by Kenton Turk

Orduna’s Vestigios (“Vestiges”) perplexes. In truth, it seduces without obvious charm before it perplexes. Scenes envelop and inhabit before revealing the traces of a narrative, thereby proving the title accurate. There is however steady advancement here – images collecting to have a cumulative value that nonetheless does not suffer under its own weight, somewhat akin to the progressive effect of a Fibonacci number: the ever-growing sum of the preceding two.

As such, a linear storyline remains before the door. But from lower reaches, a kind of narrative emerges, a celluloid palimpsest, the vague but profound reflections of a life led and by its end just perhaps grasped in terms of its most affecting components. What perplexes, to the credit of the film, is the fact that it provokes the sensation of a story being told without a discernable one being in evidence. The method used mimics closely the reductionism of a thought process, reversing the bottom-up superimposition of standard film art. This is the minimal, initial layer of storytelling. Vestigios initially seems like the bare bones of a film concept, the backdrops and the settings stripped of the actors, stripped of the dialogue, stripped of even those details that are intended to key viewers into a returning scene of action. It is as though the filmmaker decided his film was overloaded and continued reducing the ornamentation, until he reached a point that was far beyond his intention, but that proved eminently more satisfying than the combination of plot, dialogue and ambient noise: the true and elemental story at the core, the moments that remain when freed of a harnessing structure.

The reference points here are compositional signposts, static imagery with a hint of life breathed into them: starkly symmetrical images (rolling escalators, paired telephones, views down walled alleyways) move ever so slightly, the breathing of a cameraman, possibly, the playfulness of breeze, shifting light. Or your imagination. A mask that regards you with immobile features seems to move its eyes, slightly, after some long moments borne in increasing discomfort by the intensity of a stare that is without vision. Urban settings become vaguely disturbung (yet paradoxically comforting) for not being completely deserted, but being occupied by people heard but never in view, always behind walls and around corners. It is as though you, moving through these locales, have been summoned to be near but not enter.

For all of this, Vestigios is not in lack of anything. It can simultaneously be seen as a stark paring down of the film process and a deepening of pure content. The images accompany lyricism (appearing in interspersed Chinese characters as title cards) that sounds as spare to the Western ear as the images feel in visual terms. These move through philosophical musings and reflections on existence itself. “A long journey, a reflection, a fragrance… I leave submission behind” opens these ruminations. Questions posed (“Maybe everything is mere interpretation?”), questions answered (“The path is marked out”) and personal revelations (“I sought nudity so that nothing would hold me back”) counterpoint the barren images. Thus, the plotless story is unravelled. As well, the spartan soundtrack moves the “action” forward, with subtlety and without haste. A drumbeat evolves into heartbeat, and occasional din resolves itself in sudden silences.

In this way, Orduna combines the spare, observational qualities of Edison’s “actualities” and the torpid uneasiness of Lynch in a film that neither tells a story nor avoids telling one. These are the thoughts at the back of one’s head, ultimately more profound for not being expressible with simple and linear language, collecting and extending themselves to buoy up a core oxymoronically nebulous and defined.

Finally, Orduna turns the optical refuge of black and white into colour, golden tones moving towards blue. The film ends with this move into another sphere of reference, from two-dimensional monochromatism to three-dimensional chromatism, making one want to view the preceding again with the acquired knowledge of another level of vision. Reflection is inevitable, surely Orduna’s intention. Achieved with elegance and the most deceptively complex simplicity.

Vestigios was screened in World Premiere at [DLX], the 10th Berlin International Directors Lounge on 11 February 2014.


review by Katja Avant-Hard

This is one of those pieces which you can interpret to your own understanding. It’s rich with symbols and connotations. It’s a nightmare, where your “Dad is a pig, and a Mum is a sheep, of course” and all three of you, the son and the parents, are sitting at the table and are eating fresh and bloody pieces of pork. But the scariest part in this nightmare is, that your strictly catholic mother tries to control your dreams. And the time goes back, to your childhood and back again. There are some epic scenes like when the mum leaks her sun ear with so much enjoyment as if it was the highest quality pork; or when they both sit in the milk bath tab, and she feeds him like a newborn. It’s a mind game, where you don’t know where the dream stops and the reality begins. And what if your own reality is more terrifying than your dreams? It’s a trap! Mum, don’t come closer! The director deliberately confuses us in the parallels and its faces of fantasy and the state of actual.

“Isac Inca Doarme” by Alexandru Ponoran was screened during the 10th Berlin International Directors Lounge [DLX], Feb 6 – 16, 2014

DL Selection XI: Wed 12 | 8:30pm | space A

the complete program


Buñuel, Bergman and Genet meet in Max Sacker’s Belle de Lyon

by Kenton Turk

“I should punish you.” The line comes later in the film, but could just as well accompany the initial shots. Opening with dank halls, a caged rat and Nikolai Kinski setting up a miniature guillotine, you could expect to be soaked in dreariness in Max Sacker’s ten-minute short, but it soon turns to the distance of a cinema setting and a turnabout of the standard roles, with beauty sitting firmly in the audience, and not flickering up front, larger than life. This turns again and again, so that it not always clear if we are watching the audience from the screen or vise versa. In this way, the tone is set for the ambiguities that the film explores in pictures and words Belle de Lyon is a determined collage of moments, the sort of images that accompany a night sweat. In large part a take on Buñuel ’s out put, spanning his black-and-white earlier works and culminating with his first colour feature, Belle du jour, Sacker’s film honours beauty and implied horrors.

The disturbing (Un Chien Andalou’s infamous eye-slicing scene) jockeys for attention next to the comforting (fields bathed in pastel sunsets), the connection being that every scene, every moment is a picture, literally, with an ever-present camera reminding of the viewer of his voyeurism, and that of film in general. Indeed, this is watching the watcher watch the watcher, layers of voyeurism draped over layers of film references. Midway through comes a sequence of Bergmanesque arrangement and stares, making the relative fluidity of the opening and closing sequences bookend swaths in a formal symmetry. Defining direction throughout is an aphoristic romp through words whispered, spoken and occasionally printed out to fill the frame, banners of proclamation that feel like poetic penetration. Jean Genet’s and Harry Crews’s askew logic on love and its attendant pain get headline treatment: ecstasy in betrayal, ecstasy in vengeful annihilation. Valeria Piskounova (Deneuve/Séverine), a Candy Darling clone, strolls through like a work in soft marble. Kinski’s face complements hers with a bevelled angularity that matches his nuanced and shifting earnestness. There isn’t a moment you couldn’t frame; few you wouldn’t bathe in. Even if pain necessarily attends or even intensifies ecstasy, you rarely see the two look better partnered to each other than here.

“Belle De Lyon” will be screened during the 10th Berlin International Directors Lounge [DLX], Feb 6 – 16, 2014  in DL Selection IV:Sat 8 | 9pm | space A

the complete program

photo: kt/DL


Swimming” in Berlin, Privatclub, 27.03.12

John Sampson is a good guy. More than that, he’s a good singer, a very good one, and the young Englishmen surrounding him on stage are good too, at least from the sound of things. Surprisingly good, to be more precise. Swimming by name, they are playing to nodding heads and swaying bodies in Berlin’s Privatclub, not their first trip to this city. The music is a shifting mix of fibrous tonal guitar waves punctuated by John’s quavering vocal trail, itself a hybrid of conversational melodic statement and benevolent falsetto. Not bombast and not understatement, the music is also much more than simply a comfortable compromise in between. The band is loud, and guitar strings are occasionally attacked to within an inch of their existence. This goes over very well. Despite the low ceiling in the venue and its determination to throw the sound back at the audience in a distorted din, the band plays like there was a great blue sky over their heads. Drummer Peter Sampson is concentrated and of athletic aim, while guitarist Joff Spittlehouse, bassist Blake Pearson and keyboardist Sam Potter veer between solid stance and more fluid moves.

Among the throng is multi-award-winning filmmaker Simon Ellis, who has come down from Hamburg, where he is working on a trailer for the Hamburg Short Film Festival, to see his friends play, although they’ll be in the Hanseatic City the next day for the last stop of this tour. Theirs is a fruitful trade-off, with Ellis making most of the band’s videos, and Swimming providing inspiration for Ellis, as with the film “Binaural Swimming (Beach)”, which had its World Premiere during Ellis’s retrospective at [DL8] (the 8th Berlin International Directors Lounge) in February this year. He brought John along for the occasion.

The show increases in intensity before ending, with the guys on stage moving their well-meaning assault on their instruments up to a tornado-grade rush of layered melodic energy before bidding good night and disappearing into the relative sanctuary of backstage. The feeling on the ground is good, like seeing after-images of fireworks, but in your ears. Swimming has surely just added to their followers. Norwegian indie-stars Megaphonic Thrift, also playing here tonight, are luckily not in competition.

Outside after, I chat a bit with the singer. John gets my vote if anyone’s looking to cast St. Francis of Assisi. Already in Berlin in February, moving around the goings-on at [DL8], he displayed some of that hypnotizing inner peace that is a rarity in people who can belt their lungs out. Now, on the subject of the current state of things, he talks of “shedding old skin”and quickly correlates this to the name of the new single, “All Things Made New,” from the optimistically titled Ecstatics International. Sam, the keyboardist, is a new man on board, replacing Andy Wright. What else is changing? Before I can follow this line, a demure voice asks something. Two Russian girls have made their way to the show and speak in quite good English, but with enough accent to make them exotic. They seem shy. They talk to John but appear anxious to meet his brother, Peter. They first encountered him when he played in the far-flung Russian industrial city Perm, a million inhabitants sidled up near to the European side of the Urals. Peter, it should be noted, has a musical alter-ego: as THePETEBOX (the preferred configuration of capitals and lower-case), he has a fanbase all his own, and it is a widespread one. Blake joins us and he and John sign CDs for the girls. The latter win points with me by understanding my Russian.

Peter emerges from inside. He is somewhat harder-edged in appearance than his brother John, looking a bit like he’s seen some underbellies John might have been spared. They may yet come. It’s a good bet that Swimming won’t be submerging all too soon. When the girls address him, he seems polite enough but somewhat tired and not sure who they might be. They talk some more; he sifts through his memory and then places them. Peter is a busy man, with THePETEBOX doing his thing on various continents, and Swimming (and another project, We Show Up On Radar) filling in what time is left. THePETEBOX gets around to places Swimming has yet to hit.

Sometimes, it seems, it can go the other way around, with the audience coming to you. John tells me a girl once travelled from Marseille to London to see a Swimming gig, and ended up living with the (then) keyboardist. How far do you have to go to keep a fanbase? Or, the other way: does being a musician really have that many perks?

Another girl approaches. She is German, but first saw the band when living in Britain. She talks to Blake, who seems unassuming, not the one you’d pick to be the art-man of the outfit, but the covers and other paraphernalia are, I’m told, made up of images from his hand and mind. As far as I can make out, in hiding behind another moniker. Another alter-ego. When Joff (a.k.a. Jonathan) joins them, John and I get back to talking about what’s afoot these days. This brings us to Simon Ellis. They met back in Nottingham when Ellis came to a gig of theirs and said “a lot of nice things” about them afterward. Ellis has since dedicated a great deal of time to the boys from his home town, and it seems to be paying off. As well, they have begun to pay back in individual style – at least John. Presently, he is doing the music to Ellis’s trailer for the Hamburg Short Film Festival. Anything like Swimming?, I want to know. “Dance beats,” he answers. Not really what Swimming sounds like, even of their last album is pop-friendlier than the debut The Fireflow Trade. Talking of his efforts, he refreshingly uses pictures to describe sounds, rather than references to instruments and studio tricks. The music he is working to achieve here will feel like “flying at low level, low enough to see the whites of your eyes from the ground.” It is left to me to figure just how you put this into music, but I appreciate this visual-to-musical leap. He thinks the way I do.

It all sounds like a well-oiled machine. No catastrophes to speak of tonight either, save Blake’s hand catching fire backstage from a flaming Sambuca. All quiet on the continental front, eardrum-threatening volume aside. Did you make any mistakes tonight, I ask. “Nothing but mistakes, a united intent of mistakes,” he quips, his eyes gleaming. No, these guys haven’t made any major mistakes yet, from the looks of things.

And from here…? “I don’t know, world domination?” John laughs. Joff is now listening in, his demeanour loose and relaxed, although John says he is the one whose fingers can move in blur speed on the guitar. “The next album will be imbedded directly in your mind, like in that movie with the dreams….” He fights to come up with the name; Joff helps him recall it. “Yeah, like in Inception.” No question about their wanting to come in through the front door, maybe without knocking.

The world may belong to them yet. Right now, on a planet peopled by the bad and the good, Swimming still number among the good guys. And fairly high on the scale, too.

(Kenton Turk)


shown as part of Cine Opera

Insouciant goldfish slowed to supineness swim vacuously toward us and float languidly back out of the frame in this Nyman offering, at first reminiscent of countless relaxation videos. Underpinning the enchanting and warmly colourful scene, rich in tangerine and cyan, is placid piano and low string tones. A parakeet training record runs in the background, the stroking sounds of sofly murmured repetition, echoic phrases that our feathered companions will learn to in turn amuse and soothe us. “Pretty boy” is followed by “Clever little boy”, “Good morning”, “Mama’s little treasure” and a host of others. The gently swimming goldfish presented provide the counterpoint, and we are subtly made conscious of the role of these animals in our lives: the aural pleasure of the birds’ well-learned phrases counter-balances the visual pleasure provided by the fish. As the title suggests, we are presented with two enticements, the “pretty” and the “talk”. The viewer is left to bathe in sensual pleasures or perhaps resist the enticement to an all too pervasive (ab)use of pets. All comes to an increasingly disconcerting end as the melifluous female warblings are replaced by harsher, more insistent tones. The agreeable gradually gives way to the abrasive, and we are cordially escorted out of the scene…. Seductive and yet thought-provoking.

Kenton Turk

Pretty Talk screened in cooperation with Myriam Blundell Projects


shown as part of kaleidoscope

Beautifully animated and edited, this piece is a sharp little gem that is the platinum standard for the short film genre. This visually striking work that miraculously manages not to overshadow the urgency of its subject matter is not to be missed. An effort that should generate a great deal of interest in environmental circles, as well as a solid place in the cinematic firmament.

-Angela Turk

Bruce Knox DE Danger Global Warming 7min 3s 2010 (world premiere)


shown as part of three stories

A heart-stopping look into the sex-trafficking industry and purveyors of the flesh trade. A seven-week pregnancy introduces a crisis for both procurer and victim as the story unfolds, peeling back layers of a very undocumented and under-examined criminal environment. Brown’s ability to pull the viewer into an emotional vice grip in such time-constrained parameters is a testimony to some very sure-footed filmmaking. A shining effort.

-Angela Turk

Rob Brown GB Echoes 11min 38s 2009

Berlin Directors Lounge: Opening night, February 11, 2010

The opening night of the 6th annual Berlin Directors Lounge provided a well rounded overview of what the 10-day long series has to offer in terms of theme and style. Ranging from the most abstract experimental films to the most light-hearted and even hilarious shorts this roundup of films undoubtedly kept the audience on the edge of their seats not only during the films but also in between as they awaited to see what was to come next.

Works of note which stood out were the “Found People Movement”, a film by Pablo Useros in which people are seen descending a staircase (of a train station?) in slow motion, first looking down at the last few steps the audience then gets a close look at their faces as the unwitting actors reach level ground and look up to get their bearings. What is remarkable about this is the film’s ability to capture completely normal people in an otherwise everyday situation and spin it into a captivating urban mini-opera of sorts –with the help of an accompanying soundtrack.

Neil Needleman’s autobiographic letter to his father about becoming a filmmaker is a sharply bittersweet reflection in which the director recalls his father’s harsh criticism of the director’s choice to buy his first camera through subtitle text on the screen, all the while the audience sees the father in spasms, unconscious on his deathbed. This video was later followed up by what seemed to be another heart-wrenchingly raw an honest (work of fiction?) by the filmmaker called “Meeskeit: Uglier than ugly”, in which a woman describes the strategic placement of her entire family’s likenesses (and their torrid personal histories) in the paintings of her ugly shut-in cousin, who recently committed suicide and willed all of her artwork to the narrator.

Some of the most entertaining pieces of the evening were set to pop music. Antoine Hilaire’s hyper-self conscious video “Cross the Fader” (to the song “Crossfader” by the band phony pony) is nothing but text which describes the song not only musically (with notes) but also dissects the music at each beat and transition in terms of rock-pop history and what might be going through the head of the musician, crowd, or music critic as the power-pop song drives on.

A surprising and terribly fun pop follow up came in the form of Make the Girl Dance’s “Baby Baby Baby”, a music video in which four women take turns walking naked through the streets of paris, their private parts blacked-out with the text of the song superimposed onto the rectangles as passers-by whip around to ogle the gorgeous women as they saunter by in their birthday suits.

Pablo Wendel’s Terracotta Warrior was a particularly humorous film capture’s one performance artist’s 15 minutes of fame as he sneaks in to stand amongst China’s thousands of clay soldiers. The authorities – never having faced such a situation before – simply do not know what to do with the man, and although they attempt to maintain professionalism one can also tell that they are working hard to repress their own laughter at the ridiculousness of the situation. The artist, who all along maintains his stiff clay soldier pose, is until finally hauled away horizontally by a team of the uniformed Chinese guardsmen.

Of the animated pieces that caught my eye, “HAIRS” by Milos Tomic, a film which makes hairs of all sizes spin and dance like one has never seen before.

On of the audience’s favorites, however, was also an animated film – the very simple but effective comedy of errors, Bob Log III’s “Electric Fence Story” by Sebastian Wolf & Tinka Stock . I will not bother to describe this 3-minute masterpiece, which was also included in Friday’s “Cornucopia” programme, but I’d highly recommend that you catch it online.

– Paul J. Thomas