New Surrealist Cinema

New Surrealist Cinema by Melanie Wilmink (CSIF Communications Co-ordinator)

Short films as visual poems is an appropriate metaphor, particularly for this screening. In poetry, you tell a story or share a moment in the same way you would in a longer text. However you have some constraints, including the traditions of writing, and creating rhythm, beauty and narrative quickly. We think of poems as short pieces of text that show us a moment and demonstrate its beauty and importance all at the same time. A poem does not explain itself. It just is what it is.

These films were selected for the same criteria. We looked at how the films fulfilled the Surrealist mandate… were they surreal? Then we looked at quality, which included their artistic values… how striking were the images, how beautiful and memorable, how concise were they, how well did it flow and finally did it use

the medium… celluloid – in their process. In many of these films celluloid is as important as the story. Un Chien Andalou used film because there was no other option. These days film is a choice, and has many benefits, including the quality and depth of the image, but it also takes more time and expense to use. There is a discipline to using film that we wanted to explore in this program. In many of the films, celluloid is used to create an atmosphere where nostalgia and memory figure prominently. The artists deal with dream worlds, and the visceral quality of film helps to set their film in a different time and place. Film affects what the final product looks like; dirt, scratches and grain all set a certain tone. In Skulls and Blackberries, the story IS the process. Eric Ostrowski uses sunlight and the acidity of fresh blackberries to expose and develop his film (similar to automatic writing). He left the film, covered in blackberries, out in the sun for several days and the final film is a result of chance reactions with those elements.

Other films like Memory Lapse (Scott Amos) and Yesterday’s Wine (Roberto Ariganello), used found footage (another Surrealist process) to create surreal scenarios. Amos uses contradictory text and found footage to defy our expectations and Ariganello uses found footage from old film archives and found language tapes, which he remixes to create a fragmentary and surreal narrative where speech and images combine in surprising and delightful ways. This act of combining images in surprising ways is key to the Surrealist act. Disjointed images and timelines work to upset the normal expectations that viewers have for films. Surrealism is designed to disturb, and because it pushes the boundaries of normal understanding, it is inevitable that people will sometimes find it uncomfortable. This is used for effect in narratives. Films like Melty Kitty, Memory Lapse and At the Heart of It All, use images out of context to make a point. They are simple collage-like films, but the narrative that they imply is disturbing and does not seem to mesh with the images. Yet, at the same time, as much as the images do not seem to fit with one another, they still make sense in a strange and intriguing way.

Surrealism can be used to create meaning/ story or it can simply emphasize the story that is already there. One could argue that any meaning you derive from a surrealist work, whether it is found footage or created, is inherent in the work. Because of the tenet that surrealism taps into the unconscious world, any story attached to it is valid, whether the story is applied to the story by the author/ filmmaker or the viewer. Many of the contemporary works here seem

to discard the original idea that the surrealist method HAS to be completely unconscious, and use images created Surrealist ways to make works that have overlying threads of narrative. They take fragments of surrealism and cut away the boring parts to make a whole work using only the best surreal fragments. I think that this

program is a strong example of all of the different ways of using Surrealism in a modern context and you may agree, disagree or have something to add to the points made in this program.

Join us for the discussions after the screenings, write or illustrate something for us (and enter it in to the draw for a $100 Film Festival 3-day pass), or join us on the website and blog.

And above all… enjoy the films!

Shorts Program 2: Friday November 28, 2008 – 7pm

CSIF Sofa Cinema

Shalosh Kadoshim: perhaps/We  by Solomon Nagler

11 minutes 16mm 2003  Halifax, Canada

Within the mystic spaces of a Judaic self doubt falls a dreaming painter from the fallen Polish city of Lodz. A million murdered spirits bring to him into a world of faded photographs and stone

angels, whose petrified teardrops forever scar the widowed landscapes of Polan.

Walk For Walk by Amy Lockhart

10 minutes 16mm 2005  Canada

Enter a colourful, tripped-out animated landscape filled with catchy songs, eyeball kicks, goofball characters, and a great variety of babies: Warm Baby! Mister Baby! Rich Baby! And more! Created using over 1000 hand-painted paper cutouts, puppets and backgrounds.

Three Minute Miracle by Amalie Atkins

12:22 minutes DVD Saskatoon, Canada

A short 16mm film about the mystery of a fictional world where wolves ride red felt bikes, bears perform dance routines, and gold teeth hold magical powers.

Professor Delusia, the Nocturnalist Pt. 2 by Gerald Saul

4:57 minutes DVD 2008 Regina, Canada

His magic knows no bounds! Behold, he will bedevil you! Inspired by Mélies historic groundbreaking films.

At the Heart of It All by Chris Bose

8:16 minutes DVD 2008, Kamloops, Canada

A short film using archival footage of Aboriginal children in the Canadian residential schools.

Botched Eyeball Operation by Clint Enns

1 minute BETA SP 2007, Winnipeg, Canada

A voyeuristic gaze at a common operation gone awry.

Tell us the Truth Josephine -A Bitter Immigrant Story by Valerie Buhagiar

15:30 minutes BETA SP 2006 Toronto, Canada

A Maltese woman’s search for “home.” Josephine struts across Canada on stilts. And for Josephine to find home she must accept the Truth. And once she does she can come off her stilts and land.

Grotesque by Wrik Mead

7 minutes BETA SP 2002, Toronto, Canada

A devil makes a violent attempt to change himself into a heavenly creature. His evil process backfires when he is confronted with the creatures from within.

Melty Kitty by Allyson Mitchell

3 minutes BETA SP 2006, Canada

Suicide is painless, it brings on many changes, and I can take or leave it if I please.

Winged Victory by Victoria Prince

7:30 minutes BETA SP 2006, Winnipeg, Canada

This fairy tale style musical embraces the nightmarish and sideshow aspect of the Circus. Prince plays both a freedom-loving chicken girl and the wicked ringmaster who would keep her off the stage.

Yesterday’s Wine by Roberto Ariganello

10 minutes BETA SP 1999, Toronto, Canada

A found-footage film that explores the nature of filmmaking by deconstructing the violence common to commercial cinema. Made from old 8mm films, with a dialogue created from language tapes, the film also examines the self-referential nature of filmmaking.

Wor by David Armstrong

7 minutes BETA SP, 2008, Dartmouth, Canada

Classic design imagery and the grotesquery of sideshow horrors become the main attractions of this eloquent tale from local animator David Armstrong. In the troubled time of another land, can “Wor” be averted?