ROTTERDAM 2001: Exploding Cinema; Sidebar Sides with Online and Installations
by G. Allen Johnson
(indieWIRE/02.05.01) -- The press office has closed, the Pathe has gone back to showing regularly distributed movies, there are no volunteers to assist you, and the city of Rotterdam has returned to normal. But you can still attend the Rotterdam International Film Festival, and you don't even have to travel to Holland. Simply log on.
Maybe tech stocks are down, and Internet filmmaking is slow to become popular -- for one thing, the bandwidth required is not available to the casual consumer -- but the people at IFFR believe it is, indeed, the future. This year, the ever-popular Exploding Cinema program has bought into Dot-communism.
"What we are seeing is an interconnection that didn't previously exist," said festival director Simon Field. "Filmmakers -- and I mean, artists, because the lines are becoming blurred -- are using their computers to mix film, video and photography in new and interesting ways. That's why we subtitle this section 'Cinema Without Walls.'"
Rotterdam has carefully cultivated its status as a cutting edge festival. The much-ballyhooed spectacle of digital projection at the recent Sundance was covered within the Exploding Cinema program two years ago, and this year the section is looking beyond simply experiencing a film to interacting with it, and not just on the Internet.
In addition to Cinema Online (http://office.filmfestivalrotterdam.com/exploding/index_co.html), the IFFR partnered with museums in Rotterdam to display works of filmmakers. A whole wing of the Boijmans Museum is devoted to 18 directors, including veteran Czech filmmaker Jan Svankmajer, and their images are mixed in various creative ways to form exhibitions. Festival organizers aren't calling these works "films," preferring "cinematic installations" as the more correct term.
As noted cinema theoretician Raymond Bellour noted during his lecture, "From CINEMA to an 'other cinema'" on Jan. 28, the filmic image "hesitates continuously between movement and immobility."
Several films were also part of in-person shows in Cinema Live! A performance by the band DHS, called "Mind Control," for instance, showcased the techno group as they incorporated a manipulation of images on three screens and quadrophonic sound through a "video organ." Other projects included a musical/sound effect reinterpretation of Sergei Eisenstein's 1924 silent "Strike" by Pierre Jodlowski, a science fiction film acted out by four members on stage -- each equipped with a camera, mixing live images with pre-edited sequences -- and Dutch artist Eboman's (aka Jeroen Hofs) "SkrTzZ n Sample MadnesS," a program in which sensors on Eboman's arms "guide" visual samples, with the assistance of his digital partner Jennifer LoRez, who looks suspiciously like Jennifer Lopez. Sounds like a real "Cell" job.
Interestingly, the IFFR selected the Cinema Online projects -- with the exception of some interactive Web sites already up and running -- as they would regularly project films. Short films distributed through the Internet were not eligible. Apparently, many of the projects went online with the beginning of the Rotterdam festival. Cinema Online, which covers much of the same material as the recently touring RESFEST, can lay claim to being the festival's only section in which every film will receive distribution.
Thanks to the widespread availability of the new Flash program, animation is very popular here, making up more than half of the 41 projects selected, and none of the films are longer than nine minutes (most of them are in the two-to-three-minute range).
The most renowned filmmaker in this series is Tim Burton, though his five-minute "Stainboy" has been available for some time.
Among the most interesting projects are Amy Talkington's "The New Arrival," which uses the new immersion video technology to allow the viewer to control a 360-degree perspective of the unfolding action; "Stop for a Minute," a British project backed by Film Four and Dazed and Confused in which several international directors made 60-second movies intended to tackle important social issues (www.stopforaminute.com); and the episodic "Munchyman and Fatty," by Geoff Carley, a comedy developed by the underground channel Heavy that mixes animation with photographic elements.
Quite obviously, Cinema Online is the most practical Exploding Cinema section, or at least will be, because of the potential to reach a mass audience easily. Cinema Live! is essentially performance art, and like the museum installations, it can't be distributed but must travel one place at a time. Some projects stretch to even be included as a work of cinema. James Coleman's "Photograph," for example, which has a cinematic ambiance -- a dark room with sound and acting -- is the story of school children practicing for a play as told through a series of slides. It's unique and artistic, but is it cinema?
Simon thinks so: "He's (Coleman) a master of the projected image, and, again, this exhibit crosses from cinema to other art forms. This mixing of art forms enhances and challenges cinema, and I think it's exciting."