Die liebe in den Zeiten der EU / Love in the age of the EU by Björn Kuhligk

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For the 2014 ZEBRA festival, filmmakers were challenged to make a film using a text by the young German poet Björn Kuhligk, with an English translation provided by Catherine Hales. According to the program, “23 film makers from ten countries followed the call. Thirteen of the films have been selected for the festival.”

UK filmmaker Maciej Piatek‘s take on the poem was judged one of three best films of the contest. (The other two, by Ebele Okoye and Susanne Wiegener, don’t appear to be online yet.) It includes a voiceover by Lisa Luxx and music by Dominic Rattray. In the Vimeo description, Piatek writes:

We, Europeans have tendency to cut ourselves off from the rest of the world, the EU is almost like a green island in the ocean of poverty. Sometimes our prosperity makes us blind even though we’re going through financial crisis, economy is only a part of the problem. The biggest challenge for the EU is to face the crisis of values, the same values which founded EU such as: “..respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities … “. This short video poem’s trying to visualize the state of mind of an illegal immigrant on its way to “freedom” through fear and despair.

Belgian filmmaker Swoon (Marc Neys) included Kuhligk’s reading in the soundtrack. One simple, powerful visual concept carries the filmpoem. In addition to the ZEBRA screening, it was also screened at the 5th West Virginia Mountaineer Short Film Festival.

One more film from the screening has been shared on Vimeo, but cannot be shown here due to embedding restrictions. Mexican director Alex Saavedra‘s film is a complex narrative with several twists and turns.

Pipene / The Pipes by Øyvind Rimbereid

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This was the winner of Goethe Institute Film Prize at the 2014 ZEBRA Poetry Film Festival, where the animator, Kristian Pedersen, also had an exhibition and gave a talk, which I attended. One thing I learned that really impressed me is that the producer of Pedersen’s wonderful series of abstract animations, Gasspedal, does not view them as trailers or promotional tools for its chapbooks but as important publications in their own right — hence the creation of a separate division, Gasspedal Animert. A very forward-thinking publisher!

The poet and reader is Øyvind Rimbereid, who was also in attendance at ZEBRA and gave a reading of this and several other poems from a cycle of poems about the organ, accompanied by the Babylon Theater’s old silent-movie organ. In the video, the Stavanger pipe organ is played by Nils Henrik Asheim.

Written for the opening of the Stavanger Concert hall and its custom built organ, The Pipes is an ode to industrial history – the former backbone of the city’s economic and social life.

One of Norway’s most celebrated poets, Øyvind Rimbereid (b. 1966) made his debut in 1993 with the short story collection Det har begynt (It has begun). His poetry collections Herbarium (2008) and Jimmen (2011) both earned nominations for the Nordic Council prize for literature. Rimbereid is the only Norwegian poet to be awarded the Critics’ Prize twice, for Solaris korrigert (2004) and Orgelsjøen (2013).

Vuosirengas / Tree Ring — poems by Katri Vala

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Another one of my personal favorites from the 2014 ZEBRA competition screenings, this poetry film was directed, filmed and animated by Maria Björklund. All the photography was done in a park in Helsinki named for a poet who used to live nearby, Katri Vala (1901-1944), and excerpts from several of her poems are included in the soundtrack. “The filming took place once a week through the year” (2009), according to the credits. Here’s the description at Vimeo:

A film by Maria Björklund (2012)

Script: Maria Björklund, Antti Mäki, Maria Palavamäki
Editing: Maria Palavamäki
Sound design and music: Antti Mäki

The infamous Katri Vala Park in Sörnäinen, Helsinki is a meeting place for urban nature and poetry in this experimental animated documentary.

The film was produced by Animaatiokopla.

The poetry was translated by Annira Silver and read by Kimberli Mäkäräinen. There’s also a version of the film in Finnish.

Cirkel / Circle: 11 Belgian poets

A filmpoem by Swoon (Marc Neys) incorporating 11 poems by 11 different Belgian writers, telling a single story of life, lust, love and loss. The poems range in style from experimental to formal verse, all ably translated by Willem Groenewegen. I had the pleasure of seeing this at ZEBRA with an introduction by the filmmaker, having first viewed it online more than a year ago when Marc briefly made it public. It’s now been fully released to the web after nearly two years of festival screenings.

I don’t know if there is ever an ideal day of the week to post a 20-minute poetry video, but website visitor stats do suggest that Monday is a big day for procrastination on the job. So grab a beverage, put on your headphones and hit the play button. What better way to ease into the week than with a surreal poetry film to alter your consciousness?

Here are the poems that make up the film:

  1. “Meer tijd” (More Time) by Jan Lauwereyns
  2. “Tel Aviv” by Michaël Vandebril
  3. “Over de afstand tussen twee vogels (III)” (On the Distance between Two Birds (III)) by Lies van Gasse
  4. “Het komt” (It Will Come) by Stefan Hertmans
  5. “!!!” by Xavier Roelens
  6. “Krop” (Crop) by Leonard Nolens
  7. “Of wel” (Or Will It) by Marleen de Crée
  8. “Een hele kleine oorlog” (That Little War) by Yannick Dangre
  9. “De reu rouwt, de mens steelt” (The Hound Mourns and People Steal) by Delphine Lecompte
  10. “Dertien vragen en geen antwoord” (Thirteen Questions Without An Answer) by Stijn Vranken
  11. “Onvoltooid” (Unfinished) by Charles Ducal

The poems were recorded by three well-known Flemish actors: Vic De Wachter (poems 1, 6, 7, 8), Michaël Pas (poems 2, 4, 10, 11) and Karlijn Sileghem (poems 3, 5, 9). The actors are Katrijn Clemer, Mathieu Courtois, and Rommel the cat. (“Rommel” means “clutter” in Dutch; it has nothing to do with the Nazi general.) The music is by Hanklebury, Lunova Labs, and Swoon. Click through to Vimeo for the rest of the credits, not to mention the extensive list of screenings.

لاعب النرد / The Dice Player by Mahmoud Darwish

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Egyptian student-filmmaker Nissmah Rosdhy’s animation of a section of a Mahmoud Darwish poem of the same title is the winner of the 2014 ZEBRA Prize for the Best Poetry Film. (Though the jury members announced from the stage that they regarded all four of the films they picked for prizes this year as equal winners, the prize sponsored by Literaturwerkstatt Berlin itself was still treated as the first among equals. And having watched all 29 competition films, I wouldn’t argue with that.)

Erica Goss and I met with Nissmah Roshy the day after the awards ceremony and recorded a twenty-minute interview with her — go watch. The important thing to mention here is that the live recitation with music by the band Le Trio Joubran sparked the film; it’s much more than just a soundtrack. Combine that with a killer animation of Arabic typography and rotoscoped dance moves by the animator herself, and you’ve got an innovative, probably ground-breaking work. Congrats to Roshdy and a tip of the hat to the jury for their inspired selections. (Look for more of those here in the coming days, interspersed with other films from the festival.)

Der Längste Kuss / The Longest Kiss by Gerhard Rühm

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One thing that poetry-film can really do well is make experimental or avant-garde poems seem more approachable, even entertaining, to a mainstream audience. That’s what Austrian filmmaker Hubert Sielecki and poet Gerhard Rühm have managed to do here, employing what can only be called a choral arrangement of readers—all versions of the same person—in 4/4 meter to defamiliarize and poeticize a found text taken from a newspaper report. For someone with no German like me, the result is a pure sound poem. I was in the audience last Saturday for the main screening of this film at ZEBRA, where it was one of the 29 competition films, and the response was very warm indeed. And that’s not a surprise: this is an immensely entertaining film. Had there been a true “people’s choice” award voted on by everyone who attended the competition screenings, I suspect this would’ve won. (I see that the American animator Cheryl Gross, who also had a film in the competition, has also singled this out as one of her favorites.)

An English translation appears at the beginning of the video, but it’s also included in the YouTube description, so let me just paste it in here:

THE LONGEST KISS
The longest kiss in the world continued for 30 hours, 59 minutes and 27 seconds.
Clara and Hannes who kissed each other for the first time on November 21, 1986 are determined to break this world record on Valentine`s Day, February 4.
The world record attempt will be organised by the Association of Pharmacists.
The pharmacists want to promote superior oral hygiene.
They refer to the fact that during a normal kiss 40 000 parasites are transmitted, besides nine milligrams of water, some fat, proteins, salt and also 250 species of bacteria.
The Association of Pharmacists chose Clara and Hannes because at the age of respectively 38 and 41 years they would be experienced.
During the world record attempt they are neither allowed to lie down nor sit and may not visit the toilet.

А у вас дім далеко від нас? (Do you have a home away from us?) by Anzhela Bogachenko

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What planet, era, realm, country are your letters from?
At this point, draw a palm, a house, a planet. Explain.

I’m just back from the ZEBRA Poetry Film Festival, where I saw many great films including this wonderfully goofy one from Ukrainian poet-filmmaker Anzhela (or Angie) Bogachenko, which with its dancing cosmonauts somehow speaks to my experience over the past week in Berlin (where I also met up with my British partner-in-crime Rachel, with whom I otherwise maintain a long-distance relationship).

You’ll need to watch this at 360p minimum to make out the English subtitles. The text of the poem in the original is here; the translation in the titling is credited to Ksana Kovalenko. The music is a song called “на крыше” (“On the Roof”) by the group VEN, according to a Google translation of the YouTube description. The film was part of a screening called “Triadic Dimensions” featuring films that used music and dance as well as poetry to “convey … the cumulative force of language.”

There’s also a version of the film with Russian subtitles.

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