singular form or the second-person-imperative form of the verb imaginer in Spanish (meaning "to imagine") or be the polite response to "thank you" in Portuguese. It is also the title of a selection of experimental films at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. Inspired by this cluster of definitions I decided to imagine a categorization of films featured in this section, based on the three interpretations which Imagina signifies.

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1. Imagine! 
The first category presents three films whose main characteristic is to motivate viewers to envision beyond what is represented on screen.

Walled Unwalled by Lawrence Abu Hamdan is a short experimental film concerned with deconstructing the contemporary political notion of walls as symbols of privacy, or as barriers keeping unwanted immigrants on the other side. The director introduces the audience to military technologies which render walls invisible and prison-architecture that transports sound-waves (with the intent to torture), as if there were no physical barriers in between. The viewer’s engagement is crucial, as Hamdan tells this story by using only shots of himself reading aloud in a sound-proof room, decorated with digital visualisations of sound-waves.

Observing and recognising patterns in random stimuli: the definition of the title of Nan Wang’s short film Pareidolia. In this eleven-minute piece, the screen is flooded with what seem to be microscopic objects and kaleidoscopes created during the destruction of a strip of film – as well as many images of lightning, butterflies and waves. Or at least that’s what I perceived.

tx-reverse takes a five-minute spatially distorted time-lapse of the audience in a cinema hall, during a moment that could either be happening before a screening, after it, or be totally unrelated to it. One audience in cinema hall watching the other audience in another cinema hall dissolving over the horizontal axis... this makes a great introduction to philosophical contemplations about reality and cinema, which only the viewers can complete.

tx-reverse by Virgil Widrich and Martin Reinhart

2. She/he imagines. 
This category contains films that reflect the distinctive imagination of the director. A roundup:

The Glamorous Boys of Tang – a short film consisting of recreated scenes that were found in the script, but not in the final version, of the 1985 Taiwanese film of the same title. Glitter, orgies, blood, queer bodies and metaphors delivered literally are what director Hui-Yu Su imagines an uncensored version of the cult film could portray.

Jodie Mack’s The Grand Bizarre presents a unique stroll around the globe with hypnotic montage of patterns, symbols and fabrics that connect distant places by means of visual similarity (and cultural appropriation).

Can you measure connection between people created by physical contact? Interbeing by Swedish artist Martina Hoogland Ivanow tries to answer that question by using thermal cameras to present the warmth left on someone’s body after receiving a touch.

Connecting Mesoamerican folklore and a meteorite explosion’s impact on earth, Mexican director Mauricio Sáenz portrays a ritual of death and rebirth in Meteorite.

The journey of a bucket to a well, where it fills up with water, and goes back to the starting point has never seemed as dramatic as it does in Water and Clearing by Siegfried A. Fruhauf. This study of motion is enriched by a stroboscopic effect and negative images, leading the audience into intense mental states.

Pwdre Ser: the rot of stars is a neo-dadaist study of a “mythical substance that has been observed by many since the 1400s.“ British filmmaker Charlotte Pryce explores the notion of this mystical light by filming magnetic liquids, fog and what seems to look like microscopic beings, accompanied by a poetic voice-over.

The Grand Bizarre by Jodie Mack

3. You’re welcome. 
The third and final category is probably the most arbitrary of them all, since it features two films that have almost nothing in common apart from the fact I found them the most captivating.

Memento Stella by Takashi Makino is a hallucinatory voyage through shimmers and sounds that seem to have their own narrative, which you have no other option but to envision yourself. I "co-imagined" The Big Bang succeeded by a life in water, followed by a life in the forest, followed by a process of industrialisation. The soundscape is the primary factor in creating a setting for the story, probably influencing the audience to connect the sparkling dots into tangible visual information. This piece is worth seeing on a big screen; sixty minutes fly by leaving a dazzling effect.

Just Don’t Think I’ll Scream is the first feature-length work by French filmmaker Frank Beauvais. Consisting only of clips from old films and the diary voice-over of the director, this film tells a very intimate story with a great deal of distance, about the significant moment of his life before he moved from Strasbourg to Paris. The break-up of a relationship, the death of Beauvais’ estranged father and the director’s daily devouring of three to five films are some of the key points discussed in the journals. Using films to mirror his own thoughts and emotional states, the new work leaves enough space for spectators to fill the gaps with their own meanings and associations. Somewhat reminiscent of new-wave editing styles, Just Don’t Think I’ll Scream is very meticulously composed and aesthetically coherent.

Even though I have attempted to categorize these films, the truth is that they all denounce any type of classification, which is why they were chosen to be a part of Imagina in the first place. More precisely, they are only identified as “films with an unconventional approach to narration and style, distinctive and radical visions of film language”, which leaves enough space for all sorts of meanings and ideas to be imbedded into them. Providing room for audio-visual artwork that transgresses the boundaries of conventional narrative film (especially at an “A-list” festival) is extremely important for the nourishment of motion-picture culture. It both provides the audience and the artists with opportunities to expand their horizons with regard to experiencing and contributing to cinema. In that spirit, I end this article with a slightly modified quote by John Waters: "Get more out of life. See an experimental movie."

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