Visions du Réel Nyon 2023

A selection of short and medium-length films discovered at the 2023 edition of the festival Visions du Réel - curated by Giuseppe Di Salvatore (GDS) with contributions by Fareyah Kaukab (FK)

The Living and Technology

The team of the film Knit’s Island, entirely shot within a video game, certainly do not fear technology but pioneeringly search new territories of experience within it. The living pulsates in the working of technology itself, as interface, tool or game. On the contrary, Pau Faus’ meditative Fauna seems to polarise the living and the technology that (often) exploits it to threaten its survival, but the force of this wonderful film lays in its profoundly human gaze on both technology and a living whose “natural” idealisation is nothing but a projection.

Three medium-length and short films allow us to see the relationship between the living and technology from further perspectives.

Natan Castay's cinema is a wonderful discovery. With En attendans les robots, he enters the hidden reality of our society's digital explosion through a performative gesture: thanks to Otto, his fictional and paradigmatic character, he investigates the world of the “turkers”, a new, silent, digital proletariat. These people, with their small, poorly paid tasks, support the machines and feed an A.I. that will soon make them disappear. The human dimension, and more precisely a kind of class solidarity, guides an admirable work of dramaturgy, which knows how to express a collective awareness to which the film may itself have contributed. GDS

Natan Castay | BE 2023 | 39’
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Sometimes we need emptiness in order to let beauty emerge. With a well-structured and somehow rigid style, technology seems to influence the form of the film, but this will reveal itself only an apparently arid soil from which flowers of human emotion will blossom, be it the dreams of the astronauts’ physician or the vertigo of a spacewalk. Jennifer Rainsford’s film rotates entirely around an intuition: the strength of the magnetic field of the human heart, emerging in the middle of the empty universe. GDS

Jennifer Rainsford | SUE 2023 | 14’
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A short experimental film that investigates with humour the relationships between birds, humans and AI. In a mock scientific simulation of cataloguing drawings, transcriptions and sounds, The Nearest Neighbour poses the question: who is trying to understand, teach and control? Whilst the obsessive algorithm tries to establish communication through translation between these different entities, more sinister themes emerge: the destruction of nature and the primal human need for love and connection. FK

Rebecca Baron, Douglas Goodwin | USA 2023 | 22’
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Two coups de coeur

Watching For Mouna is similar to the act of dreaming and as such open to every dreamer’s interpretation. With no dialogue, we follow a ping pong ball through an immersive sensorial journey that is in turn playful, solemn, romantic and nostalgic. Successive shots of ping pong tables and historical statues create a space where the timeline is blurred, allowing for continuity between endings and new beginnings. As smooth as the surface of a ping pong ball, the story takes on different perspectives as we slide along its surface. FK

Spencer Bogaert | BE 2023 | 13’
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A historical research on a nuns’ queer romance at the period of Portuguese Inquisition and the liberation of dildos’ shape from the phallic dominance today are two lines that intertwine around the theme of the prescription and repression of desire. The 16mm images, the organic credo of the dildos’ artist (Rebeca Letras), the nuns’ connection to earth, and the just fragility of cappella singing collect all the heterogeneous elements of this film into a unique, queer celebration of the senses. GDS

Tomás Paula Marques | PT 2023 | 15’
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How political can the images be?

Darkroom plunges the viewer in a utopian town where children roam freely, exploring hidden spaces and making playgrounds out of desolate landscapes. Using the darkroom process as the skeleton for the film, Asli Baykal creates an uplifting story inspired by the aesthetics of Apichatpong Weerasethakul where children play with pomegranate trees, water towers and get creative with photography. In a world where refugees are too often shown through the lens of tragedy and grief, Darkroom puts a profoundly humane touch to a difficult topic. FK

Asli Baykal | TK 2023 | 14’
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What starts as a straightforward premise - Kinga Michalska setting out to investigate the rumours around vampires in the Kashub community in Wilno (Canada) - rapidly morphs into a layered documentary which questions truth versus intention, mistranslations and the documented history of colonisation. Simply divided into chapters, Michalska gives her distinct voice (metaphorically and audibly) to both the humour and anger of the inhabitants, striking a balance between her artistic intervention and the classic form of documentary. This short film is refreshingly welcome in its subjectivity where, contrary to “scientists” before her, she separates fiction from reality. FK

Kinga Michalska | CAN 2023 | 36’
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From the critical power of images to their powerlessness – until a new iconoclasm

The team of Visions du Réel have proposed a programme of four films that inspired in me a reflection on the power and powerlessness of the filmic image when it is used in order to convey a political message, or to work effectively as a political tool.

The performative approach of Darkroom (see above) and the analytical approach of Vampires, It’s Nothing to Laugh at (see above) show the critical power of the image, which is the focus of Saleh Kashefi’s And How Miserable Is the Home of Evil. The meaning of the title is clearly expressed through the manipulation of what seems to be television archive footage and its combination with the sound of the street protests. Near to the video essay format, this film sharply criticises the religious power in Iran through the images themselves. Therefore, the filmmaker is here still a heroic fighter that trusts the power of the image. GDS

Saleh Kashefi | CH-IRN 2023 | 7’
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Narges Kalhor’s Sensitive Content apparently works with the same approach but actually introduces a significant shift in the role of the image. From the manipulation of the image we focus now on the ready-made images of unprofessional filmmakers under the urge of showing the injustice and the oppression of the regime. The image has the status of a piece of evidence and Kalhor’s interventions aim only at conveying a reflection upon it. GDS

Narges Kalhor | DE-IRN 2023 | 8’
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However, has the image as evidence any power at all? Bill Morrison’s Incident dramatization of police legal footage works as a clear demonstration of the police’s crimes but at the same time as a frustrating demonstration of the powerlessness of the image as evidence. The moving image, even in its official version, is unable to break the power of a repressive State, and thus becomes a useless relic. GDS

Bill Morrison | USA 2023 | 30’
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From Iran to the USA, from the USA to China: on this authoritarian line, Lam Can-Zhao’s Voices of November pushes the powerlessness of image to its last stop: a new iconoclasm. As already expressed through the brilliant intuition of the “white paper movement” of protests (against the COVID repressive politics) in China, the white screen - sometimes alternating with a black one - consecrates the powerlessness of image, and simultaneously lets emerge the sound in the form of a last desperate cry. In this way, touching to its limit, cinema will declare its political despair and find a new form of power, through its own negation – or the negation of the image as attraction, distraction, spectacle. GDS

Lam Can-Zhao | CHN 2023 | 14’
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