37th edition focuses on Free Radicals

37th edition Rotterdam Film Festival focuses on Free Radicals

What Goes Up (USA, 2003) by Robert Breer

The 37th edition of the International Film Festival Rotterdam (23 January to 3 February 2008) is being realised under the leadership of director Rutger Wolfson after the departure of Sandra den Hamer. He is focusing on Free Radicals: film makers and artists who idiosyncratically and energetically follow their own course. In this context, film maker Robert Breer and artist Cameron Jamie are being honoured with Focus programmes. In addition, the festival is paying special attention to one-off film screenings.

Free Radicals is a term borrowed from chemistry and is used for special molecules or atoms that occasionally provoke fierce reactions. It is striking how many audiovisual makers today do not strive for technical perfection any more, but often seek out a coarse and ragged quality. They prefer creating and distributing a primitive yet pure work above sticking to the enforced formats of the visual industry. During the 37th festival, Free Radicals stand for such an artistic and aesthetic attitude and these can be found at the core of several programme sections: Cameron Jamie, Robert Breer, Paul Sharits, Exploding Cinema and Starting from Scratch.

Study for the film BB by Cameron Jamie (USA, 2000)Artist in Focus Cameron Jamie (Los Angeles, USA, 1969) is one of the most wayward visual artists today. Jamie investigates and documents folklore traditions and new culture forms that emerge on the frontiers of our civilisation. For this he uses a variety of media: from film, drawings, photographs and performances to spatial work. His films show wrestling contests organised by American teenagers in their backyard or how homes are transformed into Halloween ghost houses. During the International Film Festival Rotterdam, the American rock/metalband The Melvins will perform the soundtrack of three of Jamie’s films live; the Japanese ‘noise’ guitarist Haino Keiji will play live the soundtrack of Jamie’s most recent film JO.

Robert BreerFilm maker in Focus Robert Breer (Detroit, USA, 1926), inspired by Mondrian, started his career as an abstract painter. From 1952 he focused on kinetic art and especially animation film. In the line of his minimalist and often humorous moving sculptures, Breer makes short diary-like collage films with which he releases a barrage of images on the viewer. His unmistakable signature comprises a mixture of his own drawings, found footage, home movies, press clippings, loose scribbles and references to painting. The IFFR is showing both the recently-restored oeuvre of this ever-young pioneer as well as a first substantial presentation in The Netherlands of his kinetic works of art.

Paul SharitsExploding Cinema, the recurrent programme section that looks at developments in the frontier areas of film, is also focusing on Free Radicals. Around the central figure of film maker Paul Sharits (USA, 1943-1993), by whom a series of film installations and frozen film frames will be shown, the festival is presenting a selection of young artists who do not conform to formal conventions and who work with great vitality in a quasi-anarchic way with a variety of visual media. So one of the most radical experimental film makers is being reintroduced alongside a new generation under the label Free Radicals.

FREE RADICALS is also the title of a short film by the New Zealander Len Lye. In 1958, he set to work on a strip of unexposed film with needles, arrowheads and saw blades. The result is an experimental film that has remained emblematic for a recent generation of film makers. (Watch FREE RADICALS on YouTube here)

Cellule d'Intervention Metamkine (Grenoble, France)For several years in its short film section ‘Short As Long As It Takes’ (24 to 28 January 2008) the International Film Festival Rotterdam has looked at similar film makers in ‘Starting from Scratch’. This focuses on ‘do-it-yourself cinema’: film makers who work low-tech with celluloid and show their work in single-screen screenings, film performances and installations. Rooted in the avant-garde tradition, a new generation of film makers has blown new life into the optical/mechanical film medium. Film workshops, processing labs and S8 collectives are the backbone of this underground culture. Several collectives demonstrate their techniques in ‘Starting From Scratch’. One of the groups to perform and give workshops will be the French collective cinema group Cellule d’Intervention Metamkine from Grenoble.