Slow Short Film Festival – Full Programme

Last year, the very first edition of the Slow Short Film Festival took place in Mayfield, England. It was a first, to me in any case. A festival focusing exclusively on slow films – a dream I have had since I started writing on Slow Cinema, and then this dream comes true thanks to a group of wonderful people. This year, I have joined the programming team and I’d like to present to you this year’s festival programme. Eight films from around the world, eight films that deal in different ways with cinematic slowness. What is best for long-time followers of mine and for supporters of tao films, is that you get a 20% discount on a festival ticket if you’re a tao films subscriber. And if you’re buying a festival ticket and are not yet a subscriber, you get 20% of your subscription to tao films. So, if you’re in or around Mayfield on 1 September, drop by, see amazing films, have a chat with likeminded people, and, with a bit of luck, you can also meet me! ūüôā

The following eight films will be shown:

António and Catarina. In this film from Romanian director and cinematographer Cristina Haneș, a 70-year-old man and a 25-year-old woman share a candid and twisted relationship with a deadline. Trapped in one room, António and Catarina are negotiating the terms of their relationship.

Double Reflection by Taiwanese filmmaker Wang Chun Hong. Wang records the connection between himself and photography. His works integrate fictional life experiences with self-performance, where boundaries between fiction and reality are blurred.

In Greenland, an autobiographical film from Israeli filmmaker Oren Gerner, Oren returns to his family home to pack up before moving in with his girlfriend. The process exposes Oren’s liminal place – between child and adult, between intimacy and alienation.

High Cities of Bone, by Portuguese director Jo√£o Salaviza, tells the story of Karlon, a pioneer of Cape Verdean Creole rap who runs away from the housing project to which he was relocated. Among the sugarcanes, a murmur is heard. Karlon hasn’t stopped singing.

How Do You Thirst? by Los Angeles-based filmmaker Joshua Gleason is a dialogue-free meditation set amid a growing water crisis. The film sees a lonely Japanese woman take in a stranger whom she finds passed out in the stairwell of her apartment complex.

In Investigations of a Dog, a young man, frustrated by his grim existence, decides to lie down by the river and test whether society will take care of him or let him die. Exposed to the hospitality of the elderly couple who find him, he discovers new purpose in assuaging their loneliness. The film is a work by director Aleksandra Niemczyk, a former student of Béla Tarr.

One and Many by German-born, London-based filmmaker Jonas Bak. A fly is trapped behind a window. A man lives in a new city. People’s worlds are crammed together, yet they are galaxies apart. Flies are drawn to a streetlight. Alone and together. One and many.

In 90 Seconds in North Korea, Croatian filmmaker Ranko Paulovic, who now works in the Netherlands, presents the other side of North Korean life: a world away from the army parades, paranoid leaders, oppression and fear.

A very strong line-up and I’m very proud to say that tao films will show a selection of the best submissions as part of an online festival in late September. I’m prepping the festival now to bring you as great a selection as I can! Remember, the festival takes place on 1 September in Mayfield. Early bird tickets are now ¬£8 (until 31 July), including transport to and from Mayfield, and food.

Tao Films Selection for August and Other News

On 1 August, we added 5 films to our permanent tao films library. There is now a selection of 20 films from 17 countries available to you. I’m particularly happy of adding more contemplative experimental films because I love just how much they have you engaged, how much you’re left to your own devices. Maybe this will become my new thing now!

tao films selection 

BALADA by Anton Petersen (Faroe Islands)

The last evening together – a couple who has just broken up need to clean their apartment before the next morning when both of them will go their separate ways. Petersen, from the Faroe Islands and a former student at B√©la Tarr’s film.factory places emphasis on the rift between the two characters, but does so with little dialogue. Instead, the mise-en-sc√®ne and the film’s characteristic smooth travelling camera speak volumes.

KALEIDOSCOPE by Telemach Wiesinger (Germany)

One could say that Telemach Wiesinger is the modern man with a movie camera, a sort of contemporary version of Dziga Vertov, whose film is and will always remain a classic. Kaleidoscope is a film poem, a travelogue, perhaps a book of moving images in 21 chapters. The images, well-chosen and put into light, are, thanks to Wiesinger’s versatile aesthetics, a reminder that there is not one tempo, one form of pace in life. Rather, it is a combination of speed and slowness, of linear time and time that progresses like the movements of a river.

LA COGNIZIONE DEL CALORE by Salvatore Insana (Italy)

This film is shown for the very first time in the world and I’m proud that tao films could be the platform for the world premiere of Salvatore Insana’s new experimental short film.¬†La Cognizione evokes several feelings at once, and perhaps the idea of memory is strongest throughout the film. Or is it? Insana uses sound in a peculiar way, allowing it an almost hyperreal presence, rendering the images spooky, voyeuristic, but also intriguing and captivating. Through its hyperreal and yet vague aesthetics, Insana has created an impressive experimental, say experiential, film that will captivate your senses.

LETTERS FROM THE DESERT by Michela Occhipinti (Italy)

Seven years (!!!) after the first release of the film,¬†Letters from the Desert, the first feature film by Michela Occhipinti, is finally available for the world to see. I have come across this film during my PhD research, and I’m proud that I can give this patient documentary a home now. Occhipinti tells the story of a postman in the desert. We see him picking up letters at the train station and distributing them to several villages. The arrival of letters is an event, something that we have long forgotten. But there are signs of change; the first communication post appears in the middle of the desert…

THE BLIND WALTZ by Sebastian Eklund (Sweden)

Another experimental short film that is one of my favourites at the moment. The extraordinary vision Eklund shows in his photographs (he’s also a photographer) also shows in his cinematic work.¬†The film’s stunning images take us on a journey through his house while the crisp-clear sound makes one believe that what is happening is happening around us, in our own home. Eklund‚Äôs visual and aural treatment is almost hyperreal and it finds its climax during the blind waltz that is almost illusionary and yet, it is real.

In other news

Eight months into our work, we have (finally!) been written about, and in a very positive way, too! I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the article in S√ľddeutsche Zeitung, one of the three main newspapers in Germany, a daily paper from Munich. That was worth a drink and really helped to get our name out. But more needs to be done. We’re now in contact with KONT magazine, a new slow magazine from the Netherlands…

The first Slow Short Film Festival is coming up. It takes place in England and several of our films (already showing or still to come) will be shown on a big screen, amongst them ECCE HOMO by Dimitar Kutmanov, CENTAUR by Aleksandra Niemczyk and ONE TIMES ONE by Chris Bell. Hats off to the organisers! More info, including a trailer can be found on the official website.

Kevin Pontuti’s ONERE keeps traveling the world, and has been selected for the Nevada City Film Festival. Watch Kevin’s film now on tao films, if you’re curious as to what all this festival buzz is about.

Sorayos Prapapan’s new film DEATH OF THE SOUND MAN has its premiere at the Venice Film Festival. His short film¬†A SOUVENIR FROM SWITZERLAND is still available on tao films.

EHO by Dren Zherka, soon available on tao films, will have its Austrian premiere in Kitzb√ľhel this month.

Another film just had its world premiere;¬†1000 SMILES PER HOUR by Fabian Altenried premiered in Edinburgh and has also been selected for the Sarajevo Film Festival, which has just come to a close. I’m sure many more festival screenings will happen, and we’re looking forward to showing the film in the near future.

More news to come next month! Till then, keep watching good films and take it slow!

Austerlitz – Sergei Loznitsa (2016)

I wasn’t prepared for this film being a slow film. Of course, I expected Sergei Loznitsa’s¬†Austerlitz to be slower than the average, but I didn’t expect the film to fall into my category of Slow Cinema. It does, however, and it’s a film that poses so many questions; questions about how we remember, how we deal with the past ethically, and whether we are still acting ethically in the ways in which we remember the persecution and attempt at total extinction of the Jews in Europe.

Austerlitz is set in the grounds of two concentration camps. If you hadn’t read about it before, you would notice this only in the third scene of the film. Loznitsa doesn’t make it obvious from the first frame where we are. Instead, we see people looking at something we do not see. Loznitsa is careful not to show us what they see. We do not get point-of-view shots. It is not that kind of film. What is important in¬†Austerlitz is the study of people visiting former concentration camps that have been turned into museums. The film is not about the extermination of Jews. It is not about showing the atrocities committed by the Nazis in the 1930s and 1940s. On the contrary,¬†Austerlitz is about how we today, in the 21st century, decades after the end of the war, deal with this part of our history.

Loznitsa¬†uses a static camera throughout. A flow of people walks past, looking around, taking pictures. Yes, what the film is about is looking. It is about seeing. It is about what the French would call the √©thique du regard, the ethics of looking, of watching, of internalising memory. The director stands back from what’s happening in front of the camera. It seems as though he simply put the camera somewhere and the rest unfolded by itself. And as such, he couldn’t have created a more interesting portrait of how modern society deals with a part of memory that it so important to keep. Two people that stood out for me right at the beginning where this young man wearing a t-shit saying “Cool Story Bro”. I’m not sure there could have been a more tasteless shirt for an occasion like this. Then there is a young woman who entertains a group of people by putting a bottle of water on her head while a guide is explaining the uses of prisons in Sachsenhausen concentration camp.

Loznitsa’s film shows the gulf between the second and third post-war generation. In several instances, his camera records an indifference of the latter. But it’s not just them, though. People of all generations take selfies in front of one of many infamous Arbeit Macht Frei gates. People with selfie sticks are everywhere. They do not look at the remnants of the past; they merely record it with their phones. The culture of smartphones has changed the way we deal with the past. We take a picture of everything, regardless of what the photograph shows. People take photos first before they help other who’ve been in an accident just because.

I would say that we’re living in a click-culture, which is at odds with memory. Photographs do not help us remember. They help memory to fade. What is important is that we see things with our own eyes, only then can we¬†feel what it means to be at a certain place. If anything, concentration camps (I’ve been to one) are about the experience of being at a place haunted with death. What Loznitsa shows is that, today, it seems to be about going there, taking selfies, and posting them on social media. Is that how we remember today? Is this how we can stop the past repeating itself?

In all of its long takes, Austerlitz shows that sites of memory are no longer used only to remember. The sites are consumed. They have become part of our devastating consumer culture, which makes it so difficult to make people to experience something for longer than just a few seconds. It often appears as though the visitors cannot grasp what happened at the time, yet the reason is very simple: time. Loznitsa takes the time to observe people not taking their time to observe. They take a photo and continue their way.

At the same time, there is something ethically questionable about the film itself. Several shots are beautifully framed, such as the one around half hour into the film. We see a group of people huddled into a small room, most of them trying to take pictures like paparazzis. The shot is beautiful. It’s simple, a white wall and an open door. Nothing but that. How do you frame death, or the present absence, in concentration camps? Should a director make his shots aesthetically pleasing in such a context while at the same time pointing to the malady of contemporary society to simply take nice pictures at a place of death? To pose at places of death? It’s something that I haven’t come across yet in reviews of the film, and it might be worth looking at the film from this angle, i.e. from the possible implication of the director in what his film seems to criticise.