Nation Analysis

Panorama 9

16 October 2009

Location: Filmtheater t’Hoogt

Prosperity and happiness have a price tag. Moral and physical boundaries are stretched in order to achieve these ideals and keep them, and to exclude others. This programme shows the national pursuit of happiness. Not as a critical pamphlet, but rather as a thrilling page from a boys’ book.

Vostok ’5 – Jan Andersen
France, 2008, 35mm > video, 03:40 min
“Vostok’” takes a humorous look at the USSR’s Vostok program, which was designed to put the first human in space. Andersen recreates the launches with a dilapidated station wagon. He conveys a sense of the ramshackle nature of each launch with
his makeshift launch pads, sparklers and wooden beams propping up the station wagon. The astronaut’s spacesuit looks like someone had taken a winter coat, insulated pants and a biker’s helmet, and wrapped it all in aluminum foil. Actually, it looks a little better than the suit Yuri Gagarin wore. Andersen uses visual repetition to great ef- fect. With just a few elements and a simple visual gag — the wagon catches fire and falls down during launch — it creates an expectation where the “punch line” of Vostok 7’ is surprisingly rewarding.
Please Note: Vostok part ’1, ’2, ’3 and ’4 are screened as part of ‘Panorama 8: On The Shoulders of Giants’

Farewell East Germany – 22 Years Later – Elisabeth Smolarz
USA, 2007, video, 05:15 min
At the age of 19 Peter S. became a soldier in the National People’s Army of East Germany. One of the most important skills which a soldier would learn during the basic training was to disassemble and to reassemble an AK47 in absolute darkness. This elementary skill assured the functionality of the weapon and therefore the completion of the mission. 22 years later Peter S. was asked again to disassemble and to reassemble an AK47 in absolute darkness.

Vostok ’6 – Jan Andersen
France, 2008, 35mm > video, 03:00 min

Over the Land – Deborah Stratman
USA, 2008, 16mm > video, 51:40 min
With the excuse of freedom, we lose so many things. Silvio Barile. A meditation on the milieu of elevated threat addressing national identity, gun culture, wilderness, consumption, patriotism and the possibility of personal transcendence. Of particular interest are the ways Americans have come to understand freedom and the increasingly technological reiterations of manifest destiny. The piece is simultaneously a critique of violence, a rumination upon our national psyche, and a ritualized celebration of colossal forces beyond our control. It is interrupted by the story of Col. William Rankin who in 1959, was forced to eject from his F8U fighter jet at 48,000 feet without a pressure suit, only to get trapped for 45 minutes in the up and down drafts of a massive thunderstorm. Remarkably, he survived. Rankin’s story represents a non-material, metaphysical kind of freedom. He was vomited up by his own jet, that American icon of progress and strength, but violent purging does not necessarily lead to reassessment or redirection. Over the Land is concerned with the sudden, simple, thorough ways that events can separate us from the system of things, and place us in a kind of limbo. Like when we fall. Or cross a border. Or get shot. Or saved. The film forces together culturally acceptable icons of heroic national tradition with the suggestion of unacceptable historical consequences, so that seemingly benign locations become zones of moral angst.

Silverleaf – Adam Leech
Belgium, 2007, video, 06:00 min
“Adam Leech produces videos with a narrative touch. The protagonists of these stories are usually archetypical inhabitants of ‘the American suburbia’ we are familiar with from countless television series. Their preferred pastimes are shopping, parties and interior design – in short, everything that has to do with the aestheticization of the everyday. Leech does not subject these characters to critical analysis or a moral judgment from a detached point of view, but simply presents their world from inside…” (Frank Maes and Beatrijs Eemans)

Vostok ’7 – Jan Andersen
France, 2008, 35mm > video, 02:00 min

Y’a plus d’os – Jean-Charles Hue
France, 2008, video, 05:00 min
The spiral of violence in this baroque sketch from the gypsy milieu inevitably leads to the most confrontational final shot of this festival. Jean-Charles Hue has gypsy blood and in his often hard and violent videos he sketches stories and situations from his own environment as seen from the inside. He stays close to the protagonists, closer than you would really want as a viewer. This rawness inevitably leads in the case of There Ain’t No Bones to a confrontational finale.

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