The 32nd edition of FIFA – International Festival of Films on Art (March 20-30, 2014) has a great line-up of international films on music, art, fashion, photography, architecture and film. Founded in 1981 by René Rozon, the festival has expanded to feature 270 films from 34 countries, and includes an official Awards Ceremony that will be presented at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts on Saturday, March 29, 2014.
One of the special events this year is Berlin – Le Passage du temps (Lieux et monuments – Places and Monuments), a video and art installation by Pierre Hébert that will be on display at Cinémathèque Québécoise, Foyer Luce-Guilbeault, from March 13 to June 29, 2014.
Places and monuments, anonymous and ghostly presences from past and present, from Weimar to reunification, intertwine and reverberate in this installation project about Berlin. Four screens placed horizontally present four videos in a loop, a profusion of images shot at various Berlin locations. A dizzying sensory experience of history and the passage of time.
4 Extraits / Berlin – Le passage du temps:
All segments derive from footage shot in 2012 and 2013 at various sites throughout Berlin. They are snapshots of daily life, but at the same time refer to historical episodes from the last hundred years: from the Weimar Republic, World War II, the airlift of 1948-49, the Berlin Wall and monumental structures of the DDR to today’s massive reconstruction of the Stadtschloss.
The themes ricochet from one video to the other: traces of history, demolition/reconstruction, rubble, immigrants, anonymous crowds, bicycles, etc. Two segments focus on important Berlin intellectuals: Bertolt Brecht and Walter Benjamin. The overall installation, in fact, is heavily influenced by various Benjaminian themes, in particular that of the flâneur (urban wanderer).
Films to watch out for:
Google and the World Brain (dir. Ben Lewis, 2013, 89 min) tells the story of the Google Books project, which began in 2002, in an effort to create a giant global library (a dream that can be traced back to the Library of Alexandria), and eventually a higher form of intelligence (even more advanced than the IBM Watson computer that won at Jeopardy), something that H.G. Wells predicted would occur in his 1937 essay “World Brain.” Because over half the scanned books were still in copyright, and authors across the world launched a campaign to stop Google, culminating in the rejection of a settlement that would grant Google the sole right to “orphaned” books in 2011.
The film makes several allusions and direct references to technology as a new-age religion, and polarizes the supporters and opposer of Google’s project in two very distinct camps, with little middle ground. The champions of technology, such as Kevin Kelly of Wired Magazine see the battle over digital books as not over, while many authors whose books have been scanned without permission are presented as “victims.” As one of the protagonists noted, “A book is not a long tweet, but an achievement, and a declaration of a life’s work.” Google itself is portrayed as rather clueless about the consequences of its overly ambitious digital projects and rather unprofessional. Overall, the film reflects most people’s fears of the dictatorship of technology (also predicted by H.G.Wells’ science fiction), of artificial intelligence (AI), of radical infringements of privacy, and lack of corporate social responsibility.
Kraftwerk – Pop Art (dir. Hannes Rossacher, Simon Witter, 2013, 60 min) tells the story of a pioneer group in electronic music, founded in 1970, that invented the music of the future by projecting itself into the digital era. Long before the emergence of mobile phones, the group predicted the advent of an era where computers would connect us to the world, where our perception would be guided by bright pixels and where our sound environment would consist of background noise generated by machines. Visionary, experimental and radical, but at the same commercial and perfectly adapted to the club scene, their electronic sound has influenced many major artists today.
The Godmother of Rock’n Roll: Sister Rosetta Tharpe (dir. Mick Csáky, 2011, 52 min) tells the story of the woman who played a key role in the creation of rock’n roll and inspired musicians such as Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Little Richard and Chuck Berry, but remains virtually unknown today. Sister Rosetta Tharpe (1915-1973) the first African-American gospel star, who took the gospel music out of the church into Harlem’s most popular night clubs like the Cotton Club. With her electric guitar, she brought the intensity and “feeling” of gospel to popular music.
The Man Who Shot Beautiful Women: Erwin Blumenfeld (dir. Nick Watson, 2013, 59 min) tells the story of the photographer, art director, contributor to Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Cosmopolitan and Life, Erwin Blumenfeld (1897-1969), who revolutionized the fashion image. He survived two world wars and became one of the world’s most highly paid fashion photographers. His influence on the development of photography as an art form was decisive. However, after his mysterious death in Rome in 1969, he is little known today. This first portrait devoted to Blumenfeld had exclusive access to his archives and reflects the work of a man fascinated by beautiful women, and also by the endless possibilities of photography.