It is with a very heart that I announce that I will take an indefinite break from writing here on The Art(s) of Slow Cinema. It’s complicated, but I try to explain the reason behind this choice.
The Art(s) of Slow Cinema started as a research blog in autumn 2012. When I knew that I would write my PhD about Slow Cinema, I had a feeling that a blog would help me reach people who also watched slow films, that it would help me to get in touch with them, so that I could learn more about why people (dis)liked this kind of film. Interestingly enough, it was not so much the viewers my writing attracted but filmmakers, who were kind enough to send me their films. Over time, I began to detach the blog from my actual research, and wrote about films independently of my PhD. Here and there, it opened opportunities for me. I was invited to Antwerp and to Cologne. I had the chance to speak on podcasts about Slow Cinema in general or specific directors. I was invited to contribute a chapter to a Spanish-language book on Slow Cinema. I was also invited to curate two VoD programmes.
There were many moments in which I felt confident about what I was doing. But I cannot deny that writing about Slow Cinema becomes increasingly difficult mentally (more details later on).
The first punch probably came around 2015. I was asked by Guernica magazine to interview Lav Diaz. I had seen Diaz a few months earlier at the Locarno Film Festival, and had interviewed him for a good three hours for my PhD. I had plans to distribute his films on DVD because they were virtually invisible at the time. When I met him in Paris for that interview, we spoke about some final details. Very important to me was the part that I didn’t plan for profit-making. I offered Diaz & Co a margin of 60%. I would use my 40% to cover the production costs. I began planning, but I heard rumours here and there that some of Diaz’s films would be distributed in certain countries. A few months later, after the Berlinale 2016, I was viciously attacked and accused of trying to cash in on Diaz’s fame. I couldn’t grasp what had happened, and I never recovered from this punch. I had done an immense job in writing about him, and helping him to get the word out about his films. All the team treated me so nicely that I had the feeling that what I was doing was a valuable contribution to cinema. From one day to the next, there was a question mark over years of work.
This coincided with not finding a publisher for my book on Diaz. My proposals, truly original at the time, found no home and I had to witness male colleagues publishing their stuff, while reading rejection letters that stated that my project had no value for the market. I could witness more and more of my ideas, which I clearly laid out in my thesis and on this blog, popping up in other people’s writings without so much as a reference. To this day, I flick through new books on Slow Cinema and/or specific directors to see if I have made it into a small footnote. This may sound ridiculous, but if you worked so hard on writing about and promoting Slow Cinema for over a decade, including by setting up a VoD platform, you’d expect that your work would eventually get acknowledged somewhere. This is not what happened.
I kept going on. I created a VoD platform in 2017 to promote those slow films that had no distribution. It was a marvellous work. Exhausting but marvellous. I ran everything part-time, didn’t get paid for it because the profits were too low, interviewed the directors, and more. But even here, my work was taken for granted, it was taken as a springboard for others. One competitor seemed to have gone through my catalogue, and as soon as I distributed a new film on my platform, I could be sure that they would contact the director to ask if they could distribute it as well, sometimes even exclusively. They had money, they could advertise massively, travel to festivals. I had no chance, and I called it a day at the end of 2019 because I was no longer able to afford the platform in the face of this competition.
When I finally did have a fairly decent chance of having a book published, it fell through because of the pandemic. I have subsequently been kicked out of a project because my views on cinema were supposedly a danger to Western civilisation.
I got back on my feet one last time. I readied Human Condition(s) – An aesthetic of cinematic slowness (2021) by myself. Writing, design, editing, advertising, packing and shipping, while struggling with severe mental health issues. By the time I put together The Art(s) of Slow Cinema – The 10th Anniversary Anthology (2022), I knew that something had been indelibly broken. I also understood that without social media, which I left because of a number of issues, I would have even less of a chance to reach people. Long Covid, a burnout and some hefty therapy sessions made me reconsider what I was doing (to myself). Going into 2023 felt both liberating and daunting. Daunting because I had the feeling that I might have to say goodbye to something that has been part of my life for so long.
And then, in the spring of this year, the Slow Film Festival changed hands. I wasn’t informed of the negotiations that had happened in the background. I merely received an email to introduce the new festival director and the new team. I wasn’t part of it. Three years of work.
Of course, I could get back on my feet once more and continue as I did before. But there is something that I understand today, after many, many painful therapy sessions and reading about what was happening to me. Today, I realise the full extent of my psychological wounds. I realise the many ways in which I was broken by others, and that from a very early age. I understand that while the traumas I carry with me made it possible for me to reach certain heights, all this work also prevented me from dealing with them. Today, I understand that I react(ed) in certain ways because C-PTSD and the dissociation process that is linked to it take up so much energy that my mental level is much lower than that of a ‘normal’ (i.e. unharmed) person. The last few months showed me that I can help myself by focusing the little energy I have on worthwhile things, things that help me reach a higher mental level, i.e. create joy and sense of normality, a feeling of doing something useful. I finally accept that I have to be honest with myself. I have to live with what I have, with what I have left, and writing into the void is detrimental to my condition. I shouldn’t waste the little energy I have with hoping for something I have spent years working for. I should use the energy to make a difference in my own little way, in my own life, actually coming to life as I have only just survived until now.
In the next couple of months, I will start to make old articles available for free again. One after the other. I would therefore advise those of you who have a subscription to the website to cancel their subscription in the next couple of days and weeks.
Cinema has been a part of my life for 14 years now. I spent 12 of those with Slow Cinema. Cinema is all I’ve had, all I’ve known, and giving this up is scary because I don’t know what else to do. But it is no longer a field that is in line with what I can afford (mentally, emotionally). I can no longer see that I make a difference, even on a small scale, even on a tiny scale. And if you no longer feel that you can change something, achieve something, make a difference, it’s time to rethink and reevaluate.
If all goes well, I will embark on a second Masters, this time in psychology. I don’t know yet what I will do with it, and where it will take me. But I consider it a fresh start, maybe a start that will eventually bring me back to cinema. Who knows?
I’d like to take the opportunity to thank everyone who’s been with me on this slow journey: my readers, my supporters, filmmakers from around the world, viewers of the films I showed on my VoD platform, people who invited me to conferences and podcasts, everyone who bought my book(s), and everyone who believed in the beauty of Slow Cinema.