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by Indiewire
February 12, 1998 2:00 AM
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Exploding Cinema in Rotterdam

Exploding Cinema in Rotterdam

by Teresa Duncan



As a writer and producer of CD-ROMs, my experience with film festivals is
typically that festival curators and programmers -- if the festival even
accepts CD-ROM submissions -- don't know what to do with it. The
Interactive and CD-ROM programs of film festivals are usually ghettoized: a
small room off a festival hall with a few pale outcasts halfheartedly
pushing a mouse around a table while staring into the glow of computer
monitors.


The "Exploding Cinema" program at the Rotterdam Film Festival, however,
helped to demonstrate the tremendous impact that "outsider" visual
narrative mediums, like artists' films and videos, CD-ROMs, websites and
computer games, have had on the way films and television programs are being
made and viewed.


When my design partner Jeremy Blake and I arrived in Rotterdam, we were
pleasantly surprised to see that our medium was given pride of place
alongside the work of established cineastes. I was delighted (and my ego
nicely stroked) to have my photograph taken and immediately put on the wall
labeled "Directors", alongside celeb movie makers like Gary Oldman and
Harmony Korine.


Our demonstration wasn't for several days, so we decided which lectures and
screenings we wanted to attend. Not surprisingly, most of the screenings
and lectures we were curious about were in the "Exploding Cinema" section.
The first thing we saw was a panel discussion on "Artists as Film
Directors" featuring British artist (and NYU Film School dropout) Steve
McQueen, photographer Sharon Lockhart, and Los Angeles Museum of
Contemporary Art film and video curator Kerry Brougher. This lecture
focused on art world biggies who have recently tried to make the crossover
into cinema, like Matthew Barney ("Cremaster 5") and Cindy Sherman ("Office
Killer
"). There was a question and answer period after the screenings of
several of the artists' films, and some members of the audience seemed
quite shocked, and some even angered, in particular by Sharon Lockhart's
lovely and repetitive Sundance entry "Goshogaoka", a non-narrative
chronicle of Tokyo girls basketball team in practice. I was surprised at
the negative and antagonistic reactions, but was pleased to see that
someone was making film that evoked that kind of heated response.


I had always heard about the early audiences of this century rioting at
Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring", and now I could see how a work of art could
cause such a reaction. Portrayals of sex and extreme violence seem somewhat
commonplace in film, but the meditative non-narrative repetition that are
hallmarks of the work of film artists really set the Rotterdam audience
off.


At the other end of the spectrum was the Friday night demonstration of my
children's CD-ROMs. The audience was rather small, but warmly receptive to
my titles "Chop Suey", "Smarty" and "Zero Zero." Many of the audience
members were enchanted by our interactive fairy tales for the junior jet
set. I noticed later that we were one of only two or three works in the
entire festival whose work was created for children. I wondered why
creating meaningful, intelligent content for kids isn't a very high
priority for too many film directors or artists or video game creators. I
guess being cool and making stuff for kids to is an oxymoron to many. The
non-Exploding Cinema people I spoke to at the festival only seemed
interested when I mentioned that we are currently in production on an
animated film and CD-ROM for adults.


On our last day in Rotterdam, we visited the Exploding Cinema Media Lab at
Pathé theater -- a disappointingly desultory grouping of computers under a
stairwell. The Media Lab did feature one great title: "Pa-Rappa the Rappa"
a demented Sony Playstation game where a homeboy puppy and a giant daisy
teach players how to rap, created by Rodney Alan Greenblatt.


Eyeballs swimming with all the delights we had experienced over the last
few days, we dragged ourselves to the closing night party, featuring DJ
Photek, who designs techno music for video games. At the party, we hung out
with glamorous Exploding Cinema curator Femke Wolting, and director Harmony
Korine, who had just deservedly won the critics' prize for his gorgeous
garden of white trash delights, "Gummo." Jeremy and I then retired to our
suite in the scary Golden Tulip Hotel, where I polished off a mini-bar
Snickers and a couple of those miniature bottles of Jack Daniels'.


[Theresa Duncan is the writer, designer, and producer of the award winning
CD-ROM "Chop Suey" distributed by Twentieth Century Fox. Her latest title,
"Zero Zero" an interactive fairy tale about the turn of the century, has
also won many awards. Theresa is currently directing an animated
mockumentary about an art scene similar to Andy Warhol's Factory, entitled
"The History of Glamour."]

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