Cambridge Experimentalism

So, hard on the heels of the LFF’s Experimenta strand (on which I’ll be writing more directly after this!) comes Microcinema at the Cambridge Film Festival. All at the Arts Picturehouse, on Sun-Mon 23-24 October, four programmes (two per day), plus an installation and a round-table discussion, all sounding fascinating. Here’s a brief outline, with a few links.

Programme 1 (23/10/16 @ 16:00) comprises four films.

Ian Bourn’s 2-MIRROR SELF PORTRAIT (VERSION 4, ‘CORNERED’) is a witty, manically jump-cutting rear-view self-portrait that descends into potential infinity.

Two films about phobia by Clement Page: Light That Obscures is about a photophobic artist in Berlin. Hold Your Breath from 2010 is based on Sigmund Freud’s case history, The Wolf-Man: From the History of an Infantile Neurosis (read the original – auf Deutschhere)

Cordelia Swann’s Der Engel ambiguously treats a photograph of a would-be escapee over the Berlin Wall to the accompaniment of Wagner.

Later that day, at 20:15, Programme 2 comprises just two films. First, Nina Danino’s Jennifer, a full-length documentary about an enclosed Carmelite nun. The trailer is here.

Sarah Wood’s Boat People explores Martin Heidegger’s observation that “Homelessness is coming to be the destiny of the world” (Letter on Humanism, 1946), how that relates to the present-day and to Britain’s history as a seafaring nation and the role of the media in representing it.

The next day’s third programme (13:00) comprises a single film, Sarah Turner’s extraordinary Public House, the result of a community participatory project that tells how the people of Peckham fought back against an attempt to redevelop the Ivy House pub in into housing. Here’s an interview with Turner. That’s followed by a round-table discussion about the state of artist’s moving image today, with curators as well as former members of the London Film-Makers’ Co-op (formed fifty years ago) and Micromedia film-makers.

Later on (19:30), Programme Four brings together two films:

The Kingdom of Shadows, by Daniel Fawcett and Clara Pais, is a dark, surreal, mythic film about unresolved crime and denied desires, inspired by dreams, biblical myths, alchemy and family history. As the makers say: “Cinema’s power is not in capturing reality but in expressing the inner life.”

Vicki Thornton’s The Remembered Film is an intimate double portrait of the striking Château-de-Sacy and its owner, Hermine Demoriane, former singer, actress, performance artist, tightrope-walker and counterculture icon. Incorporating documentary and fictional elements, the film explores the relationship between place, memory, performance and identity, told through a surreal juxtaposition of the protagonist’s own memories, re-enacted moments from the history of French avant-garde cinema (Duras, Resnais, Akerman), and scenes from everyday life. A meditation on the processes of aging and the passing of time, this enigmatic film exists somewhere between a memory and a dream. Here’s an excerpt.

Finally, there’s an untitled installation by Steve Farrer, an experimental film-maker who often works in ‘expanded cinema’ – works which include multi-projector pieces, works with performance elements, immersive installations, etc. His best-known (if difficult to mount) work is Machine, a zoetrope vast enough to accommodate the audience.

Commissioned by Bexhill’s De La Warr Pavilion and shot in the auditorium, the principle sequence of the new work is based on the mesmerising and dream-like scene, The Kingdom of the Shades, from the French choreographer Marius Petipa’s La Bayadère, first performed in 1877. The long and slow repeated arabesque sequence involves the entire corps de ballet, dancing one by one, in formal articulation across the stage in perfect accumulated unison. The orientation grids of the sequence are revisited in Farrer’s work; the massed ranks of the corps replicated in the multiple exposure of a single performer’s gesture, repeated and looped through the camera and projector. The work interrogates an accepted cinematic experience, giving it a new perspective and engaging the speculation of the audience.