Postcards from Oberhausen #3

Sunday, May 8th, 2011

One of the perks of the Oberhausen International Short Film Festival is that all of its screenings (with the exception of the ingenious vintage music-video chill-out zone that is the Cinema-in-a-Box) take place within a single multiplex. This multiplex – the recently renovated Lichtburg Theater – also contains a selectively stocked pop-up video store, while the guest office and the Festival Space lecture hall are just across the street, at a walking distance of about ten seconds. Particularly exciting, therefore, is not only the fact that such circumscription makes it unusually easy to speak with attending filmmakers, programmers, curators, but also that one of the Lichtburg screens is entirely dedicated to showcasing the collections of various artists’ film and video archives from across the globe. Today, I discovered the Tokyo-based MIACA, saw an Art Basel selection of experimental Japanese films from the 1950s, and went to watch the work and hear the opinions of John Smith-recommended Grzegorz Krolikiewicz in person.

Of the seven works in the MIACA (Moving Image Archive of Contemporary Art) program, six appeared in some way underwritten by extrasensory perception, a kind of language-less, borderless communication mediated through collective imaginaries (Adrian Wong’s Happy Birthday, 2008) and mournings (Chen Hangfeng’s Three Minutes, 2008), or through Telepathy (Mai Yamashita, Naoto Kobayashi, 2009) pure and simple.

Not dissimilarly, Yuichiro Tamura’s Nightless (2010), narrativizes a kind of projective identification with the exotically anonymous spaces of rural America. An America that bores as much as it titillates with its rhyming state names (Nebraska, Alaska), its vacillating star system, its upbeat, incomprehensible, radio announcers. Eventually moving far beyond the Midwestern preamble to map a disquietingly decentred transnational geography, the visual track of this funny and rather beautiful film is constructed entirely of GoogleStreetView images.


Art Basel/Art Film, instead, featured the sometimes extraordinary 1955 Jikken Kobo promotional film for the Japanese bicycle industry: The Silver Wheel (Shozo Kitadai et al.). The irreplaceable palette of the 35mm transfer begs to be seen in person, but this internet upload still gives an inkling of the promo’s regressive, crystalline, beauty:

Finally, the second and last instalment of the Grzegorz Krolikiewicz profile opened with the 1971 documentary List mordercy (Letter of a Murderer). The apparent simplicity of the film’s structure and the bluntness of its content belie the uncompromising lesson in ethics that subtends virtually every frame. In the simplest transcription, List mordercy observes a group of Polish WWII survivors as they first read and then react to the letter of an avowedly repentant German SS officer responsible for the murder of a number of inhabitants in their town (and a town, moreover, that he himself grew up in). Krolikiewicz – who confessed today that he recalls this as the most difficult experience of his filmmaking career – listens with an unwavering absence of judgment to the readers’ contrasting opinions. As yet, the internet bears no visual trace of this film, but Krolikiewicz is in the process of being rapidly, and deservedly, revalued.

The 57th International Short Film Festival Oberhausen runs in Oberhausen, Germany, from 5-10 May 2011. Tijana Mamula is reporting daily.