Vanità – Kevin Pontuti (2017)

A bare room. The walls are seemingly made of cold stone. The lighting is low, the darkness overpowers the image, which director Kevin Pontuti has created at the beginning of his new short film Vanità (2017). The image itself could be mistaken for a medieval still life, a painting that represents the dark ages that have left their indelible marks on our present lives. Pontuti, a visual artist first and foremost, uses his skill to merge the art of film with the specifics of a still life painting in this film in order to strengthen the concepts of dark- and coldness, and which foreshadows what is to come.

Pontuti creates an almost palpable soundscape at the beginning, a soundscape that makes the scene come to life. One could think, believe even, that one is part of the film, standing there off-screen and looking at the old wooden table. The result of the director’s sound design is an immersive nature that cannot be shaken off throughout the film’s duration.

Vānĭtās – emptiness – permeates every scene of the film. It is not only about the utter scarcity of the mise-en-scène. There is also the actual process of emptying oneself. This is primarily metaphorical, as is often the case in Pontuti’s work. In Onere (available on tao films), for instance, this metaphor is one that symbolises the burden of identity, the burden of the I, in the form of a shapeless, and yet almost human-like “package” that a woman carries through the woods under extreme efforts. In Vanita, Pontuti is more explicit in his representation, but he remains faithful to his approach of not showing. Rather, his work demands of the viewer to interpret, to read, the frames he has constructed. What underlying meaning is there in a woman pulling hair out of her mouth? Is it an extension of Onere’s burden, a burden one wants to rid oneself of? Why does this woman, previously calm, brushing her hair, vomit excessively only to then return to complete normality as though nothing has happened? Is there a meaning?

Pontuti’s latest instalment of his Poetry of Penance series represents strongest the sentiments of horror, of darkness, even of violence, albeit not explicit, that the viewer might associate with the Medieval Ages. What remained under the surface in Onere comes to the fore in Vanità. The horror of the unexplainable, of the mysterious, is the core of the director’s representation of vānĭtās, which comes to life through the strong acting of his regular lead actress Alexandra Loreth, who lives her role despite all the horrors that comes with it in this film.

More than perhaps his previous works, Vanità asks one to reconsider the idea of film. Pontuti has created a cinematic piece that challenges our belief that films must be seen in cinema, by seemingly merging static and moving image art. Vanità is more than just a film. With the help of utter simplicity, it creates strength and challenges, and poses questions that are not always easy to answer.

(The original title of this short essay is “Vanità – The horror of the unexplainable” and is part of the promotional efforts following the release of Pontuti’s new film.)

tao film selection and other news

Welcome to a new selection tao films films for you, handpicked just for you 🙂 Before you dive into it, let me say that tao films will start a free collection very soon. We’re currently preparing it. In order to give you a taster of our work, some films will be available for free on our platform. I’ll let you know once everything is up and running for this. And now, please welcome…

BYRON JONES by Ashish Pant (2013, US/India, 108min)

“If there is something that characterises contemporary “Slow Cinema” in particular, then it is the directors’ focus on the everyday. They hold a mirror in front of us, in front of our pains, our joys. Ashish Pant’s Byron Jones belongs to this category of filmmakers., but he stands out, taking the focus on the ordinary everyday further than other directors do. Byron Jones is a two-hour long portrait of an elderly man. We see him sleeping, showering, preparing meals, eating. In particular the last two daily habits might evoke in some viewers the memories of Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman; the almost hyper-real depiction of a woman’s day-to-day going ons. Jones, a widow perhaps, lives alone, which the director enhances with an almost oppressive silence that characterises the man’s solitude. With his insistence on showing Jones’ daily activities in detail through the use of almost extreme long-takes, Pant has created a hyper-real portrait not only of Byron Jones, but of most of us.”

ART 35.5. HOURS A WEEK by Mariken Kramer and Eli Eines (2017, Norway, 22min)

“The front security door opens and the first visitors enter the National Gallery in Oslo. Another day at the gallery begins. But while this is another day of leisure for local visitors or foreign tourists, several coming from far away to see the classics, it is another day of work for the security guards who surveil the precious paintings the National Gallery is home to. Artist-filmmakers Mariken Kramer and Eli Eines, both alumni of the Trondheim Academy of Fine Art, focus in their documentary on the behind-the-scenes at the National Gallery, singling out those people who spent the most time with the paintings in front of them. In careful long takes, Kramer and Eines evoke the required slow look at a gallery, all the while speaking to the guards in order to learn about their work, but most importantly about their relationship to art. In the background of the directors’ frames, viewers speed through the different rooms only to take a picture of a famous painting; a beautiful contrast that forces us to think about our relationship to art, our willingness to take time for what surrounds us, and our appreciation of it.”

ONE TIMES ONE by Chris Bell (2016, US, 20min)

“It is not easy to leave one’s home. It is even more difficult to build a life in another country, a country that is, perhaps, very different of one’s own. Ahmad emigrated to the US from Syria but struggles to find his feet. His days are spent idling, waiting for job opportunities that rarely arise for him. One Times One tells the story of Ahmad and a curious, if at times ambiguous, companionship with Mike, a 50-something American who lost his arm in an accident and keeps himself busy by drawing cartoon characters. Chris Bell uses the same patience he has shown in his feature film The Wind That Scatters in order to dig deeper into Ahmad’s daily life and struggles. It’s an episode that plays out so many times in our world that it gets overlooked and forgotten, but Bell brings it back into light and makes us aware of this enforced idleness that puts our life on hold.”

LADDER by Simo Ezoubeiri (2015, US/Morocco, 8min)

“An elderly man, alone, wakes up. He appears to be in a state of arrest. His movements are slow; he is sleepy. He is being drowned by something, something that weighs heavy on his shoulders. In one scene, we see a woman leaving the house with a suitcase. The house falls quiet, and it becomes clear what the weight on the man’s shoulder is. There is a profound sentiment of loss that Simo Ezoubeiri attempts to bring across in his film. The loss of a partner, through death of a break-up, causes a temporary stoppage of time and opens up a hole both in the person’s life and in the person itself. In long-takes which show the elderly man do nothing but idling, Ezoubeiri gets to the bottom of this sudden emptiness and loneliness, and lets us feel what it means to be left behind.”

KHOJI by Yudhajit Basu (2016, India, 20min)

“Set in the lower Himalayas, Yudhajit Basu’s short film Khoji is an ominous piece that uses the violent history of its people as a background in order to explore (and explain, perhaps) the people’s struggle today. And yet, this history is visually absent from the screen. In carefully framed long-takes, Basu lets the images speak as well as the dialogue in which parents consider sending their daughter to the city because it is no longer safe where they live. Or a dialogue in which a brother, almost surprised, asks his sister whether she wasn’t aware of what was happening in the neighbourhood. Something is happening; it hovers over Basu’s film, over every frame. The director suggests rather than tells, using still and quiet imagery that show resemblances to some of the big names in Slow Cinema.”

 

Other news

This autumn, Sebastian Eklund (director of The Blind Waltz) will open his first solo exhibition at the Konstepidemin in Göteborg, Sweden. He’s a great visual artist, so if you’re in or around Göteborg, do use the chance and see his work.

Pilar Palomero has been awarded a Special Mention at the Sarajevo Film Festival for her film WINTER SUN. The special mention has been awarded by one of the festival’s partner in the larger context of the Bosnia and Herzegovina Student Programme Award. Congratulations!

If you want to learn ore about the director of Onere, Kevin Pontuti, there is a new interview with the filmmaker available, conducted as part of the short film programme of the Prague International Film Festival. You can read the interview here.

Scott Barley’s Sleep Has Her House will have its Canadian theatrical premiere on 24 September as part of Art House Theatre Day. You can read more about the event and book tickets here.

La Pesca by by Pablo Alvarez screened at the Camden International Film Festival this month . The film will come to tao soon, and I cannot wait to show this beautiful short film to you!

More news about Kevin Pontuti. The filmmaker has taken the helm of a new study programme called “Media X” at the University of the Pacific this semester. You can read all about the director’s new university programme here.

While his short film Ladder is being shown on tao films just now, Simo Ezoubeiri’s new project Inner Marrakech begins to travel the festival world, starting with the Kaohsiung Film Festival in Taiwan.

We hope you enjoy the new selection. Do join us in our tao films Facebook community, or follow our Facebook page, or our Twitter account for the latest updates on tao films and festival news from around the world.

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 Béla Tarr’s film.factory places emphasis on the rift between the two characters, but does so with little dialogue. Instead, the mise-en-scène 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’s 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 Süddeutsche 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 Kitzbühel 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!

Tao Films Selection and Other News

In the last six months, tao films has gone a long way. We started off with a mere six films in January that were replaced by a selection of eight films in April. By now, we have a permanent selection of 15 films available for streaming. And many more films are to come. We have around 80 short films and 50 feature films which wait to be uploaded, and we can’t wait for you to see them. But all in its own time…

This July, we have switched to a permanent collection, a library of films that cannot, for the most part, be found somewhere else. We pride ourselves with selecting films from mostly young and emerging talents from around the world in order to give them a chance to showcase their work. We have added 4 films this month, ranging from fiction films to experimental cinema.

In The Night of all Things/La Noche, director Pilar Palomero explores themes of loss as a result of death in connection with childhood. Her film is a quiet study, a study that makes palpable pain and grief transmitted through silence and the slow progression of time.

The night of all things – Pilar Palomero (2016)

Eli Hayes’ Mercury Vapor is an experimental film that, over the course of two hours, asks you to free your mind, to be open to the moving images, not always clear, blurred at times, open to what is happening on your screen. Hayes does not tell a story; the story shapes up in your head alone. The film becomes what you see in the director’s images, and it is this characteristic which makes Mercury Vapor a special experience. 

Mercury Vapor – Eli Hayes (2017)

In his short film Onere, which is part of a larger project, Kevin Pontuti metaphorically explores the theme of self and the role of our identity. What does it mean to carry the weight of ourselves? Can we detach ourselves from our identity and choose a new one?

Onere – Kevin Pontuti (2016)

In A Place Called Lloyd, Danish director Sebastian Cordes takes us on a trip to Bolivia. Even though the national airline Lloyd Aereo Boliviano has gone bankrupt, its workers show up at their workplace every day. In at times vast and impressive shots, Cordes captures the stories of these people and their sense of dedication and pride. 

A place called Lloyd – Sebastian Cordes (2015)

Some films from season one have returned and others from season two have stayed on. We’re happy to say that the following films are also available on tao films: Bare Romance by Belgian director Karel Tuytschaever, Centaur by Aleksandra Niemczyk from Poland, Ecce Homo by Dimitar Kutmanov from Bulgaria, Metropole by Ozal Emier and Virginie Le Borgne from France/Lebanon, Osmosis by Nasos Karabelas from Greece, Remains by Yotam Ben-David from Israel, Seaworld by Hing Tsang from the UK, Sixty Spanish Cigarettes by Mark John Ostrowski from Spain, A Souvenir from Switzerland by Sorayos Prapapan from Thailand, Transatlantique by Félix Dufour-Laperrière from Canada, and Wanderer by Martynas Kundrotas from Lithuania. 

In other news…

There is a lot happening with our filmmakers and they make us proud. First of all, we’re happy to say that Yudhajit Basu, whose film Khoji will show on tao next month, has been accepted at the prestigious National Film and Television School in India. Congratulations! 

Emily Cussins’ Diviner Intervention, to be released on tao soon, has been selected for the Science Arts Cinema Festival (if this is not a curious festival, we don’t know what is!).

Kevin Pontuti’s Onere keeps traveling to various festivals, so many, in fact, that I lose track of them.

Centaur by Aleksandra Niemczyk was screened at the International Film Festival in Madrid this month.

Félix Dufour-Laperrière, director of Transatlantique, is putting the finishing touches to Ville Neuve, his new film.

The Slow Short Film Festival, all new, will kick off in September and they have selected quite a few tao films. Check out the line-up, or rather impressive screen grabs of the selected films, on the official website. I’ll try to be there and maybe I meet some of you 🙂

There is a lot going on, and I will keep you updated here on The Art(s) of Slow Cinema. Stay tuned!