Slow Cinema VoD – Update (2)

Here’s a brief update on how things stand with the upcoming The Art(s) of Slow Cinema VoD platform.

Work is going on at three fronts at the moment. First of all, I’ve been trying to find a decent payment provider, whose HQ is in Europe (for legal reasons) and who doesn’t take extortionate commissions on transactions. There are some who only accept credit cards which wouldn’t be useful. Others operate only in certain countries, or on certain continents. At the moment, we’re looking at a Dutch and a Danish company. They both sound good, though the latter only deals with payments from within Europe and they recommended we should speak to a separate provider for non-European payments. Some of you may suggest PayPal, but PayPal’s commissions are pretty high. If we can avoid it, we should. Besides, PayPal is American. We want to avoid this, if at all possible.

Second, the programming is continuing. One important thing I should mention is the subject of geo-blocking, which pops up in the news again and again. Sadly enough, geo-blocking is common practice. This goes for all kinds of online players, including VoD platforms by national state televisions. MUBI, for instance, does a similar thing. Now that I’m in France, the choice of films is pretty lousy compared to the choice I had in the UK. Besides, films only come in French or with French subtitles. If you’re not familiar with the language (say, you have just moved for instance), you cannot watch the films. A monthly subscription would be a waste. When I was in Brussels for two months, all I could see on MUBI were films in Dutch or with Dutch subtitles. Useless to me. I don’t speak a word of Dutch. Geo-blocking is a problem nowadays. With regards to The Art(s) of Slow Cinema VoD, we think that building walls online restricts the access to a form of culture which should have its doors open to everyone. Why should you be able to watch film X only if you’re in a certain country? Everyone should have the right to see it. The Slow Cinema VoD platform will make this possible.

Last but not least, from the first batch of submissions I have chosen 30 films. This is a higher number than I expected at the beginning. Most of them are short films. A third of them are feature-length films, which I’m trying to get more of. It would be nice to showcase two feature films per curated “season” plus a package of short films. But this obviously depends on the submissions I receive. For two films I need to check the legal grounds because the directors are bound by a contract with IFFR Unleashed.

Speaking of which: I have contacted the people behind IFFR Unleashed about their project. Every year, some films from IFFR are selected for VoD streaming via iTunes and Google Play. I wasn’t aware of this. It’s a good idea in any case, though I do believe that some films, especially those slow films I have in mind, would benefit from a more focused platform than the vast mainstream-driven platforms by Apple and Google. I’m currently waiting for a response and hope that they are at least willing to speak to me about it.

This is it for now. As per usual, I’d like to renew the Call for Films which you can find here. Just keep them coming. And keep making them too! 🙂

Edit: You can now donate to our crowdfunding campaign on GoFundMe.

A long Lav Diaz Taster

I have mentioned the films by Filipino director Lav Diaz several times in the past, and I also said that his films, amongst many other slow films, are difficult to get your hands on. However, there is now a perfectly legal way to watch his six-hour film Century of Birthing from 2011, the year before he released Florentina Hubaldo CTE.

Century of Birthing, Lav Diaz (2011)

Mubi offers the film free to watch (conveniently in parts of one hour each) until November, 14th as part of the Dialogue of Cultures International Film Festival. If you haven’t got an account with Mubi yet, you should get yourself one. It’s an amazing film platform!

This is your chance if you haven’t seen any of his films, or if you haven’t seen this specific one. I do have to warn you, though. There is a sect in this film. All singing and dancing. Very brainwashing indeed! I can guarantee you you’re going to hum this song under the shower.

Norte – A slow step towards public recognition

It looks as though Norte was good but not good enough for a prize at this year’s Cannes festival. A couple of people are surprised. Yet, knowing Lav Diaz, he most likely doesn’t care. He makes films not for awards, but for cinema. And this he did. I’m personally very happy that I can call him my ‘research subject’ 🙂

Although, I may, in fact, have to re-think this, because he crossed my plans. Norte seems to be different from his previous films I study for my research. His previous oeuvre led me to a unique approach to Slow Cinema. And now, he’s using colour in his film, and sweeping camera shots – this kind of goes against my plan. Thou shalt explain…

Anyway, colour or black-and-white, static or moving camera – I’m looking forward to seeing this latest masterpiece of his.

Let me give you a few extracts from reviews I’ve read since Thursday. These won’t contain spoilers, promised!

“Those who entered Diaz’s world swam somewhere else than the Riviera for those brief hours, and were rewarded with quite possibly the best film there.” (Daniel Kasman for MUBI)

“They took their seats, the lights went down, the movie came up, and I sat there. Two-hundred-fifty minutes later, the lights came up, I stood with tears in my eyes, and clapped as loudly as I ever have for any movie in my life. (Note: I’ve actually never clapped for a movie before.)” (Wesley Morris, Grantland)

“By comparison, the four-hour Norte is a miniature, but it’s also an accessible film, a superb piece of focused narrative that’s more immediately coherent than such digressive pieces as 2009’s Melancholia.” (Jonathan Romney, Screendaily)

In fact, it’s difficult to give you more than this because they all agree on the fact that Diaz’s film was magnificent. I’m glad that he had this experience, and I’m sure that Norte will be accepted at other festivals, too. If you want to read full reviews (which contain spoilers, beware!), you can find links in my Slow Tweets to your right.

As for the award, I’m a bit 50-50 about it. Of course, I would have liked to see him getting the award, or any award in the Un Certain Regard section. It may have been a bit too much all at once, though. I think the effect of his work for cinema will be more effective if he slowly creeps into people’s cinematic world and mind.

I want to end this brief entry with something Lav said in a recent interview with Keyframe. This says it all about Slow Cinema – why write a 80k thesis about it, if you can fit it all into a few sentences?

One of the greatest struggles in a human life is against time. We confine ourselves to some routines, we think it’s time—and it’s not, it’s just action. But if you think of time, it’s just about death and mortality and so are my films. I struggle with time but also respect space; they go together. For them to harmonize in my praxis I need to do long takes or one take. I’m trying to be truthful. I don’t want to manipulate time or space. I’m trying to subordinate the idea that [in cinema] we’re just following the characters. Look at the world, take your time! It’s all about seeing. Many young people don’t necessarily respond to that. ‘It doesn’t fit into my schedule.’ That’s a very important line nowadays.