Doug Spice directs an adaptation of Wilfred Owen’s classic anti-war poem, written 99 years ago but still (sadly) as relevant as ever, in which a reading of the poem is juxtaposed with a scene of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. There are many, many video adaptations of this poem on the web, but most fall into the trap of too-literal interpretation, and few have anything like the production values of this short film. Let me just paste in the complete description from Vimeo.
In 1917, while recovering from shell shock in a Scottish war hospital, Wilfred Owen wrote “Dulce Et Decorum Est,” considered by many to be the preeminent poem of World War I. Owen was later returned to the front, only to be shot and killed on November 4, 1918 – one week before the end of the war.
Today, 95 years later, tens of thousands of US and NATO troops serve out a 10th year of combat in Afghanistan, and continue to struggle and die against a resilient and determined enemy. Doug Spice’s single-take short film, also entitled “Dulce Et Decorum Est,” adapts Owen’s classic poem to the circumstances of the modern day, and a situation of grief and torment all too many soldiers, families, and friends are once again familiar with.
Director: Doug Spice
Producer: Sonia Pineda
Featuring: Chris Starr, Daniel Haff, Dave “Storm” Huffman, Rob Gruspe, Jake Daniel Kelly, Zak Holman, Clint Slosson
DP/Steadicam Operator: Thom Valko
Camera Assistant: Aaron Bennett
Production Assistant: Alex Igidbashian
Makeup: Rose Lopez
Editor & Sound Editor: Aaron Bennett
Rotoscope Artists: Alex Igidbashian, Rose Lopez
VFX/Compositing: Doug Spice
Music: “Cosmic Wanderings” by Austin Wintory
Special Thanks: Joe Toledo
Production and post-production: Psychic Bunny
“Poetry is the only way to speak during a period of chaos.”
A film adaptation of a poem by the contemporary Iraqi poet Zaher (or Zahir) Mousa produced, directed and filmed by the Scottish/Iranian filmmaker Roxana Vilk, who has built up quite an interesting and varied body of poetry-related work in recent years: bio pics, interviews, and filmpoems, many featuring poets from the Middle East. (I’ll be sharing another example later in the week.) Among other credits, Maryam Gorbankarimi edited, and the sound design is by Peter Vilk with Ilhan Burutcu on the ney. The Scottish poet John Glenday is listed as the main translator, with assistance from Lauren Pyott and James Sandri (who was also the assistant director). The Vimeo description notes:
This film is a result of a commission from Reel Festivals as part of Reel Iraq 2013 and funded by Literature Across Frontiers and the British Council.
Filmed in Shaqlawa and Erbil, Northern Iraq in January 2013.
The plot summary at IMDb calls In the Beginning
an experimental film based on a poem by the acclaimed and award winning Iraqi poet, Zaher Mousa. The poem uses the form of a creation myth and explores the feelings of an Iraqi man living through the realities of life in Baghdad and how the continuing violence and conflicts have affected the way he sees the world around him.
In the Beginning was selected for screening at the 2014 ZEBRA Poetry Film Festival in Berlin. As for Reel Iraq 2013, it was apparently
an overwhelming success and audiences across the UK got a chance to engage directly with Iraqi poets, filmmakers, artists, writers and musicians.
Highlights included workshops in Erbil as part of the Erbil Literature Festival which led to the creation of new translations of Iraqi poets Zaher Mousa, Awezan Nouri, Ghareeb Iskander and Sabreen Kadhim and of Scotland based poets Jen Hadfield, William Letford, John Glenday and Krystelle Bamford. These new translations were performed at venues across the UK.
Musicians Khyam Allami and City of Salt performed to packed venues in Edinburgh and London, and filmmakers Parine Jaddo and Hayder Daffer presented their work in cinemas across the country.
Reel Festivals also commissioned two films based on another poem by Zaher Mousa, “Born to Die,” from filmmakers Alastair Cook and Marc Neys (Swoon). I shared them in a post back in 2013.
Rilke’s “primordial tower” (uralten Turm) is given literal shape in this otherwise wonderfully suggestive film of a video installation based on the famous poem from the Book of Hours. The film, directed by the artist Pat van Boeckel, takes a kind of call-and-response approach—which seems highly appropriate, given the subject matter—by having a voiceover of the poem at the very beginning (with the English translation by Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows in subtitles), followed by the installation in a kind of reverse ekphrasis. According to the Vimeo description, the installation was “Made for art project Internationales Waldkunst in Darmstadt.” Max Richter composed the music.
Here’s something fun and different: a collaboration between poet Mark Goodwin and filmmaker Martyn Blundell featuring Goodwin and his love of balancing on rails. He elaborates on this in a lyrical blog post for Longbarrow Press, who recently brought out his fourth collection, Steps, which “explores themes of climbing, walking and balancing,” according the post. Among other interesting observations, Goodwin says:
To walk along a handrail by the side of a footpath is to disobey. This is, I feel passionately, what poetry should be. Poetry is just next to the conventional ways (or habits) of being human … but it disobeys, which only goes to show those conventions more clearly, even celebrate them … but certainly challenge them.