Nationality: Poland

Przesłanie Pana Cogito / Last Message from Mr Cogito by Zbigniew Herbert

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A 2010 film by Canadian director Anna Woch using a poem and reading by the great Polish poet Zbigniew Herbert. The YouTube description notes that it was awarded “Best experimental video at the Black and White Audiovisual Festival in Porto. Also projected at the Miden Film Festival in Kalamata and Obraz + Idea Festival in Brodnica.” The soundtrack includes original music by the Wintership Quartet.

Also translated as “The Envoy of Mr. Cogito,” the poem was the first to feature Herbert’s character Mr. Cogito, who supplied the title for a 1974 volume of poetry and appeared in four successive volumes through 1998.

Initially Mr. Cogito was an Everyman, a universal element of humanity sharing his opinions on various aspects of life and existence. However, the more he says, the more disembodied he appears, and becomes transformed into an ethical symbol and a metaphor of the tough choices we have to make between good and evil.

The character’s name originates from Descartes’ famous phrase, “Cogito ergo sum.”

(Hat-tip: The Film & Video Poetry Society)

Rozmowa z Kamieniem / Conversation with a Stone by Wisława Szymborska

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Szymborska’s most widely anthologized poem in a film interpretation by Pat van Boeckel, using footage shot on Sado Island, Japan, including (at the very end) a sculpture by Karin van der Molen. The usual English translation by Stanizław Barańczak and Clare Cavanagh from View With a Grain of Sand is given as onscreen text, with the poet’s own recitation in the soundtrack. I suppose some might find the images of an abandoned Buddhist temple a bit too obvious here (“great empty halls”, “two thousand years”), but I thought they made a perfect fit. The music is by Max Richter — the very same track van Boeckel used more recently for the documentation of his Rilke-inspired video installation.

identity: other by Anna Banout

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I found the combination of found text montage and video footage shot by children simply irresistible in this author-made videopoem by Anna Banout, who says on Vimeo:

Identity. Otherness. Intolerance. Prejudice. Freedom. Integrity. As a half-Syrian girl growing up in Poland, these issues have accompanied me my whole life – I was other before I even knew the true meaning of this word. In this film I’ve combined footage from my childhood – multicultural safe place; a place where otherness didn’t really exist – with a monologue on the theme of identity. The videos were mostly taken by children – me, my sister and cousins – and I’ve decided to choose them as they captured the fragility of seemingly unimportant moments that only a child could capture. The monologue is a fake poem – it was assembled by me from variety of speeches given by poets, writers, actors, artists, activists and other inspirational people whose words I found refreshing in the identity-themed discussion.
Who do I identify myself as? Other.

Seeing the Pope on TV by Maria Jastrzȩbska

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This four-year-old video by Kevin Simmonds for a Maria Jastrzȩbska poem about Pope John Paul II seems, sadly, as relevant as ever. The description at Vimeo:

A poem by Maria Jastrzȩbska from Syrena (Redbeck Press, 2004) that appears in Collective Brightness: LGBTIQ Poets on Faith, Religion & Spirituality, from Sibling Rivalry Press and edited by Kevin Simmonds.

That anthology has its own website, including a videos page where you can watch this and 28 other videopoems! Kudos to Simmonds. It’s rare for a poetry editor to take video seriously at all, let alone make the videos himself.

Liberté by Maciej Piatek

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A concrete videopoem by the UK-based Polish video artist Maciej Piatek that alludes to a text by Paul Eluard and an historic, public use of that text, as the write-up on Vimeo explains:

The film was screened at Liberté during the ArtsBridge Festival 2014. Liberté was a multi-discipline performance featuring collaborations in poetry, music, film, dance, prose, performance and visual arts, that used Paul Éluard’s “Liberté” poem as a starting point. The poem was famously dropped from aeroplanes during WWII by the British Air force over occupied France.

2014 was a year of the centenary of the start of WWI and the 75th Anniversary of the start of WWII, and in an age where we see almost perpetual war, we are told that it is all necessary “for our freedom”. The performance attempted to analyse what liberty/freedom meant to each contributor.

Featured work by Lianne Brown, Gillie Carpenter, Isolde Davey, Holly Hero, Gaia Holmes, Tallulah Holmes, Cliff James, Alice Mill, Paul Mill, Steve Nash, Maciej Piatek, Winston Plowes

ArtsBridge Festival 2014 at Christchurch, Sowerby Bridge, UK

Był sobie król / Once there was a King by Janina Porazińska

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The ZEBRA Poetry Film Festival has just announced the 29 nominees for its 2014 competition, and this is one of them. It’s also a Vimeo Staff Pick — testimony to the high quality of the animation and production. Tytus Majerski’s description reads:

Stop-motion mixed with CG, short film based on a polish lullaby written by Janina Porazińska. Author of original music unknown. Performed by Maria Peszek.

A home made project, which I graduated with at my film school in Poland.
It combines cut out animation and 3d set-ups.

Janina Porazińska (1888-1971) specialized in children’s poetry, fairy tales and other folkloric material. The translation used in the titling is by Magda Bryll.

Mar Belle reviewed the film for the blog No Film School:

Have you ever noticed how parents seem to delight in terrifying their children? Whether it’s old wives tales of wind changes leaving their faces contorted or the devil stealing their souls post-sneeze, there are endless ways for adults to keep children in a perpetual state of fear. However, the cruelest has to be those moments before bed, when they’ll soon to be abandoned to a long, dark night with tales of cannibal witches or bone grinding giants stalking through their heads. Depicting the tragic story of a love triangle between a king, a princess and a page, Tytus Majerski’s atmospheric adaptation of Polish writer Janina Porazińska’s lullaby Once There Was a King, is cut from the same gruesome cloth that keeps nightlight companies in business.

Read the rest.

This World (Ten Świat) by Czeslaw Milosz

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A brilliant animated poem from Zbigniew Czapla, a Polish screenwriter, director, animator, painter and graphic artist. It was recently featured on Tin House Reels, accompanied by one of their usual engaging write-ups.

Zbigniew Czapla created this week’s Tin House Reels feature, This World—a short based on the poem of the same title by Czeslaw Milosz—at the invitation of the Fundacja Pogranicze, as part of a multimedia exhibition at the Museum of Czeslaw Milosz in Krasnogruda. Czapla calls his project “a catastrophic vision and poetic perspective on human life as a set of secrets, accidents, and misunderstandings.”

[…]

“Poetry is a difficult subject for animation,” Czapla said. “It should at all costs avoid banality, infantile associations, and overwrought pathos. The text and sound work together around themes, as in jazz improvisation. Topics connect, overlap, and move away from each other in a game of associations.”

“Animated experimental film is a way for me to combine my various fascinations. Painting, music, theater and literature are like pieces of a puzzle, which I try to organize in a new way. If the end result for me is mysterious and unknown, that it is worth doing. The expected effects do not interest me. A lot of the work ends up being unsuccessful, but that always comes with artistic risk.”

Read the rest.

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