Radical Recess: A Screening of Avant Garde Films for Children! is screening Saturday, April 9th at noon, the NFB Mediatheque (150 John St. At Richmond St. W). A series of short films for children of all ages presented as part of the Images Festival.
The first film Primiti Too Taa, by Ed Ackeman is based on a Kurt Schwitters Dada poem. The Dada movement’s very name was meant to imitate childlike speech and the poem sounds like a baby’s babble. The voice is like a Muppet and the insanity of the poem, funny at first, becomes joyful by the end. Dancing typed letters, spell the nonsensical words reenforcing the playfulness of the ridiculousness. A fantastic interpretation that would have made Schwitters himself proud.
Sea Horses and Flying Fish, by Rick Raxlen follows. This time, a stunning rendition of Hugo Ball’s Dada poem. The film is less enjoyable than the previous despite the higher degree of complexity. A quick and colourful cartoon for the Avant Garde child or for those just this side of sane.
Joost van Veen’s Interlude is like a dreamy memory of a fish tank. Chemical burnt stock film of fish swimming creates ghostly apparitions. Waiting for clarity that never comes, frustrations are somewhat calmed by the tranquility of the accompanying music.
The Observatory by Alexi Manis combines sounds of a forest at night with reversed images of the night sky. The images slowly spiral as though we are traveling through this inverted cosmos. The effect of the familiar becoming unfamiliar gives the film an eerie quality that contrasts with its calming insect vibrato. Even at only five minutes the film is a little too long considering the main idea never changes.
In Didre Novo by Steven Woloshen, mathematical symbols, letters of the alphabet and shapes of the city combine with the rhythms of Masai tribal music from Kenya. The shifting colours and objects across a black backdrop are reminiscent of speeding through a major metropolis while the fast paced tribal singing and drumming interact perfectly with the frantic imagery. The contrast between civilization and the primitive is as exciting as the music itself.
The Girl’s Nervy by Jennifer Reeves mystifies. Nervy may refer to the scratched lines on clear leader and old film stock resembling veins and arteries. An uncomfortable mind-warping voyage through an unrecognizable indigo blur.
Robert Todd’s Stable features overexposed, blue film revealing images of horses in a field. Their everyday actions are repeated with enhanced sound becoming ominous and frightening. Repeated flashing images, washed out and inverted, zooming in on the mundane turning the calm rural environment into a disturbing and uncomfortable melange. The film is the most disturbing and seems to be the least appropriate for children.
Kratzig 3: Alles bewegt sich wie van selbst (Everything Moves by Itself) (Excerpt) is an snippet of footage created by students from Berlin’s HunsrÃ¼ck elementary school. This final selection of the presentation is not just for children, but by children. Watching the creations, fresh from the minds of children, allows your own mind revert to that of a child. The music is reminiscent of Loony-Tunes but the stop motion images are something entirely their own. A fun imaginative journey.
Some of the films are engaging, some disturbing, but none of them force their meaning onto the viewer and therefore, anyone watching is free to interpret and experience the films however their minds deem appropriate. As these selections are geared towards children it strikes me as interesting that their shifting erratic images, which some adult viewers might find confusing and disquieting, are far closer the world of cartoons that kids are accustomed to. With their swirling, flashing images and departure from convention, children will likely be more comfortable with and appreciative of these avant garde shorts which is, after all, the goal of Saturday’s presentation.
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