IMAGES FESTIVAL OF FILM AND VIDEO/ NEW MEDIA/INSTALLATION from today (Thursday, April 7) to April 16 at various venues. $8-$12, stu/srs $5-$10, passes $50-$75. 416-967-1528, www.imagesfestival.com.
INTERNATIONAL SHORTS PROGRAMS 1-12 at Innis Town Hall, 2 Sussex.
This might be the year the Images Festival shrugs off its reputation as a venue for experimental films mostly concerned with art-speak and abstraction.
The festival, which starts today, celebrates its 18th birthday and comes of age with a program showcasing an aggressive interaction with the reality – or lack thereof – presently governing life on planet Earth.
The heart of the fest is the 12 shortmovie programs spanning the 10-day event, with over 100 films and videos culled from roughly 1,600 submissions from around the world.
There’s incredibly diverse subject matter – from a woman entombing herself in plastic wrap to a time-lapse study of an off-season German public swimming pool – in movies ranging from three to 30 minutes. Many convey a sense of anxiety around the overlapping issues of displacement and replacement.
For example, in Aadat by Xisela Franco and Noé Rodriguez (22 minutes, Program 9, April 14, 7 pm), an African tribe clings to survival in a desert camp after being forcibly evicted from their traditional lands by encroaching Moroccan communities. In Laura Waddington’s Border (27 minutes, Program 2, Saturday, April 9, 7 pm), displaced Afghans in a French refugee camp roam the highway to the Chunnel hoping to escape to Britain before their inevitable deportation.
These films are not documentaries. The people are shadows, mere foreground for passing vehicles, swooping police and a vermillion sky that promises neither end nor beginning.
Back home in Canada, Bettina Hoffman’s La Ronde(8 minutes, Program 1, Saturday, April 9, 5 pm) investigates the emptiness of day-to-day routine via a loop portraying a family frozen in place over a hurried breakfast – sly, embittered humour tinged with nostalgia for a time when glittering images didn’t reduce ordinary life to perpetual boredom.
From Eastern Europe, Oksana Buraja documents an elderly Lithuanian woman escaping her husband’s abuse in Diary(24 minutes, Program 4, Sunday, April 10, 7 pm) by delving into a fantasy revolving around the discovery of her grandmother’s diary. In The Transformer, by Russians Pavel Kostomarov and Antoine Cattin, two hapless workers reflect on the after-effects of a giant transformer falling off their truck (15 minutes, Program 1, Saturday, April 9, 5 pm).
Both films document the lives of poor people whose misery is only alleviated by booze and fantasy. Both avoid any hint of sentimentality, refusing to fictionalize any element of the stories or to invest their marginalized characters with any control over their destiny.
But the Canadian shorts are the most indicative of the programs’ overall mood. Jeremy Drummond’s Home Is Where You’re Happy (30 minutes, Program 11, April 15, 7 pm) offers a frenetically postmodern landscape. Britney Spears gyrates while a man is photographed dropping candies in a deserted kiddie park and a guy strokes his blood-covered cock to the pulse of the TV.
The male gaze in all its violent, voracious insistence is also prominent in Anthology Of American Folk Song (29 minutes, Program 12, April 16, 7 pm).
Steve Reinke begins the film with a chocolate-covered baby being fervently photographed, then blurs into archival footage of a fat boy with minuscule genitalia subjected to a filmed examination, before settling on a man sorting Polaroids of various guys jerking off.
At stake in both these works is the blurring of right and wrong in a pleasure- principle society dominated by surveillance cameras and kiddie porn pop peep shows.
While we spent the 90s wallowing in visions of celebs walking red carpets, Images grew up. This year’s shorts program reminds us that those seemingly transitory creations – images – have lasting consequences.
No longer disengaged from the world, the art films Images dares to show us suddenly find themselves at the very epicentre of the 21st century.