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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tao films subscription pre-sale

As part of our effort to increase tao films’ visibility, we are running a pre-sale campaign for subscriptions to our VoD platform, the only platform that is dedicated to the art of contemplative cinema ūüôā

There are several reasons behind this campaign. First of all, even though we started off as a no-budget platform, we can no longer hide the fact that it costs money to run a platform like this. I would love to have things differently, but it’s sadly not always possible. Our campaign is therefore an effort to raise at least 600 EUR in order to keep going for the next 12 month. It is also a way to find out whether subscriptions would be a viable way forward as the campaign will show whether there is an interest in subscriptions or whether it is more attractive to price each film individually. I believe it is the former, but we offer different price models for our campaign, so we will see what attracts people most. The money we raise with this campaign helps us not only to keep going but to focus on advertising, on partnerships, on generally increasing our visibility, especially in key cities around Europe and North America (as our main targets) in 2018.

For the duration of the campaign, we offer a one-month subscription for 10 EUR, a three-months subscription for 25 EUR, a six-months subscription for 50 EUR, a twelve-months subscription for 100 EUR and one lucky lifetime subscription for 500 EUR. Each of those subscriptions will become available in the new year and you can then decide when you want to start watching our films. All films are available to you, all the time, for the duration of your subscription.

Our campaign runs until 16 October. If you love what we do, please consider a subscription. If you cannot support us financially but love what we do, we would appreciate it if you could share the link to our campaign and tell everyone how amazing we are ūüôā

Do check our campaign on Indiegogo (click, click!). Thank you so much for your support in the past. I appreciate your help and support, and I’m looking forward to continuing this contemplative journey through world cinema with you!

Seaworld – Hing Tsang (2016)

!!! This film is now available on tao films !!!

What I like about my job (is it even a job?) is that I always find films that surprise me; films that show me something I haven’t seen before; films that startle me in a positive way. It keeps up my faith in cinema, in the idea that not everything is (as yet) homogenous for a homogenous mass out there.¬†Hing Tsang’s¬†Seaworld is one of those that, to be fair, took a while to get me. But the longer the film lasted, the more I loved it. If you have seen slow films before, or even just our films on tao films, then¬†Seaworld will surprise you. It might make you raise your eyebrows. It might make you laugh. But its smoothness, its gentleness, will take you on a very enjoyable journey to the bottom of the sea.

Seaworld (Hing Tsang, 2016)

Seaworld is not the ordinary slow film. It is not entirely narrative, but not entirely experimental either. It is not entirely fiction, but not entirely documentary either (“I try not to work within the limits of genre.”). It is a game, a playful trip alongside sea creatures that you sure haven’t seen this way yet. For this film, Hing Tsang, a lecturer in Suffolk whose work focuses on documentary film, worked together with Jos√© Navarro, a puppeteer from Peru. While the film starts with “real” footage taken at a beach, the film then shifts to the actual sea world, entirely replicated by Navarro’s body; arms and legs become fish and other creatures. Even shoes become creatures that one can find in the sea.

The movements of Navarro’s arms, legs and feet are graceful. They’re imitating the movement of sea creatures beautifully. The use of a green and slightly blue background to these movements gives us a sense of where we really are. The creatures are slightly transparent at times, at others they’re a bit blurred. The characteristics of water change our perception of what we see in it, and Hing Tsang is trying to get as close to this as possible, albeit in an abstract (puppeteer) way. When I saw the film in London, where I met the director, I was conscious of the film dragging me towards it,¬†pulling me into it. But I couldn’t resist. Not that I wanted to, but I nevertheless found it curious that I couldn’t let it go.

Seaworld (Hing Tsang, 2016)

Seaworld is not just a combination of dream imagery. Hing Tsang uses a very effective, minimalist soundtrack that renders the film a visual lullaby. Just speaking of the sound, the film reminded me of Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s short film¬†Mekong Hotel. The images are very different, but the persistent slow guitar music functions as a lullaby; it pulls you in, it makes you sleepy. The same process goes on in Hing Tsang’s¬†Seaworld.

I would strongly advise you to give this film a try via tao films where it is available for streaming. It’s a wonderful piece of work, something that definitely helps you to wind down after a long week of work. It’s Friday, and¬†Seaworld would surely help you to take it slow, all the while showing a kind of slow film you have probably not seen before.

Remains – Yotam Ben-David (2016)

!!! This film is now available on tao films !!!

What remains if a relationship, if love, has hit a dead end? We have all been at this point, asking ourselves whether we’re still moving forwards together, as a couple, or if we have long reached a stage¬†when it is almost impossible to return to the good old days.

With patience and an eye for detail (in a couple’s routine life), Yotam Ben-David from Israel explores this painful stage, often ignored out of fear to face the reality and the frightening possibility of being alone again. Itamar and Thomas, the protagonists of Remains,¬†couldn’t be more different from one another. Whether it was a coincidence or not, the respective¬†size/height of each character says a lot about how they are positioned in their relationship. Thomas is a tall, almost overpowering man. He is forceful and patronising. Ben-David doesn’t show this with the help of low angles, which would establish Thomas’ overpowering nature clearly on a visual level. Instead, the director asks us to¬†read the character through his actions. This might take longer, but it is a way to get the viewer engaged without feeding them with a golden spoon.

Remains (dir Yotam Ben-David)

Itamar, played by the director himself, is the complete opposite. It seems as if he is with his back against the wall, not having enough breathing space, being unable to move, to live. Regardless of what he does, it is wrong. The relationship is no longer an intimate community of love, but a sort of boxing ring where battles take place on a daily basis. Night appears to be the only relief for both sides, until another day, another battle, begins.

Ben-David uses beautiful night shots in order to underline the idea of a period of peace. But you can’t ignore the fact that the director’s characters are shown primarily alone in those night shots, suggesting that peace can only exist if the two partners are embalmed by solitude. It is uncomfortable to watch the two men positioning themselves in strong opposition to one another. There is persistent tension between the two, which acts as a thread which leads us through the film’s narrative.

All of this is, of course, the mere surface of the film. I had watched the film twice or three times, before I realised that the film has a deeper meaning. There was something that went beyond the depiction of a relationship that has hit a dead end. In fact, Ben-David said in an interview with tao films:

All of my films have roots in my own reality and my own experience, but at the same time I try to distil and highlight certain elements from this experience in order to examine them closely through my films. In this case I was very interested in this type of role play between dominant and submissive, which is something I believe we all live to a certain degree (even if not in the same volume as in the film). I was specifically interested in the different shades and nuances between those two poles, finding power in passivity and weakness in control. I was also interested in the idea that power is both attracting and destructive.

Remains (dir Yotam Ben-David)

Remains uses its characters in order to explore the concept of power. This goes beyond the¬†on-screen relationship between two men. Quite interestingly, it has a political edge to it. The idea of an attractive¬†personality which you follow and engage with only to find out that once you’re in this relationship (any type of relationship, it doesn’t have to be a loving relationship) you are oppressed to a point where you are aware of what’s happening without being able to stop – this rings so true in current politics where the right is on the rise around the world. Or when even left politicians turn out to use their power to, quite literally, overpower.

This political aspect of Ben-David’s¬†Remains might not be very obvious. The young director is very clever in¬†hiding the obvious, asking us to search for something that is just as important as the surface¬†that plays out on screen. The short is a subtle investigation into human relationships and the power that plays out between them. Could we go as far as saying that the power Ben-David depicts mirrors societies, too, confronting one another because of their differences? Watch the film on our platform and see for yourself.

Sixty Spanish Cigarettes – Mark John Ostrowski (2015, repost)

!!! This film is now available on tao films !!!

There is something sublimely beautiful about Mark John Ostrowski’s film Sixty Spanish Cigarettes (2015). Fifteen minutes into the film, an extreme long shot captures the sea and coast in the background. From the right hand side of the frame, a small boat comes into view. Ostrowski’s camera stays with the boat and follows it. Even in this extreme long-shot, we can see how the boat is moved by the wind and the waves. The sun is shining from behind a few clouds, it seems. The image is not in colour, even though you would perhaps think that. Coastal images in colour are always superb.

Screen Shot 2015-09-17 at 16.23.43

But no. Ostrowski works against our expectations. He frustrates us. Scenes of blissful contemplation are interrupted by hard cuts to a black screen. Those contemplative scenes of land- and seascapes, for instance, feel like a carrot Ostrowski is hanging in front of our eyes. But he takes that carrot away as soon as we have almost reached a state of contemplation. We cannot contemplate everything at once. We have to give it time. We have to be patient in order to reach this desired state. Ostrowski works well in alternating beautifully slow shots with a black screen, the latter making us hyper-aware of where we are.

Paradoxically, Sixty Spanish Cigarettes is about movement, and yet it gives us no feeling of speed at all. We see the protagonist walking through several different (beautiful) landscapes, which reminded me strongly of those used in Albert Serra’s Birdsong (2008). The clouds are brushing slowly over the hills, while the man is often dwarfed by the immensity of the landscape. He is alone, alone on his way to an unknown location. At times, he stops to light a cigarette. At other times, he simply rests. It is this solitude which gives us a feeling of slowness, a sense of pause. The repeated scenes of a man’s walking through an empty landscape brought a wonderful book back into my head;¬†The Philosophy of Walking. If you haven’t read it, please do get yourself a copy.

Screen Shot 2015-09-17 at 16.08.01

Ostrowski’s film shows the director’s superb photographic eye. Many of his shots are beautifully composed. They could easily be photos in an album, or large prints in a gallery. To me, the visual beauty of the film was also its strongest asset; the viewer in awe of nature, in awe of simple but expressive architecture. Ostrowski’s long-takes of those “photos” helped me to pause, to be in the present but also to wonder what the protagonist was really up to. I’m not entirely sure whether this is ever fully revealed in the film, but it is of little interest in any case.¬†Sixty Spanish Cigarettes is more of an atmospheric film than about a set narrative persistently progressing within the film’s 60 minutes running time. It reminded me of Martin Lefebvre’s modes of viewing; the narrative mode and the spectacular mode. Many slow films, which most certainly includes Ostrowski’s film, operate very much in the spectacular mode, even though there is a narrative mode in all. But the narrative mode is suppressed in many instances to give way to contemplation.

Screen Shot 2015-09-17 at 17.56.30

I believe that the film could have been a tick shorter in order to make full use of its shots. I’m not entirely sure when this shot appears, perhaps after around 45 to 50min. There is a beautiful extreme long shot of a landscape at the coast, with the protagonist sitting on a rock or something similar. He has his back turned to us and is looking at the scenery, like us. I expected the film to cut there. It would have been the most fitting and most suitable ending for the film, but unfortunately Ostrowski did not cut there and kept going instead.¬†The final images, to me,weakened the film slightly because they were not entirely necessary.

Nevertheless, with Sixty Spanish Cigarettes, Ostrowski has created a beautiful piece of Slow Cinema, which, regardless of whether or not he continues this slow journey, adds him to my list of directors to look out for in future. If the film runs at a festival near you, I highly recommend watching it!

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), F√©lix Dufour-Laperri√®re (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‚ā¨ and short films are 1,99‚ā¨. Our package price is 19.99‚ā¨ 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.

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

tao films – The tao website

A major step forward has been taken yesterday with the finalisation of our logo and the set-up of our website. There’s nothing much to see for the moment apart from our logo, the launch day and a link to the GoFundMe page. But oh boy, this looks as zen as I had imagined ūüôā

Screen Shot 2016-08-11 at 08.19.02

Please help me share the website (tao-films.com) and promote it. It would greatly help the cause. And please do remember that the Call for Films is still open, and that we’re still seeking financial support for our VoD platform. You can also now follow us on Twitter via @TaoFilmsVoD. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

tao films VoD – Further info

I would like to use the time to explain a little more about the VoD platform. Things have developed quite a bit since I posted the original project description online. I also think that a great deal of people (including filmmakers) don’t read it ūüôā So maybe it’s a good opportunity right now to describe the forthcoming platform for which we are seeking the support of the people on GoFundMe, in more personal terms. This is what the platform is; a personal project, not a matter of business.

tao films VoD will go live on 1 January. It is a platform which seeks to support underrepresented or even completely unknown filmmakers, whose aesthetics are very much contemplative. There will be feature films, short films, and even experimental installation pieces. There will be films from Mexico, films from Thailand, films from Morocco, films from all corners of the world.

My intention is it to show films which have no distribution (yet). This does not mean that the films can‚Äôt run on festivals. Of course, they can. Festivals are fantastic opportunities, and I wouldn’t prevent anyone from experiencing this. But we do seek to have exclusive rights for 3 consecutive months during which the film should not be shown on any other platform.

The VoD is not meant to be the end of a film screened. I know that when a film is shown on VoD, it has usually finished its theatrical run. This is not what I’m interested in. In many ways, I think, the VoD could be the beginning of something new, something larger. The platform will generate exposure for the films, so if something else comes out of it, I’d be very proud and happy to support the filmmakers in every way I can.

I envision the forthcoming tao films VoD as a community project. It is not my project, or that of me and my brother. Yes, we’re hosting the films and prepare everything for their streaming. But we ask the filmmakers to join in. In the end, they know their work best. For instance, the filmmakers will be asked to upload their films, enter information about their work and about themselves.

Filmmakers and hosts work together to make this platform happen, which I believe is the way forward if you want to have a lively community, a sort of friendship, and not a model which is based on profit and nothing else. We will also make it possible for the viewer to contact the featured directors directly, in the hope that this encourages a vibrant community. I’m sure viewers will be interested in this, and the platform will be less anonymous than all the others we know. There will be a direct link between us, the artists and the viewers. I see us as a family, and nothing less.

The platform will have pay-per-view and free content. The free content will be accessible in form of a permanent collection. A sort of pool of all kinds of shorts – I mean short shorts – or films that are already showing for free on other platforms. Then there will be pay-only content, which features feature and short films. At the moment, the costs are set for 4,99‚ā¨ per feature film and 0,99‚ā¨ per short film. But this is not confirmed and may change. The pay-only content will change every three months, and the films will then be deleted from our servers.

Everyone involved will profit in the same way from the platform. tao films VoD will not be a competition. We’re all working together on this. Hosts and the filmmakers involved receive an equal percentage of the money the VoD platform makes every month. tao films VoD will be the most equal distribution method you can probably find.¬†

I’m still waiting for confirmation about the registration of “tao films” as trademark. But what I can say for sure already is that I have tried to register the name for film distribution, film production, exhibitions, book publishing, journal publishing,¬†photography work, and more.

The logo is in the works. The contracts will be up for debate amongst the chosen filmmakers any day now. As I said, it’s a community, and I want this to be a fair distribution vehicle. If the filmmakers can help, then I’m more than happy to listen to them to make the platform better and fairer for all.

And now it starts to sound like a political speech, which is why I should stop myself ūüôā I just live for the project. I don’t like describing it. But feel free to contact me and ask questions, especially if you’re a filmmaker! Drop me an email via theartsofslowcinema@gmail.com

tao films

Thanks to very generous funding from some people, I was able to register in France the name I had in mind for the VoD service and the DVD releases.

tao films will be the new The Art(s) of Slow Cinema. Or maybe not the new one, but an extension of it. The Art(s) of Slow Cinema will remain as it is. tao films will be, in about a month, a registered trademark, once they have accepted the application I have sent them today. This way I can use the name without the possibility of someone else using it and then registering it as a trademark, meaning I would lose and essential part of my future projects.

tao films stands for simplicity. It stands for experience. tao films will, both on VoD and DVD, show films which do not necessarily appeal to the intellect but to the body. It orientates itself at Eastern philosophy and the importance to breathe and to contemplate.

So whenever I will now speak of VoD, DVD release and book publication, it’ll run under the tao films umbrella…and I’m SOOO happy ūüôā

Please welcome the new baby into the slow world!