Ajitesh Sharma’s “SWEN” in World Premiere at the 9th Berlin International Directors Lounge

by Kenton Turk

What does he know of India who only one India knows? Many-skinned India reveals itself like a bloom shedding petals in the wind, but the world outside sees mostly two of these. Bollywood’s sparkling otherworldliness has captured the eyes and ears of an international audience, and educational documentaries about life’s difficulties in the sub-continent’s over-populated slums perhaps their hearts as well. But trying to grasp India by taking in a Bollywood flick would be like preparing for a trip to New York by visiting Disneyland first. And while poverty and squalor may still much be a part of the world’s fastest-growing population, the future is headed elsewhere.

Ajitesh Sharma’s “SWEN” (taken from “South West East North”) presents drama from an India less often seen internationally. This is the third India, the BRIC nation rising into the world’s top ten economies. Neither poverty-induced misery nor lights-camera-action musical, “SWEN” is people, their interaction and their fates.

Sharma’s association with Directors Lounge is not new. In 2010, DL in its sixth annual outing presented his 44-minute “Visible Bra Straps” in World Premiere. The film went on to many another festival, including Cannes, and was ultimately chosen as India’s official entry into the Asian Pacific Film Awards, the “Oscar” of this emerging region. Its star and perhaps Sharma’s muse, the beautiful Reeth Mazumder, also takes the lead in SWEN. At her side is the similarly attractive Johnny Baweja (aka Gurjot Singh).

What is new here? More than anything, that India has arrived to take its place there where other countries have tread, but with a cinematic accent and lifestyle all its own. It does well to remember that the film comes from a nation whose first screen kiss in 1978 (!) caused an uproar and a major debate on censorship. As such, the comfortable approach to lovemaking scenes in “SWEN” must be seen as a great leap forward. These sequences are indeed sensuously shot, and conjure up none of the hot-toned, giddy romantic interaction of Bollywood. Rather as the West might know it, but this is still unmistakenly another world. It might feel strange to the viewer to match these images to this country, unless preconceptions can be left at the door. India is, definitely, changing.

If we are ill at ease with an India of unforced mannerism and relative affluence, then maybe because it has been our standpoint to see the great land from colonialists’ or tourists’ eyes, our poor brother full of colour and tradition, but concerned with day-to-day problems of survival. That battle is not over, but much of it is being won, so that Indian cinema can redirect its focus from song-and-dance numbers and predictable plotlines and turn itself to dealing with life and relationships in the modern world. Here, shiny cars are driven, wine is sipped and private pools are swum in while people, in this case four women, discover unexpected connections, all to a soundtrack that is far from what a tour guide would choose to give his customers the feeling of “experiencing” India as they expect it. But make no mistake, this is where India is headed. Sharma offers up a slice of the emerging India today, maybe the accepted picture of India tommorow.


Presented by Tripat Paul Aggarwal, First Vice President of International Federation of Film Producers Associations (FIAPF)

Sun 10 the program

the complete program

Amusement Park of Glowing Dreams

Filmmaker and Directors Lounge fixture Klaus W. Eisenlohr took the gathering on hand at Z-Bar’s screening space (22.03.12) on a rollercoaster ride to and through the Atomic Age’s forbidden zones with his curated program “Pripyat – The Uncanny of Modernity”. Not only Pripyat, Chernobyl’s ghost-ridden neighbouring city, but also other nuclear oddities were shown in light of a global fascination whose half-life is not yet known. This aesthetic preoccupation and its uneasy place in the nuclear discussion were at the heart of the selection, rather than any purely documentary vehicles or didactic essays. Several films in the 90-minute set were little more (but nothing less) than hazy imagery, as in the opener, Anders Weberg’s Peaceful Atom (SE), a multi-planed soup of impressionistic smears revealing forms and sounds. Nicky Larkin’s Pripyat (IE) followed, with static shots accompanied by howling winds and the incessant buzzing of flies. The deserted city emerges as a modern-day Angkor Wat, with radiation as the unseen jungle. Black figures painted on walls hark back to Pompeii’s ashen corpses, victims of a similarly sudden fate. Finally, Lenin’s face emerges, as lifeless and frozen in time as the scene he presides over. Immaterial Meshup (Sarah Breen Lovett, AU) opens on a television and takes us swiftly to futuristic cityscapes of Metropolis and Blade Runner, uniformly black and white and swathed in aphorisms. Other standouts included Gair Dunlop’s Atom Town: Life After Technology (UK), running newsreel propaganda footage on the Dounreay facility in split screen next to mostly colour updates of the same scenes, silent sentries to a then unknown future (its sentimentally greeted disengagement), wordlessly speaking louder than the narrator’s voice from the screen’s other half. Vanessa Renwick’s Portrait #2: Trojan (US) puts an atomic silo before intensified sunset views resembling Group of Seven stylization, then lets us witness the controlled demolition of the ominous tower. Eisenlohr’s own Phantasma Pripyat (DE) wove cascading found footage between flutter-by landscapes and computer games into a look at Elena Filatova’s counterfeit motorcycle tour in the forbidden zone around Chernobyl. Ribbon text website comments chase snippets of facts and each other so that the viewer is swimming in a sea of truths, half-truths and outright lies or flights of fancy that well represent the muddle of (mis)information that characterized the event. A discussion followed the films, with varying views on the attraction to voyeurism and its legitimacy. Eisenlohr’s Urban Research presentations run with monthly regularity, offering windows to the grand scheme of things cosmopolitan. In addition, they provide thematic pillars in the annual Berlin International Directors Lounge, back for its ninth incarnation in February 2013. Kenton Turk

pictured: Phantasma Pripyat by Klaus W.Eisenlohr

still from Glorious, 2009 by Guy Maddin


No longer an upstart after seven consecutive years and scads of films of every conceivable genre, the Berlin International Directors Lounge (DL to the initiated) is still free of formula, corralling batches of like-minded works into presentable groupings but not bowing to predictability. No one knows quite what they are going to see here. That viewers can move freely about, mounting stairs and draping themselves over balcony railings to take in what’s splashed onto the screen may add to the slightly helter-skelter atmosphere. Question-and-answer sessions with selected directors and performers can prove as offbeat as some of the offerings, and left field live performances take it over the top. For free. There is nothing else like this in Berlin, one of the hardest claims you can make in this city. DL, while still arriving, has arrived. Renowned artists such as Michael Nyman have chosen to reveal their newest visions here, and films are being sent for consideration by the hundreds from all over the globe, with their creators and stars often enough making the trip to see how it looks up there, larger than life. Add to that fast-appearing online reviews of films and audience reaction, and you’ve got the makings of a cult carnival waiting to be reborn on a yearly basis, like a child who enjoyed the process enough to want to give it yet another go.
It had to happen that Berlin’s DL and Winnipeg’s enfant bizarre Guy Maddin would come together, and this year marked the time, when the Berlinale jury member brought a handful of his short features to form the backbone of an evening dedicated to his peculiar view of things, as seen through the (filmic) eyes of the influenced, heard via live readings from his enigmatic book From The Atelier Tovar and not least declared by way of the master’s aforementioned shorts themselves. A bit of everything was there. The giddy tomfoolery of Nude Caboose, the frenetic, fetishistic mock-punishment of Sissy Boy Slap Party, the industrial expressionism of The Heart Of The World. The house was full and imagination running at full tilt.
Directors Lounge is, with Mr. Maddin’s blessing, showing these tasty celluloid morsels at C.A.R. in Essen, offering up a peak into many little worlds portrayed in a myriad of ways: playful, distressing, subtle, haunting, head-on. Maddin comes to DL comes to you, and you only need eyes and ears to make it work.

–    Kenton Turk

still from Odilon Redon or The Eye Like a Strange Balloon Mounts Toward Infinity, 1995 by Guy Maddin

Beyond The Atelier Tovard , the collection of shorts by Guy Maddin, will be accompanied by works that are influenced by him, dedicated to him, or otherwise Under The Influence Of The Atelier Maddin.

C.A.R. details here

One not to miss (if you are in NY)

NYMan With A Movie Camera at the MoMa, Sun May 8th

We screened this remarkable shot-for-shot remake of Dziga Vertov’s Man With A Movie Camera as the farewell special of the 7th Berlin International Directors Lounge. Sunday, May 8th, Nyman presents the New York premiere of his shot-for-shot riff on Vertov’s city symphony at the MoMa.

Reason enough for a review of this unique, giddy love letter from one artist to another (Glasgow Film Festival)

NYMan With A Movie Camera respins a classic

by Kenton Turk
Dziga Vertov’s legendary and highly influential 1929 wordless documentary Man With A Camera receives a tribute and update at once with Michael Nyman’s attempt at “a truly international absolute language”, the original’s stated intention. Where Vertov’s camera captured life in Soviet cities only, Nyman is able to take the aim one step further, reflecting our modern world: here, the locales themselves give evidence of today’s accepted international interaction. 26 countries and territories are listed in the credits, and Nyman’s camera moves as freely between continents as it does between social classes, activities and cinematic devices. What appears at times to be haphazard collage shows abundant evidence of clever segues that imply plays-on-words or various views of a single subject.

The title’s tongue-in-cheek take on the original foreshadows the sly playfulness Nyman displays throughout. The film leads with the original’s Russian credits, faithfully translating its aims and veering only when names of original collaborators are to be replaced with those contributing to this work. The opening scene is a filmic tribute to the original, with Vertov’s cameraman atop a seemingly huge camera in split screen with a modern boom-mounted camera regarding a phalanx of press photographers. The latter camera will resurface like a symphonic theme, at times intrusively, at others as a ghostly superimposition. From here, we are treated to his vision without losing sight of the kudos due the original. In a series of further split screen shots scattered about the film displaying Vertov’s work to the left, we are continually reminded of the film’s comparative nature: Vertov’s track sweeper sidles up beside Nyman’s bullring track, someone feeling eggs is seen next to someone feeling fruit, black and white film frames are shown beside a digital photo album, people rushing to cross a street next to an old man struggling to do the same, a telephone switchboard edges up to a Nokia delivery truck, in each instance, the monochromatic contrasting with full colour. The device does not lean on the original, but rather includes it as a part of the sum of what we witness today.

Utilizing his own 2002 BFI-commissioned soundtrack to the original throughout, Nyman proceeds to lead us through a world of personal imagery, showing a predilection for recurring signposts. Most notably, dolls appear throughout, in all forms and in various frames of reference, from baby dolls wrapped in plastic following bridal portraits to Barbie dolls dressed for airline service preceding a still of a stewardess’s legs behind a “Safety on board” warning. Industrial processes and workspaces, sport disciplines and means of transport, particularly trams, also abound.

Tragic scenes married to less tragic ones, such as a car bombing and its victims juxtaposed against examinations of a collection of miniature emergency vehicles only to jump back to actual crises, imply an ability to reference a situation from varying perspectives as well as a certain dark humour. The straightforward variety is also employed. We note with amusement when subjects are unsure of being watched, and are allowed guiltless voyeurism as we spy on a man picking his nose. The unnoticed is sometimes revisited for comic effect: a full shot of plastic- covered automobiles is later re-examined in close-up, with the protuberance of a car mirror so wrapped bearing stark resemblance to a condom-sheathed bulge.

Nyman’s best sequences are those showing wit in making connections. Here he demonstrates awareness of the rapid associations our brains make. An electronic billboard with the name of Mexican soccer star “Israel Castro” is followed by a picture of an imam and an Iranian sport team. A shot of a man plugging his ears precedes various scenes of “playing”: first piano, then backgammon, then a toy xylophone followed by a full-sized one. A scene of a barber at work leads to a drawing of bald heads, then a bald androgynous couple, razors and scissors being sharpened, photo session preparation, and finally hedge clippers and a little girl observing the hedge-trimming while fondling her own tresses. In one of the best, scenes filmed at Ground Zero in New York are followed by barbed wire barriers and (in perhaps the film’s best visual association) a bird apparently flying “into” Berlin’s Fernsehturm in a shot that is eerily reminiscent of “9/11” footage.

A concerted effort is made throughout to include Vertov’s many cinematic innovations and employed techniques, culminating in the final scenes, the film’s most frenetic. In a Koyaanisqatsi-style escalation, we are taken through many of these in dizzyingly fast succession, all paraded out for a last look: simultaneously focused and unfocused frames, multiple images, time lapse photography, split screen, Dutch (or tilted) angles, superimposition, extreme close-ups, diagonally split images, jump cuts and more, the various techniques concentrated on performers and performing spaces, cameras and spectators. In the final shot, the red carpet press photographers of the opening are inserted into a camera’s lens, turning the tables, as it were. Observers become the observed.

Nyman references not only Vertov’s, but also his own forays into film. The shadowed drapery of his Witness I makes an early appearance, to be followed later in the film by the same film’s haunting faces. Sequences from other Nyman offerings will also later vie for attention: the inept but unperturbed passenger of Tieman can be seen; the “Wanted” poster of Searching For Bacon briefly appears. Nyman himself, not to be forgotten, shows up Hitchcock-like in a few scenes. Vertov’s shot of a Russian-language “Gorky” banner spanning a street shares the screen with a “Nyman” banner doing the same; later, electronic ribbon text announces his appearance at the Toronto International Film Festival. We see him from behind early on, later as a reflection, a man with a camera. About halfway through the film, we spy a poster with the slogan “Your sight is precious”; over it is Nyman’s own reflection in glass while he brings the shot in with a slow zoom. An appropriate way to sum up the film, one thinks.

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Sun 20th 10:30pm

NYman With A Movie Camera 

Tonight: The Farewell Special of the 7th Berlin International Directors Lounge

Nyman With A Movie Camera is a 64-minute, shot-for-shot remake of Dziga Vertov’s Man With A Movie Camera with a live score played by the Michael Nyman Band. Nyman has been heavily involved in cinema for most of his working life, creating the Oscar-winning score for Jane Campion’s The Piano and numerous other features including Peter Greenaway’s Drowning By Numbers and The Cook, The Thief, His Wife And Her Lover.

Conceived and directed by Michael Nyman, Nyman With A Movie Camera painstakingly reconstructs Vertov’s iconic silent picture of 1929 using footage from Nyman’s own film archives shot over the last two decades. A press release offers some further explanation:

“Deeply rooted in Vertov’s original ideas concerned with ‘the perception of truth’, the documentation of ‘life as it is’ and that of ‘life caught unawares’, Nyman’s film attempts to capture the essence of ‘what is there’, and reflects on what he calls ‘the persistence of glance’ a multi-sensorial experience of time as it occurs, of life as it happens and as recorded by the human memory. The film is a modern-day take on experimental documentary film making through the bias of cinematographic collage and proposes to renew a discourse with the ideological and aesthetic precepts once defended by Vertov in his pursuit of the ultimate ‘cleaning up’ of film language from the ‘corrupting influence’ of drama.”

“Nyman’s previous engagement with Vertov’s film dates back to 2003 when he composed the original musical score for Man With a Movie Camera. The encounter with the Russian master was instrumental in defining Nyman’s own aesthetic phraseology and experimentation with the medium of film and documentary. In Man With a Movie Camera, the shot sequence follows a systematic and paced visual pattern in an attempt to mimic the language of the visible, the raw and the unscripted.

“Vertov’s driving vision was to capture ‘film truth’ — that is, fragments of reality, which when organized together have a deeper truth that cannot be seen with the naked eye. Whilst Vertov’s rhythmic patterning unifies the aesthetic surface of his film, Nyman’s choice of footage for Nyman With a Movie Camera, is a random punctuation of a visual text drawn from his own film and sound repertoires and from his photographic archives. The result is a patchwork of imagery embroidered in Vertov’s threads of the newsreel and of the dogmatic values of the film truth.”


screening made possible in cooperation with Myriam Blundell Projects

also tonight:

6pm ZEBRA Poetry Film Festival 2010  selected and presented by Thomas Zandegiacomo Del Bel ; supporting film by Ofir Feldmann

8:30pm Stories (film program)

at midnight  PRESLAV LITERARY SCHOOL (live music) 

1am Farewell Mix 
afterwards various DJ’s

Sunday, 20th – the complete program:


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 at DL 2011

Psychedelic film as a genre is a slippery slope to walk across where making a bad decision can thrust a project helplessly into cliché. Often filmmakers fail under the decoy of video “Op-Art” which is easy and anyone who’s sat in front of an editing program with a bag of grass can tell you that it only takes five minutes to make. Good psychedelic film and video is sensual and has a narrative or a point or a purpose that fulfils a desire to the brink of madness. It’s not always pretty and often flirts with being uncomfortable. It’s about overwhelming the senses with spiritual and emotional subtext connecting dots between existentialism and essentialism through figurative micropsiac and macropsiac lenses simultaneously. If you can do that then it’s possible to make a good psychedelic film. Usama Alshaibi is one of those few capable people.

Profane is very smart and confident and honest. The film bounces between consonance and dissonance in an algorithm typically reserved for musical composition. The first melody is the camera work: at times annoying and at others intensely beautiful but always expertly edited. The second melody is the characterizations: The most notable actor being Dejan Mircea, I could have met him in real life. He keeps the film from falling into cliché with a convincing performance that makes one want to take him away from the mean messed-up girls and go have a nice conversation somewhere more calm. He’s an intelligent person who is interesting to listen to. One would feel instantly at ease in his presence. When this character speaks you forget that you are watching video and that this is a psychedelic film. Molly Plunk plays a character so erratic it would be worth seeing her play something totally opposite in another film to find the range of her colour. She has a brilliantly awkward moment toward the end sitting tied up naked in front of an Imam. Manal Kara plays a beautiful young woman with the daunting task of maintaining balance between the two aforementioned characters, her desires, and a character no one can see. Her final scene played the perfect chord to end this allegory. The third melody is the soundtrack: very rarely do I ever feel that independent film puts enough effort into the score but this was a strikingly poetic matchup. The three melodies would scatter apart into chaos for a good deal of the time and then coalesce into deeply beautiful moments of heightened reality. This is the kind of film I came out thankful for seeing and it belongs in the dvd collection of anyone who truly appreciates experimental and psychedelic filmmaking.

I saw this film at the Director’s Lounge on Christinenstraße 18 in Berlin Mitte. It’s a nice sized space for showing work. They also offer good wine instead of the typical cheap crap that turns the stomach sour after a glass offered in 99% of other artist spaces. Anyone who likes wine will happily pay the extra Euro for a glass of something drinkable! It’s also a very friendly environment where people smile at each other and speak freely. I must get to know these people better!

Ceven Knowles



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

HAIRS, Milos Tomic, Czech Republic, video to music performed by Ridina Ahmetova

The proliferation of patterned birds on fabric held in pre-ordained proximity to one another seen in erratic motion in his film Clay Pigeon return here in the form of patterned blue roses on porcelain. Tomic’s works have a distinctive stamp to them. In Hairs, accompanied by a layered female voice soundtrack, he cuts and rearranges hair, in tresses and individually, with camera trickery to form shapes reminiscent of the patterns he shows on teacup saucers, with the distinction that the hair has an unsettling quality: alive, but dead. In bundles, we see them as attractive and stylish; individually, they seem nasty and repulsive, like strange creatures coiling themselves up in this arrangement and that out of some sense of instinct. Occasionally, they play with images on the crockery, encircling painted-on heads of innocuous-looking birds, taking on actual intelligence. Lending them heretofore unexpected qualities is like taking Hitchcock’s The Birds to the next level, where other omnipresent but largely ignored “creatures” reveal unsuspected and individual behaviour; this time, it is inanimate “beings” that answer a call to “life”. What works best here is the uncomfortable appeal that pulls in two directions: are the hairs beautiful (as when seen together) or rather off-putting (as when seen separately, playing on surfaces meant for eating)? The influence of fellow Czech Jan Svankmajer is strong; as well, something here shares a quality with Dali’s more erotic paintings. A concisely-executed visual treat.

Kenton Turk