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The short Pools screens with Resisting Paradise in TIFF’s Hammer series.
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Appalled by news reports about the war in Kosovo, lesbian-feminist filmmaker Barbara Hammer tried to cancel her artist residency in the French village of Cassis. Since she'd already signed a contract, she instead made Resisting Paradise (Thursday, April 4, 6:15 pm, rating: NNN), a film that looks at the sun-drenched Mediterranean region during the Nazi occupation.
Effectively combining the hand-painting of her experimental films with documentary-style interviews, archival footage and re-enactments, Hammer focuses on Henri Matisse, who spent the war in Nice. Readings from his correspondence with Pierre Bonnard are interspersed with Matisse's grandson's accounts of his mother's work with the Resistance and torture by the Gestapo.
Though it's the painter's name we remember, his struggles with still life compositions seem hopelessly trivial compared to the courage of his daughter and estranged wife.
Other threads include interviews with a Cassis woman who helped refugees obtain false papers and a Jewish refugee who escorted philosopher Walter Benjamin and his precious manuscript over the Pyrenees to Spain, where he committed suicide rather than be returned to occupied France by the Spanish authorities.
Despite the absence of Hammer's pioneering queer and body-oriented content (well represented in the rest of the series), the film, screening with short film Pools, is a thoughtful investigation of art in times of political crisis.
Hammer appears at all TIFF screenings in conversation with local artists including Elle Flanders and Allyson Mitchell, and the Images Festival presents a performance/screening of her recent Witness: Palestine on Friday (April 5) at Jackman Hall.