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Toronto Lineup. Wavelengths and Documentaries

"There's much to celebrate and highlight as Wavelengths reaches its decade of existence." That's Andréa Picard, film programmer for TIFF Cinematheque and Wavelengths, in the hot-off-the-virtual-presses release. "Our audiences have grown, the programme has expanded and the field has changed in challenging ways. While moving images have become a mainstay in galleries and museums, it's increasingly important to present film and video art meant for the cinema, in that very context, with the best possible screening conditions. The works in this year's programme reveal present-day day concerns like gentrification, the need to protect our natural resources, a complex global political terrain, as well as a harkening back to the origins of cinema concurrent with video's emergence as an aesthetic medium of its own."

Meantime, the docs announced today include new work from Kim Longinotto, Errol Morris and Werner Herzog. For this round, we're going straight for the cut-n-paste, with synopses provided by the Toronto International Film Festival (September 9 through 19), and we'll catch up with links and further notes over the coming hours and days.

 

WAVELENGTHS 1: SOUL OF THE CITY


"As the pace of the contemporary urban experience grows faster and the world becomes increasingly fractured, artists are documenting the vestiges and layers revealed in flux; global updates on the city symphony."

Tomonari Nishikawa's Tokyo-Ebisu "is a 16mm in-camera patchwork constructed from multiple viewpoints from the platforms of Tokyo's busiest railway line, Yamanote, and a masking technique which exposes 1/30th of a frame 30 times in order to capture an image of spectral apparitions."

Dominic Angerame's The Soul of Things "presents luscious chiaroscuro images of the construction and destruction of modern structures exposing their inner soul."

Thom Andersen's Get Out of the Car "is a city symphony exploring Los Angeles' gentrification through a thoughtful montage of façades and a playful excursus through its musical history."

Callum Cooper's Victoria, George, Edward & Thatcher "is an ecstatic, taxonomic montage-animation of images of London row-houses shot with an iPhone." And here's a clip.

Eriko Sonoda's Landscape, semi-surround. "With sonic dislocation and frame by frame animation," the film "revels in the afterglow of memory."

Basma Al-Sharif's Everywhere Was the Same. "Through a slideshow of abandoned homes and an apocalyptic tale inspired by a massacre in Gaza in the summer of 2006," Everywhere "recounts a city mired and mutilated."

Oliver Husain's Leona Alone "aesthetically intervenes in a historic Toronto neighbourhood cum suburb, offering gentrification a more wistful look." Images.

 


WAVELENGTHS 2: PLEIN-AIR


"As with painting, natural light and colour are inexhaustible sources of inspiration for film and video artists, whose plein-air shooting radically transforms our scenic views, offering a stirring ephemerality and, in some cases, a poignant intimacy."

Vincent Grenier's Burning Bush, in which "a virtuosic use of video sets a burning bush alight with crimson colour and spiritual flight." A touch more at Grenier's site.

John Price's Home Movie. "Kaleidoscopic colour, parenting and art-making coalesce in Price's domestic life frieze..., an extended portrait of his children captured with an old Russian 35mm camera and a variety of expired film stock." More at Price's site.

Christopher Becks's Ouverture "is a serene, yet kinetic in-camera meditation on an old barn in Normandy,"

Philipp Fleischmann's Cinematographie "reinvents the filmstrip by way of an astonishing 360 degree camera obscura construction, which allows for a continuous image to emerge like a scroll."

Helga Fanderl's Blow-Ups: Portrait, Tea Time, Red Curtain. "Recently blown-up to 16mm from its original super 8mm," this "intimate triptych is a tender depiction of a love affair."

Jem Cohen's Anne Truitt, Working "is a portrait of the Minimalist painter and sculptor elegantly observed."

Madison Brookshire's Color Films 1 & 2 "close the programme with winsome wavelength compositions of light."

 

WAVELENGTHS 3: RUHR


"Exchanging his 16mm Bolex for a high-definition video camera, and straying from his native soil, James Benning heads to Germany with Ruhr. Using his medium much like a painter would, Benning creates a monumental and surprising portrait of the Ruhr Valley, the largest urban agglomeration in Germany known for its heavy industry. Split into two parts, with six long takes in the first section and one masterful hour-long take in the second, Benning turns his mathematician's eye toward the area's industrial sublime, reinvigorating our viewing experience along the way." Image above.

 

WAVELENGTHS 4: PASTOURELLE


"Nathaniel Dorsky is one of the most gifted 16mm filmmakers of our time and was recently voted 'The Best Experimental filmmaker of the Decade' by a poll conducted by Film Comment magazine. Suffused with longing, Dorksy's three latest films, Compline, Aubade and Pastourelle demonstrate a devotional cinema wherein the plasticity of the medium is met by the artist's consummate expression. Arresting in its twilight beauty and filled with beguiling apparitions, Compline is the final film Dorsky was able to shoot on Kodachrome, his preferred and longtime-used film stock. Aubade, which is a poem evoking daybreak, signals a new beginning, with his shooting on colour negative. Glimpses of Paris — the abstraction of its flickering neon signs, the elegance of its views — appear in both Aubade and Pastourelle, the latter presented here as a World Premiere. The programme concludes with T. Marie's wondrous digital triptych, Water Lillies, which evokes Monet's famous late Impressionist series by meticulously employing the inherent aesthetisizing properties of pixels, working with time and luminosity."

 

WAVELENGTHS 5: BLUE MANTLE


"The ocean has always been a mythic source of life, as much as it has a legendary call to death."

Mati Diop's Atlantiques. Winner of the International Film Festival Rotterdam's Tiger Award for Best Short Film. A "young man speaking in hushed tones describes his high-seas odyssey to friends huddled around a campfire in Dakar."

Eve Heller's One."Faint illuminations cast through an ornate gateway to a train platform in an abandoned station from Buffalo's glory days create hazy, elegiac stained-glass effects, or the blurred vision of escape and disappearance. The first roll of film she ever shot, recently revisited and blown-up to 35mm."

Kevin Jerome Everson's 753 McPherson St. "Resuscitated archival footage of a tragic event is met with contemporary prophecy."

Rebecca Meyers's blue mantle "is an ode to the ocean, intercutting between the mesmeric sea with its glistening, beckoning waters and various representations of the deep. Meyers crafts an ambitious treatise buoyed by the breadth of its cast."

T. Marie's Slaveship. A "time-based pixel painting-film" for which the source is the "apocalyptic sublime of JMW Turner's 1840 masterpiece The Slave Ship, with its fiery conflagration and strewn debris amid wild waters. A languorous, searing abstraction with a hot palette updates the classic scene in reference to
today's skewed social hierarchy and the selling of human life."

Lucien Castaign-Taylor's Hell Roaring Creek. "A static camera records the coming of day as a shepherd leads his flock of sheep across the titular stream in a prismatic, painterly pastoral."

 

WAVELENGTHS 6: COMING ATTRACTIONS


"Early cinema confronted the spectator like no other art, beckoning a reciprocal engagement and curiosity as both spectacle and document. This programme pairs contemporary experimental works with those from a hundred years ago when cinema itself was a grand experiment."

Paolo Gioli's Photo Finish Figures (Il Finish delle figure). The celebrated Italian artist "returns to a tabula rasa with his handmade cameras allowing him to exploit and fashion film's reproductive means." This "exhilarating" new work "relays a sense of the contemporary, sensory 'photo-finished' experience using a 35mm stills camera and various masking devices."

Ken Jacobs's The Day Was a Scorcher "sees the Jacobs clan vacationing in Italy in stroboscopic postcards pulsing amid Roman ruins. Then to Torino in 1909, for turn-of-the-century postcards in which a bunch of bambini-in-a-barrel pucker up for the camera, blowing kisses, some through tears of terror, all'italiana in Concorso di bellezza fra bambino a Torino." Jonas Mekas in Kodachrome Days "is another timepiece comprised of family photos resuscitated through digital technology, whose pulse harkens back to proto-cinematic devices, giving Mekas an air of a trickster like Segundo de Chomón's Le Roi des dollars from 1905."

Friedl vom Gröller's Delphine de Oliveira. A "placid young woman is filmed in a Parisian courtyard. Her belle laide looks convey paradoxical and untold mysteries, while a mise-en-abyme furthers the peculiar attraction."

Peter Tscherkassky's Coming Attractions "is a sly, sartorial comedy masterfully mining the relationship between early cinema and the avant-garde, by way of 50s era advertising. With references to Méliès, Lumières, Cocteau, Léger, Chomette, the film playfully explores cinema's subliminal possibilities using an impressive arsenal of techniques like solarization, optical printing and multiple exposures."

"Completing the evening's attractions is a selection from EYE Film Institute Netherlands' Bits and Pieces project, which restores and compiles 'anonymous, unidentified or otherwise interesting fragments,' saving them from oblivion for our viewing pleasure. The archival prints will be presented with live piano accompaniment by William O'Meara."

 

DOCUMENATARIES - GALA


Thom Zimny's The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town. This world premiere "takes us into the studio with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band for the recording of their fourth album. Grammy and Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Thom Zimny has collaborated with Springsteen on this documentary, gaining access to never before seen footage shot between 1976-1978, capturing home rehearsals and recording sessions that allow us to see Springsteen's creative process at work.

 

DOCUMENTARIES - MASTERS


Jørgen Leth's The Erotic Man. "Danish master Jørgen Leth travels the globe in this sensual, provocative and sometimes autobiographical essay film about a man searching ... searching the world for the nature of the erotic."

Patricio Guzmán's Nostalgia for the Light. "In Chile's Atacama Desert, astronomers peer deep into the cosmos in search for answers concerning the origins of life. Nearby, a group of women sift through the sand searching for body parts of loved ones, dumped unceremoniously by Pinochet's regime. Master filmmaker Patricio Guzmán contemplates the paradox of their quests."

 

REAL TO REEL

 


Linda Hoaglund's ANPO "depicts resistance to US military bases in Japan through an electrifying collage of paintings and photographs, as well as animated, narrative and documentary films by Japan's foremost contemporary artists."

Janus Metz's Armadillo. "Winner of Cannes Critics Week, Armadillo is a harrowing portrayal of the current conflict in Afghanistan. The film follows a contingent of Danish troops into the chaos of combat in a way that stirs debate over the rules of engagement."

Frederick Wiseman's Boxing Gym. "Documentary master Frederick Wiseman explores the world of a boxing gym in Austin, Texas, dwelling on the discipline of training as people from all walks of life aspire to reach their personal best."

Werner Herzog's Cave of Forgotten Dreams. "Werner Herzog gains exclusive access to film inside the Chauvet caves of southern France, capturing the oldest known pictorial creations of humankind in their astonishing natural setting. He puts 3D technology to a profound use, taking us back in time over 30,000 years."

Alex Gibney's Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer. "Investigating the sex scandal that forced New York's Governor to resign, Oscar-winning director Alex Gibney gains revelatory interviews from Spitzer, his most frequent escort and his Wall Street enemies that bring new perspective on his downfall."

Ondi Timoner's Cool It. "Award-winning filmmaker Ondi Timoner trains her camera on Bjørn Lomborg, the controversial author of The Skeptical Environmentalist, who takes on the issue of climate change, challenging the status quo, and pointing toward new science and technology that might hold the solutions for our future."

Christophe Nick and Thomas Bornot's The Game of Death. "This documentary examines the idea of the limits of obedience and punishment. Based on an experiment conducted in the sixties, the setting is a modern television game show where we see how far people will go to inflict pain on a contestant who stands to win one million dollars."

Naomi Kawase's Genpin. "A serene observation of women giving birth at the clinic of Dr Tadashi Yoshimura who has spent 40 years on the path of natural childbirth, Genpin is Naomi Kawase's special meditation on life and on the unshakable bond between mother and child."

José Luis Guerín's Guest. "Guerín documents his experience during a year of travelling as a guest of film festivals to present his previous film. What emerges is a wonderfully humane and sincere portrayal of the people that he meets when he goes off the beaten track in some of the world's major cities."

Charles Ferguson's Inside Job. "An in-depth exploration of what caused the financial crisis from the Oscar-nominated director of No End in Sight, highlighting failures in business, government and academia."

Mark Hartley's Machete Maidens Unleashed! "From cult cinema documentary director Mark Hartley (Not Quite Hollywood) comes this account of the wild and unruly world of genre filmmaking in the Philippines when the country was a back-lot for a bevy of B-movie mavericks and cinema visionaries."

Paul Clarke's Mother of Rock: Lillian Roxon. "Witness to New York's infamous punk scene, Lillian Roxon chronicled the movement during the 1960s and 70s. Roxon mingled with the likes of John and Yoko, the Velvet Underground and Janis Joplin and was one of the first on the scene to champion the work of Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix and the Doors."

Kim Longinotto's Pink Saris. "Acclaimed director Kim Longinotto is often drawn to tough women. Now she follows Sampat Pal Devi, the leader of the 'Pink Gang,' who brings her own brand of justice to the streets of Uttar Pradesh, India, combating violence against women."

Risteard Ó Domhnaill's The Pipe. "Irish farmers and fisherman rise up in protest when Shell tries to build a pipeline for natural gas through their county. The local confrontation reflects an international concern for how energy companies affect the environment and communities."

Shlomi Eldar's Precious Life. "With the help of a prominent Israeli journalist, Precious Life chronicles the struggle of an Israeli pediatrician and a Palestinian mother to get treatment for her baby, who suffers from an incurable genetic disease. Each must face their most profound biases as they inch towards a possible friendship in an impossible reality."

Sarah McCarthy's The Sound of Mumbai: A Musical. "For one emotional night, a group of children living in a slum in Mumbai, India, get a chance to experience a different world as they perform The Sound of Music with a classical orchestra, fostering hopes that it could change their lives."

Errol Morris's Tabloid. "The director of The Thin Blue Line and the Academy Award®-winning The Fog of War tells the story of a former Miss Wyoming whose quest for one true love led her across the globe and onto the pages of tabloid newspapers."

Vibeke Løkkegerg's Tears of Gaza. "A powerful and emotionally devastating record of the impact the 2008-2009 bombings of Gaza had on the civilian population."

Guo Jing and Ke Dingding's When a Child is Born. "When a child is born, nothing is ever going to be the same. A journey into the everyday life of young university teachers and researchers up against an unexpected pregnancy, as well as a brilliant document on the challenges of being an academic suspended between modernization and tradition, love, career and family ties in ever-mutating contemporary China."

Laura Israel's Windfall. "After wind turbines are proposed for installation in upstate New York, the community's excitement turns to suspicion over what the project entails. This eye-opening story exposes the dark side of wind energy development and the potential for financial scams."

Lynn Hershman Leeson's !Women Art Revolution: A Secret History. "Filmed over four decades, this inspiring cultural history tracks the struggles and breakthroughs of women artists from Judy Chicago to Guerrilla Girls to Miranda July and more, packed with rare archival footage and overflowing with bold art."

 

SPROCKETS FAMILY ZONE


J Clay Tweel's Make Believe. "Join a group of dedicated teen magicians as they amaze audiences by performing seemingly impossible feats while they pursue their dream of becoming the Teen World Champion Magician."

Update, 8/9: AJ Schnack gets a few words with documentary programmer Thom Powers.

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