IFFR and ITGWO: at the crossroads of music, film, and art

Image in header: Still from Liquid Solid by Joris Strijbos and Nicky Assmann
Text: Sarah Famke Oortgijsen

What do IFFR and ITGWO have in common? As well as being a whole string of letters starting with I, they both have a special appreciation and passion for the exceptional and the extraordinary. Film and music, music and film; a tiger and a rabbit; unusual meetings in astonishing places. They also share a programmer: Peter van Hoof is responsible for (among other things) the shorts at IFFR, and compiles the film programme for Into The Great Wide Open.

Little wonder then that many of the films at ITGWO have previously screened at IFFR. And they all have something to do with the island, the festival, or nature. Van Hoof likes to interpret these definitions pretty loosely – and to throw the occasional curveball. This year, for example, he programmed Julia Ducournau’s Raw – a hotly debated film that caused some controversy, about a young vegetarian who develops an insatiable lust for human flesh. Van Hoof: “I have a tendency to be very serious and conscientious in my programming. So sometimes I have to deliberately give myself – and the audience – a bit of a shock.” ITGWO always boasts a huge range of options for vegetarians, which gives the programming of a film like Raw all the more impact. “I like to be a little confrontational every now and again. And then go sit in the back row of the screening and see what happens.”

Contrasts and convergences

Contrasts are a frequent feature of Van Hoof’s programming; or perhaps rather those places where the space between genres and conventions is as small as possible. Where does film start, where does music end – and where along the spectrum can you find art? Van Hoof: “I think a huge amount of very exciting and interesting things take place right at these intersections.” The fact that, since last year, he is also responsible for ITGWO’s art programme means that he is able to weave even more threads between the different programme sections. Such as Whipping Zombie by Yuri Ancarani: originally created as an installation, this work was included as a world première in the short film selection at IFFR 2017. It will now feature as part of the art route at ITGWO 2017, its enchanting images of men engaged in ritual dance lighting up the woods on Vlieland every evening from dusk (till dawn).

A lot of very exciting things are happening, especially at the intersections between film, art and music.

Another work that seeks out and blurs boundaries is Liquid Solid  by Joris Strijbos and Nicky Assmann. Like Whipping Zombie, this is a video installation included in the ITGWO art route. This eighteen-minute film records the freezing process of liquid soap, accompanied by a soundtrack composed using ambient sound and home-made instruments. Then there are more examples of the perfect convergence of art, music and film – such as Minute Bodies: The Intimate World of F. Percy Smith, in which film material from an archivist is rhythmically set to music by Tindersticks (old ITGWO hands, but this year unfortunately not attending the festival), arranged by the band’s frontman, Stuart A. Staples. A marvellous interplay – each of the elements almost loses all meaning without the other.

The same will be true on Saturday evening, in the charming little church in Oost-Vlieland (the name of the only village on the island). Here, Feecho will provide a live musical accompaniment to Gustav Deutsch’s Film Ist 1-6: percussion, piano and organ will mingle with a found-footage collage on 16mm film, made up of a treasure trove of material from scientific and educational films. But this compilation certainly doesn’t aim to educate its viewers – rather to draw them into a strange, fascinating universe.

Peer over the wall, but don’t look away

Talking of education: does Van Hoof see it as his role to teach the audience something? No, he would find that too presumptive. But, he admits, a festival like ITGWO, with the total experience it offers, is an ideal opportunity to allow people to peer over the wall. “Of course, you can do this in a really wonderful way: for example, through a live cinema concert or putting films in the woods as part of the art route.” All these like-minded but nevertheless incredibly different people – they all arrive by boat and spend a whole weekend together in a different world. Generally speaking, they are prepared to look further than in their everyday lives. “An ideal opportunity to offer them all sorts of different things in this seductive process.”

Van Hoof believes it is important to include major social issues in the programme. This needn’t always be very close to the surface – Sam Pollard’s Two Trains Runnin’, for example, is mainly an odyssey in search of the origins of the blues, but at the same time takes place against the backdrop of bloody violence against blacks and a gaping cultural chasm. A shockingly contemporary theme. Gianfranco Rosi’s Fuocoammare deals with the urgent issue of refugees. “Personally, I find it a really heart-breaking documentary – but also very beautifully made. And of course it’s about an island, where the islanders all decide that the refugees who arrive need help and care from them. It’s a responsibility of festivals like IFFR and ITGWO to bring you back to everyday reality with a bump now and again. I think it’s important that we continue to agitate for these kinds of things – which a film like this does.”

It’s my responsibility as a programmer now and again to bring the visitors down to earth with a bump.

Without Van Hoof being very aware of it, his programming of Fuocoammare draws a special parallel with Vlieland. For many years, there was an asylum-seekers’ centre at Kaap Oost – where luxury apartments now stand. Many of the islanders protested vehemently against the asylum-seekers’ centre, before eventually accepting the new islanders lovingly into the community. In the same way that, for nine years now, on the first weekend of September of each year they welcome a massive influx of people from the mainland to their stunning natural environment. "Vlieland Welcomes You": not for nothing are these the words that greet and bid farewell to every visitor that steps from or onto the boat, on an enormous sign at the entrance to the marina.