By Adam Cook
In cinema’s century-plus spanning lifetime, technological developments, evolutions, and changes have kept the medium on its toes. Always adapting in form, movies went from silent to sound, from short to long, from black and white to colour, from celluloid to digital—with countless smaller, but no less important changes in between. Each time film undergoes a significant transitional period, it calls for a period of re-evaluation and consideration. We’ve for many years now seen digital cameras take over, and have had the opportunity to observe its effects on cinema, whether for better or for worse. But as cinema has aged beyond its centennial and shed its celluloid skin, it seems to have grown more reflexive, more nostalgic, bound more than ever to its past.
This year at VIFF, we’ve assembled a section that brings together a handful of works that, in disparate yet effective ways, investigate and celebrate cinema’s past in forward-thinking ways, ushering it into the future while tethering it to a lineage that cannot be forgotten, or, moreover, isn’t even over, to bring in Faulkner’s “The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past.”
Thom Andersen’s The Thoughts That Once We Had utilizes footage from a wide array of films from its history, evoking the sense of a life lived inside the movies, and asking questions about how we remember, or how will we remember, film, as its digital future takes over. Also using archival footage is Love is All: 100 Years of Love & Courtship, a film that brings together scenes of romantic expression from different eras and countries. It’s an opportunity to compare and contrast how these portrayals have varied and evolved, while basking in the inexplicable power of the silver screen to broadcast the purest of human emotions. A third film that similarly draws on images from the past is From Scotland with Love which intensely throws the viewer in mid-20th century Scotland amidst moments of turmoil, strife, and ecstasy.
The Forbidden Room is bizarrely fun and at times hilarious, and unlike the aforementioned films, is full of new images, but new images meant to conjure the ghosts of cinema. Guy Maddin and co-director Evan Johnson bring to life a variety of episodic scenes that parody and play with elements, tropes, and sub-genres of cinema’s earliest days. Sam Klemke’s Time Machine raises contemporary questions about self-documentation versus art in a time-lapse of images of a life lived from the mid-70s to present day.
If cinema is a way of thinking and sharing, then its images are not static, but constantly flowing. Hidden Pasts. Digital Futures points to its complex ontology and taps into its intangible qualities that continue to illuminate, now, then, and forever.
For more information on Hidden Pasts, Digital Futures, please visit our website: http://www.viff.org/festival/series/hidden-pasts-digital-futures
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