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:
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.
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.)
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.
A Moving Poems original. I got the idea of combining two poems about small children, and spent more than a week tinkering with the footage, trying to create enough echoes between the two parts of the film so it all hangs together. I’m not sure whether I succeeded or not, but it was an interesting experiment.
The texts came from The Poetry Storehouse: “Ethics of the Mothers” by Rachel Barenblat and “Prayer” by January Gill O’Neil, each read by the author. The music is by Serge Seletskyy, AKA GustoTune on SoundCloud, used in its entirety without alteration. I wanted to stay as far away from stereotypically “spiritual” music as possible, and suggest instead the boundless energy of childhood.
I shot some of this myself (the dodgy wildlife shots and the overlays) and filled it out with free footage from Beachfront B-Roll and Phil Fried. Yes, I really was that close to a mother bear with cubs! It seemed important to start out with a powerful image of motherhood that also might be seen to possess a kind of celestial resonance (Ursa Major and Ursa Minor). And over-all, the wildlife imagery and the closing shot of the night sky gave me a way to suggest something extra about the kind of felt connections with the larger-than-human world that seem to come naturally to most children, and the awe that that can inspire in them. Needless to say, I wouldn’t have dared to close with such a “cosmic” shot if O’Neil’s poem hadn’t focused so resolutely on small things.