TOMORROW: tao films advent calendar

It’s almost Xmas, and we have prepared something special for lovers of contemplative cinema. Our tao films advent calendar offers 24 previously unseen short films. Each short film is available for 1‚ā¨ only and for 24 hours only. The calendar is a sneak peek on what we will offer in 2018, and, of course, it’s a superb way to celebrate cinema and Xmas at the same time ūüėČ

So here’s the screening schedule for the coming three weeks. The special offer starts tomorrow, 1 December, midnight Central European Time. All films can be bought separately or you can buy the entire calendar in one go. Hope to see you around!! Don’t forget, you can discuss the films in our dedicated tao films community on Facebook. If you tweet about the calendar or want to give us a shoutout, please use the hashtag #taofilmsxmas

1 Dec РTHE SADNESS OF THE TREES by Scott Barley and Mikel Guillen
2 Dec РSHADOWS SET TO THE WEST by Manj Gill
3 Dec – SPIN OF YOUTH by¬†Jo√ęl Duinkerke
4 Dec – PASSAGE by Telemach Wiesinger
5 Dec РA PIOUS MAN by Alex Megaro
6 Dec РINGANNI by Salvatore Insana
7 Dec РTHE PAPERMAN by AbhirOop Basu
8 Dec РTHE EMPTY NEST by Marta Hernaiz Pidal
9 Dec РHUH by Filip Kojic
10 Dec РPSYCHOPOMP by Mariachiara Pernisa and Morgan Menegazzo
11 Dec РNOC by Pilar Palomero
12 Dec РMEMOIRE CARBONE by Pierre Villemin
13 Dec РWEDDING PREPARATIONS IN THE COUNTRY by Akash Sharma
14 Dec РA MIND OF ICE by Eli Hayes
15 Dec РAMPLIACION by Jaime Ignacio Grijalba Gómez
16 Dec РCARROZZERIA MISTA by Francis Magnenot and Katia Viscogliosi
17 Dec РQUIRO by Yudhajit Basu
18 Dec РMEER by Wolfgang Lehmann and Telemach Wiesinger
19 Dec РBRUSSELS NOTES by José Fernandez
20 Dec РFROM THE SIDE by Yefim Tovbis
21 Dec РPESCARE by Kevin Pontuti
22 Dec – OD EL-CAMINO by Martin Meija
23 Dec РTO TAKE ANOTHER HUMAN FORM by Jijo Sebastian Palatty
24 DEC РWHAT REMAINS by Enzo Cillo

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Book review: Chantal Akerman, Passer la nuit – Corinne Rondeau (2017)

A small book at the bottom of a shelf that is overwhelmed with books on the big names of Hollywood; films, directors, actresses. There, somewhere in between those oversized books, I found the new book on Chantal Akerman, smaller than A5 in size, almost invisible. Written by Corinne Rondeau, this French-language book is the latest work on the Belgian director. Without being too analytical, Rondeau makes reading the book an experience just as watching a film by Akerman is an experience. Rondeau’s work is poetic in writing, often following a chain of thoughts as they come into her head. Her writing suggests continuous movement, circular movement at times, rather than chopped off pieces of thoughts that appear for no reason.

In her little book¬†Chantal Akerman, Passer la nuit (2017), Rondeau suggests that it is futile to see Akerman’s work only in the context of her family’s traumatic past during the Second World War, the silence in the family that had affected her deeply, and her suicide in 2015. Even though, she argues, it is important – and she herself, in fact, returns over and over the aspect of silence as a result of history – it is not adequate, not productive, to consider Akerman’s oeuvre entirely as a result of that. A fair point, given that it is always futile to look at something from a single perspective. Rondeau sets an example, looking even at the small things. Her chapter headings are fascinating at the beginning, simply called “encore” (again) or “o√Ļ” (where), chapters in which she brings to the fore the essence of Akerman’s work, I find.

There is plenty I would like to mention, but I will point to only a few arguments Rondeau makes, and leave it up to my French-speaking readers to get their hands on the book.

The first argument, which I thoroughly liked, is Rondeau’s explicit view of Akerman working in the context of the words “nothing”, “blank”, and “gap”. These terms appear over and over in Akerman’s films, as visual demonstrations rather than spoken words. Indeed, I find that these terms are particularly prominent in the films I’m interested in:¬†L√† bas,¬†D’Est,¬†No Home Movie. Although Rondeau refuses to read those films exclusively in the context of a traumatic family history, these three films are important in the context of memory, memory lapses, the silencing and suppression of traumatic events. It is impossible¬†not to read them in this context, perhaps in the context of the second and third generation attempting to dig up the past that has formed them, affected them in the way they think, feel and behave. Perhaps, this way of thinking, my thinking, makes me feel so strongly about Rondeau’s description of Akerman’s films: “une nuit qui tombe peu √† peu”, a slow nightfall. With¬†No Home Movie, night has fallen.

Rondeau argues that it is obstacles that really help us to find a way, and it is silence that help us to find words. Akerman, according to her, makes use of this logic, and uses a kind of aesthetic that she describes as “suspense in absentia”. Tension is there, but it’s not overt. It’s the main ingredient of her films without putting it on the films’ sleeves, so to speak. Tension is present and absent, just like trauma, which disrupts time and space. This “suspense in absentia” is not only characteristic of Akerman’s work, but Rondeau has unwillingly characterised a large number of slow or contemplative films that use this aesthetics. I described it, though in other words, in my work on Lav Diaz. B√©la Tarr’s films centre around this absent-present tension as well as more recent works. I’m thinking in particular of the works by Scott Barley and Enzo Cillo, whose videos make this covert tension palpable.

While reading the book, I came across several instances which contradict Rondeau’s initial claim that it was futile to see Akerman’s work exclusively in the context of trauma. And yet, she herself writes about it without mentioning the term. It is more by describing Akerman’s aesthetics that she gets to the bottom of the nature of trauma, which she, at the beginning of the book, so vehemently rejected as the sole centre of the director’s oeuvre. She mentions another characteristic of Akerman’s films: “on s’approche en s’√©loignant”. We approach something by distancing ourselves. This is very much an extension of her notes about silence as a necessity to find words, and obstacles as a necessity to find a way. One is important in order to reach the other. The idea of approach through distance reminded me strongly, again, of the nature of trauma. You dig in your memories to find something. While speaking about it, you come closer and closer to the actual painful event, but you often bounce back, you distance yourself, precisely because it causes you pain. Approach versus distance, distance versus approach.

“O√Ļ vont les images?” Where do the images go? According to Rondeau, Akerman’s oeuvre centres around this very question. Why do all images move towards the night? Or “How can you remember something that you yourself haven’t experienced?” as Akerman formulated it. Rondeau identifies the circle as one of several main elements that appear over and over again in Akerman’s work, which to me, once more, is the perfect symbol of how the director deals with the effects of her family’s traumatic history. As much as Rondeau would like to disconnect one from the other, it is impossible to do so. This is the one thing that I did not like about the book; the forced attempt of disconnecting the symbols Rondeau identifies in Akerman’s work from the nature of trauma, which is so dominant in the director’s films.

Nevertheless, Rondeau’s book adds a lot of good stuff to existing writings on Akerman. The way it is written – in a fluid, poetic style – makes it a pleasure to read. The book takes you on a journey and makes you hungry, I find, to see more of Akerman’s films. I haven’t seen her complete oeuvre yet, but am very much aiming for doing exactly that!

Sleep Has Her House – Scott Barley (2017)

!!! This film is now available on tao films till the end of March !!!

It took me a long time to decide whether I should be writing about this film. All films available on tao films are reviewed on this blog. But how do I even begin this with Scott Barley’s first feature film¬†Sleep Has Her House?

Why is it so difficult for me to write about it? I have seen several overwhelming¬†reviews of this film. Some people can put their experience of the film into words. I struggle with it. Maybe it’s¬†because I¬†experienced the film.¬†Sleep has nothing to do with the intellect. There is nothing you can or even want to think about. When you see the first images, at the latest when you see the stunning waterfall – the camera zooms out slowly, carefully, to show the full beauty of it – then all you want is for Barley to take you on a journey. And he does.

I do not want to describe what’s happening in the film. I don’t want to describe the images. Rather, I’m going to break the rules for my blog and tell you an anecdote instead.

Last year, I went on two shamanic journeys. One of them was a follow-up to a journey I undertook in 2015 (if you’re reading this, John: thank you!). The aim was to find my power animal. These two journeys were very intense, especially visually. Everything looked underexposed and yet I could see clearly. That translated into sensations. I felt those two journeys. I felt my standing in a dark cave watching a deer. I also felt my watching a river. I didn’t see myself there. I was actually there, I felt my presence in this different world.

Barley’s¬†Sleep Has Her House silenced me the day I saw it. I couldn’t bring more over my lips than “I really like it”. What I noticed was that¬†Sleep is part of my shamanic journeys. The images, the sounds – they have a resemblance to my journey. No,¬†Sleep isn’t my shamanic journey on screen. But it is so close that it frightened me on the one hand, and on the other I suddenly had the feeling that a director who doesn’t know me, a director whom I have never met in real life, knows my soul.

Sleep is a film that goes deep, very deep. It is not just a film. It is not just visuals. And it is not just a combination of visuals and sound. It is a journey. It is an experience. It digs deep into your soul, into your dreams. It takes you into another world, into the underworld, but it’s not a scary journey at all. On the contrary, Barley is always there with you. You’re never really on your own.

Barley’s film is certainly the strongest film I have seen in years. There have been many films which touched me, but not in the same way.¬†Sleep stands out. This is as far as my words can take it. All I can do now is strongly recommending the film. Words cannot adequately translate experience. You naturally lose most of that experience because you try to find words for something that has no words. So please watch the film, and experience this magnificent journey Barley takes you on.

tao films VoD now live

I’m very pleased to announce that tao films VoD is now live after a year of hard work. It is a project I’m particularly proud of. Since midnight CET, you can now stream six selected films from around the world, and you can do so until 31 March 2017.

Our feature films are¬†Centaur by Aleksandra Niemczyk, a film shot in Bosnia-Herzegovina as part of Aleksandra’s studies at B√©la Tarr’s film.factory. She says about why she made the film: “As for the reason to make Centaur, it was the idea to make something personal yet fictionalized. And Centaur is based on the story of my grandfather who, in 1953 was paralyzed by polio during an epidemic that affected the whole world. It is very much abstracted from the reality, more like a vivid memory.”

Then there is¬†Osmosis by Greek filmmaker Nasos Karabelas, a deeply philosophical piece about life, death, and everything in between. It’s a film heavily laden by a voice-over, which gives substance to the often empty frames. In Nasos’s own words, “The movie sets questions which reflect firstly my personal worries and secondly the daily life of a human being at this very moment.”

I’m exceptionally proud of presenting to you Scott Barley’s¬†Sleep Has Her House,¬†the young director’s first feature film. It’s very experimental. No dialogue guides you through the images; you have to learn to read them. In our interview with him, Scott ponders about the relationship between film and viewer: “What does a mountainside, deep in its slumber say about being a human being? What does a picked flower floating in a starlit pond say? How does time pass us, as we stand rooted, in the quiet wind, mesmerised by the moon above us? How can we go beyond ontology and communicate in discussion through cosmological questions? To me, the body, and the stars are both one and the same. And the film and the spectator are too. They feed off each other.”

The ebb of forgetting is a short film by Filipino director Liryc de la Cruz, who has previously worked with Lav Diaz. It shows in his films; black-and-white empty frames, a focus on contemplation and nature. About the choice of cinematic slowness, Liryc told us, “Regarding the slowness in my films, for me, this ‚Äúslowness‚ÄĚ is a gift to our soul, especially that the world now is moving so fast. So when you are able to immerse yourself or get inside this ‚Äúslowness,‚ÄĚ it’s like you exist at the right moment, at an ideal pace that the world seems to lack right now. I want that moment to be experienced by my audience while watching my films.”

French duo Ozal Emier and Virginie La Borgne present their short film¬†Metropole, a strong film about¬†what it means to leave your home and settle in a different country, and about how your past travels with you wherever you go. Ozal explains, “There is something very violent in cutting your ties with your culture and forget who you have been so far in order to ‚Äúfit‚ÄĚ in a new place. This is what Hector did, in the name of integration and social success.”

Last but not least, we’re happy to show¬†A souvenir from Switzerland by Thai director Sorayos Prapapan. The refugee crises from 2015 hits the art world; the Thai directors, in Switzerland for a festival, meets an Afghan filmmaker friend who has become a refugee in Switzerland. Set against iconic images of Swiss mountains, Sorayos gives us an individual perspective on the refugee crises. What characterises the film is the absence of faces. Sorayos explained his choice: “I think without our faces, the story feels as if it belongs to everyone and not only to him and myself. This kind of thing can happen to anyone in the world who lives in a country which lacks freedom of expression.”

If these six films sound appealing to you, please join us on tao films. You can watch trailers of the films and read the full interviews with our selected directors. A feature film costs 4.99‚ā¨ and a short film costs 1.99‚ā¨. We have a special package price, which gives you access to all six films for 17.99‚ā¨. Please note that our platform aims to support the directors and their new films. Two-thirds of the profits go directly to the directors.

I’m looking forward to welcoming you on tao films!

tao films VoD – Full feature film programme

We have a complete feature film programme for the first three months of tao films VoD, running from January to March 2017. The short film programme will be added soon. But I’d like to present to you the three chosen featured films with which we will launch tao films. Here are a few taster screenshots for you. Trailers will follow in due time.¬†You’re invited to join us and the filmmakers next year. You won’t be disappointed!

P.S.: You can still help tao films with a donation on GoFundMe.

(1) Sleep Has Her House, directed by Scott Barley (2016) – World Premiere

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(2) Osmosis, directed by Nasos Karabelas (2016)

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(3) Centaur, directed by Aleksandra Niemczyk (2016)

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tao films VoD – A world of films

Thursday in exactly four months, we’ll see the launch of tao films VoD. I already mentioned the world premiere of Scott Barley’s first feature film¬†Sleep Has Her House. The other films which will be shown as part of the first curated programme will be announced in a month from now. I’m still pondering which ones to choose from. There are so many! I keep saying that I receive films from all over the world. And it’s true. But you might want to see it with your own eyes. So, here you go…tao films, a world of films!

If you want to support us, please go to our website and follow the GoFundMe link. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

world-map

Slow Cinema VoD – Update (3)

Today, I would like to list the directors whose works I have chosen for¬†The Art(s) of Slow Cinema VoD. These directors have submitted their films after the first call for films, or I have asked them whether they’d be interested in the project. That these names appear here today does not mean that the Call for Films is now over. It remains an open call. I simply want to announce the first batch of participants.

Yesterday, I finished watching the submissions. For some films, I only needed to see the first frame and my decision was clear. For others, I had to let the film do its work on me before I could decide whether it would be good to include it or not. From the submissions I have received since January, I have chosen the majority. Let me give you the names now before I continue with my thoughts on them:

Simo Ezoubeiri, Sebastian Cordes, Yulene Olaizola, Michela Occhipinti*, Félix Dufour-Laperrière, Tito Molina, Felipe Guerrero, Zhengfan Yang, Homer Etminani, Pablo Lamar*, Christos Gkotsis, Martin Meija, Liryc de la Cruz, Shengze Zhu, Yotam Ben-David, Miguel Hilari, Jaime Grijalba, Allison Chhorn, José Fernandes, Diego Amando Moreno Garza, Jenni Olson, Martynas Kundrotas, Blaz Kutin, Mark John Ostrowski, Sorayos Prapapan, Yarr Zabratski, Peter Sant, Oren Contrell, Mirac Atabey, Dina Yanni, Nandan Rado, Kevin Pontuti, Scott Barley, Mikel Guillen, Lois Patino*, Tiara Kristiningtyas*, Panahbarkhoda Rezaee*, Salvatore Insana, Manjeet S. Gill, Ion Indolean, Yefim Tovbis, Regina Danino, Krishnendu Sarkar, Karel Tuytschaever.

Those names which are labelled with a stars are not 100% certain yet. I’m trying my best to chase up the directors (or find them!), but I haven’t yet been successful. If you can help in any way, please let me know.

Some filmmakers have submitted more than one film. There is a great mixture of amateurs and “professional” filmmakers. I have an almost even number of feature and short films, which is fantastic. I thought that I would receive more short films than anything else, but this is not the case.

The chosen films are either made in, or the directors come from the following countries:

Mexico, USA, Canada, Bolivia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Chile, Colombia, Denmark, Italy, Spain, Greece, Israel, Belgium, Lithuania, Romania, Slovenia, Ukraine, UK, Turkey, Austria, Morocco, Australia, India, China, Hong Kong, Philippines, Thailand. 

Unfortunately, there is only one film from Africa so far, but I’m nonetheless proud that the Call for Films has attracted films from all continents. I had always hoped this would be a global platform. Obviously, I couldn’t influence the film submissions. Yet there was the risk that I would end up with films from predominantly Western countries. Another fear which was unfounded. South America is very strong, a fact I like most. I’ve always had a strong feeling that there are plenty slow films being made in South American countries. I have three films from Mexico so far. Not a surprise, if I see the countries general output of good arthouse cinema.

This morning, I set up a Facebook group for all directors who have been chosen from the first batch of submissions. From now on, there will be a direct and quick contact between me and them regarding the project development. New members will be added as we go along with the project.

One final point, we have Cinéma Fragile on board, a French film collective focusing on film haikus. Their films are freely available on Vimeo. They will remain free, but The Art(s) of Slow Cinema VoD will show them, too.

Any questions? Any more films? Please contact me!

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

The Ethereal Melancholy Of Seeing Horses In The Cold

Things have been slow lately. I’ve been busy writing proposals and papers. Hence, there isn’t anything new or groundbreaking I have to offer this week. But I have a little something at least.

I found this wonderful short film yesterday, which strongly reminded me on the aesthetics of slow film. To my surprise (though it might not be a surprise to everyone) this film was made by an amateur. Scott Barley is a first-year film student in Wales. True, the films by his favourite filmmaker B√©la Tarr are influential. However, I believe that it’s more than just copying. Besides, his film has its very own aesthetics.

This film made me wonder how many amateur slow-film directors are out there. We (that includes me, of course) study the canon of well-known directors up and down, but actually it might be worth looking into, what I would call, a new and younger generation of directors.

If you know someone (who probably knows someone who knows someone) who makes something we could call slow film in his / her free time, please do email me:

theartsofslowcinema@gmail.com

I’d be very interested to see what the real¬†scope of this slow film concept is.