A review of the A teströl és a lélekröl viewing experience at Berlinale 2017
**Contains mild spoilers**
Squeezing myself in the seats of the Frederichstadt-Palast at 9am in the morning is probably not the most ideal way to start up my day in Berlinale. It was all (almost) worth it though, as I got to view the enchanting A teströl és a lélekröl (On Body and Soul) which ended up winning the Golden Bear for Best Film. As swarms of viewers -mostly 60+ year olds- gently elbowed each other in the gut to get to the better seats of the theatre I was relieved when fellow P&P student Rick made his way over so I wouldn’t have to worry about claiming the empty seat next to me anymore. The lights went off and the familiar Berlinale clip rolled on screen.
Spell Reel (2017), premiered at the Berlinale (Forum), marks the transition of the Portuguese artist Filipa César from short and medium length films and installations to feature film. Based in Berlin for seven years, César’s most recent work is the result of an extensive research project initiated by Arsenal – Institute for Film and Video Art, in the context of its Living Archive label. The project, encapsulates in practice the idea that “an archive can only be significant if it refers to the practices of the present”[i], and its approach is trifold: first, the creation of an online database; secondly, the two-year project Living Archive – Archive Work as a Contemporary Artistic and Curatorial Practice; and finally, the networking project Visionary Archive in the context of which Spell Reel was originated. Visionary Archive, defined by the institution as a “collaborative translocal experiment”[ii], aims at examining the different challenges of archival work in five distinct cinematographic contexts, namely, Cairo, Khartoum, Johannesburg, Berlin and Bissau. “What transcultural, curatorial and artistic work with archives and archival research can look like today”[iii] was the question at the core of the project that each of the five thematic projects explored in one way or another.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, I do not remember the amount of times I have heard or read how immersive the cinema experience is. How we should love and cherish the theatres for their big screens, the comfortable seats, and for the complete darkness and surround sound that make us gaze rather than glance at the moving images. Us. The audience.
But sometimes there is a lot of audience (see photo above).
Imagine being at the Berlinale and you decide to go to Europe’s biggest show palace, the Friedrichstadt-Palast, to see a premiering film that you hardly know anything about. Those 1894 seats next to yours might all be filled and it could definitely influence your cinema experience.
The P&P/ AMIA Student UvA had the pleasure of attending Berlinale, the Berlin International Film Festival from February 8-16th, 2017. During our visit we made time to not only see many films in few days, but we also were invited to visit Labor Berlin, a filmmaker cooperative and laboratory, and the Deutsche Kinemathek Archive for tours.
We hope over the coming weeks to bring up updates and observations from the festival, as well as an in-depth view of our visits to both Labor and the Kinemathek.
A NOTE ON BERLINALE QUEUES (& NAPS)
The festival itself is always hard work as those lucky to hold accreditation have to get up early each morning to line up for a small pool of student tickets. Where in previous years students would line up with the accredited professionals and be processed quickly, this year the students had a separate queue in the arcade. I am sure this was done to keep the queues shorter at the ‘professionals’ accreditation desk but instead limited our opportunities to network and put us in a much slower queue manned by 2.5 staff members. Which meant that queuing time was more than double of the professionals (who have about 20 staff members processing tickets) and by no means satisfactory. Each morning we tried to get in the queue much earlier only to discover everyone else had the same ideas and be further back in the line.
The year started full steam ahead as we continued tracking down the projection booths of Amsterdam! This time we headed to the old ‘Pathologisch Anatomisch Laboratorium’ on Arie Biedmondstraat 111 that is now home to a number of art related organisations.
LAB Amsterdam is one of such organisations, designed to reunite film enthusiasts around through food and films. After extensive renovation work, LAB recently reopened as a twofold project that encompasses a cinema and a restaurant. The restaurant Strangelove already denounces this inextricable cinephilic association.
On November 14, 2016 Mark Toscano from the Academy of Motion Picture Sciences Film Archive visited EYE Film Museum’s Collection Centre and spoke with the current AMIA and P&P students about Artist’s films in the Academy Archive. The event consisted of a talk by Mark accompanied by works from the Academy collection and a Q&A session which allowed the group to ask the pressing questions that they were interested in.
During the discussion Mark talked about his work at the Academy, his personal experiences in the industry and provided the students and staff with an in-depth look into the restoration of experimental film in the archive. He also spoke of working with artists such as Pat O’Neill, Robert Nelson, Vanessa Renwick, and Tacita Dean and how he negotiates with the artists (or their estates) to best restore these works. Dean’s work was of particular interest as her works were, at the time, being shown as part of the Exposed: Celluloid exhibition. The insight into the dealing of such works was inspiring for the students, many of whom are hoping to follow similar lines of work.
The following day at EYE, Mark curated a programmed titled Academy Film Archive Presents: The Inscription Of Experience. This programme invited to the public to enjoy such films as Anselmo (Chick Strand, 1967), Back in the Saddle Again (Scott Stark, 1997), Solitary Acts #5 (Nazlı Dinçel, 2015), Naissance #2 (John Price, 2012) and Print Generation (JJ Murphy, 1974). The most inspiring of all of the films was Print Generation as it showed how generational loss occurs through multiple duplications. The poetic and repetitive nature of the film really struck a chord with the students and the general public. Overall, the whole experience was engaging and Mark inspired a huge crowd to explore experimental films on celluloid.
We are thankful that Mark was willing to take time to visit with us and share his experiences.
Text by Niamh O’Donnell and photos by Jim Wraith and Sofia Pires.