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!

Tao Films Season Two, 1 April

I’m very happy to present the selection for the next season of tao films. We have increased the number of films available to eight; three feature films and five shorts. There is quite a strong focus on Europe, though it’s not an exclusive focus. For us, it’s a look at our home, before we’re going to South America and Asia in season three.

Our feature films were made by Mark John Ostrowski (Spain), Félix Dufour-Laperrière (Canada) and Claudio Romano (Italy). I’m particularly happy about the first two, having written about the directors’ Sixty Spanish Cigarettes and Transatlantique respectively here on this blog in the past. Now, I can finally bring these films to you.

Our short-film directors are Yotam Ben-David from Israel, Dimitar Kutmanov from Bulgaria, Hing Tsang from the UK, Karel Tuytschaever from Belgium and Martynas Kundrotas from Lithuania.

Trailers, interviews and more info about the films will be available in the next couple of days. As was the case in the first season, feature films are 4,99€ and short films are 1,99€. Our package price is 19.99€ this time due to the slightly higher number of films overall. Sixty per cent of your money goes directly to the director whose film you purchase.

Looking forward to seeing you on tao films! You can still see our handpicked selection for season one until 31 March.

Dead Slow Ahead – Mauro Herce (2015)

I wonder whether the title of Mauro Herce’s film is the most fitting of any slow film I have seen. I don’t think you can find a better title for what is shown in the film. Herce, a Spaniard, takes us on a journey through the Atlantic Ocean. On board of a giant ship – a cargo ship it seems – we spend day and night observing day-to-day events. In some ways, Dead Slow Ahead is very similar to Félix Dufour-Laperrière’s Transatlantique, a superb film also set on a giant ship, also set somewhere in the ocean far, far away from civilisation. I wonder whether Herce has been influenced by that film. Some scenes, though not a lot, seemed to me to be astonishingly similar to what I saw in Transatlantique. But perhaps this is simply the nature of being on a giant ship, trying to make it look mysterious and…well, massive.

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Dead Slow Ahead is, perhaps, a sort of photo album with sound and very little movement. In many cases, Herce choses almost extreme close-ups so that it is impossible to see where we actually are. The persistent use of close-ups transmits the feeling of claustrophobia on the ship, being somewhere, nowhere, just surrounded by huge walls of metal. This somewhere-nowhere becomes rather poignant when we hear warnings through a telephone speaker that water is seeping through the lower part of the ship. A male voice describes it as a disaster. He warns that the wheat stored on the ship gets wet. All this happens around 15min into the film. Perhaps earlier, perhaps later. Time doesn’t have a meaning in this film. Nor does space. Anytime, anywhere. What does matter is the viewer’s concern that s/he might witness a real disaster unfolding on screen. The very tight close-up shots before water penetrated the ship already creates a tense atmosphere. The persistent warnings for a minute or two only reinforces this and made me feel ill at ease.

Throughout the film, Herce doesn’t let go of this tightness. He does use long shots here and there, but they show massive structures on board the ship. We’re either imprisoned by close-ups, or utterly overwhelmed by the sheer vastness, the sheer size of a man-made monster that never reaches its destination. The film has an eerie feeling to it, not only because we are locked up in the belly of a ship without destination. Herce plays a lot with sound. There is something what I would like to call “tunnel audition” or “tunnel sound” if those terms don’t exist yet. The director silences all sounds but one, and that one is highlighted, artificially increased in volume, and muffled. It reminded me how my hearing was just before I fainted a couple years ago. It’s a very odd sensation that you cannot quite put into words, but I found that Herce’s play with sound comes very close to what I felt at the time.

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The combination of close-up images you need to decipher and a sound you cannot always locate, Dead Slow Ahead is partly a disorientating film. It challenges our expectation of certainty, but it also rewards us for staying with it. The cinematography is beautiful, stunning at times. The journey on this giant ship is haunting, it is claustrophobic. And yet, it is liberating somehow. I know that this possibly contradicts everything I have said above. But Dead Slow Ahead is a weird film. It’s imprisoning, it’s liberating. It’s ugly, it’s beautiful. It’s claustrophobic, it’s vast. It’s suffocating, it’s breathing.

What is this film? I could go the long way of bringing up Daniel Frampton’s filmind again, which I still find fascinating, but I better leave it here and simply recommend this film. To everyone! Kind of wished I could secure the films for tao films VoD. Maybe we’re lucky and it’ll happen one day!

Transatlantique – Félix Dufour-Laperrière (2014)

I love slow films for the very good reason that they stay with you, whether they’re films about happy chaps (which is hardly ever the case) or whether they’re brutal encounters with disturbing histories. The fact that they are slow gives your brain ample opportunities to record the film in detail. If a film is, on top of that, also beautifully shot, it leaves an even stronger impression. This is the case with Félix Dufour-Laperrière’s beautiful Transatlantique (2014).

What would you expect from a film which is set exclusively on a big ship, without dialogue or music? Possibly not much, but Transatlantique is a compelling piece precisely because it is beautifully shot and because it engages the viewer. Dufour-Laperrière does not show everything that happens on the ship. He uses fascinating shadow plays, originating from the changing light on the ship, in order to give us a sense of what the ship crew is busying themselves with. What are they really doing?

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There is a superb scene which made my heart melt. I would say that my eyes melted, but this sounds wrong, even though it would be more appropriate. A seemingly high angle shot records a shadow play of something. Of people, no doubt. But what are they doing? I saw two dots, this was all. I heard sounds of a football being kicked around. The scene was veiled in complete darkness from time to time whenever the sun disappeared. Then the two dots re-appeared; a mesmerising light-shadow play, which I could have watched for hours. It turned out that the crew played cricket. It was the scene which showed me most just how engaging this film is, even though I thought that I would merely float on the big sea with the crew for about an hour. This isn’t the case at all. Dufour-Laperrière has created a thoroughly engaging piece with Transatlantique.

There is another vital aspect which helps with viewer engagement. This is the issue of sound. Slow films in general put emphasis on sound, mainly ambient sound. The subtraction of dialogue allows natural sounds to come to the fore. That so many slow films are set in nature speaks for itself; it is a reminder of what else is out there apart from the spoken word. If we were to shut our mouths for a while, we would hear the birds…or the famous wind in the trees (apart from seeing it!). Dufour-Laperrière, though, plays with our expectations. As he does so with the visuals, some of which are almost impossible to decipher (and I suggest this is what makes them so beautiful and intriguing), he also frustrates us by not giving us the peaceful and meditative sound of the sea. This is perhaps one of the expectation you have of the film; hearing the sea. Transatlantique may disappoint you in that case.

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 17.33.51

The almost complete absence of the sound of the sea was compelling. You see the sea, but you don’t hear it. Dufour-Laperrière deafens us in this regard. But it is also a reminder that nature is not one of the actors in the film, as is the case, for instance, in Lav Diaz’s films. The protagonist is the ship, not even so much the crew. I had the feeling that Transatlantique was a film about a ship. It reminded me of a big whale, almost life- and motionless, and yet so fascinating; just like the whale in Béla Tarr’s Werckmeister Harmonies. Even though there are obvious narrative strands constructed around the characters, for me Werckmeister Harmonies was about the whale first of all, and then about the characters. The former influenced the latter. This is where I would position Transatlantique as well, though, to be fair, it is more difficult to clearly establish here who’s the main protagonist. Transatlantique is not a narrative film as such. It is more an observation, which echoed the approach Lisandro Alonso took in his first films.

Transatlantique is a fascinating visual and auditory piece, which keeps you engaged throughout it’s almost 80 minutes running time. Just the cinematography alone allows me to position the film in the top of the most beautifully shot slow films. It’s one of those films that made me want to pick up a camera again (and I will eventually!).