Tuesday, September 17, 2013

dancescreen 2013

IMZ with San Francisco Dance Film Festival
Photo: Sandy Lee
September 14th, 2013
Delancey Screening Room, San Francisco

Just twenty years ago, dance film was relatively new and somewhat poorly defined. But over the past two decades, the genre has really come into its own - changing, developing and expanding. This year’s dancescreen 2013 is a testament to this evolution - five days, seventy films, three venues. Saturday’s first two screenings (at 5:00pm and 6:30pm) were a perfect sampling of what dance film has to offer in 2013; a mix of ingenuity, breadth and freshness.

A fifty minute film from the UK, directors Siobhan Davies and David Hinton took Robert Walser’s short story The Walk from page to screen in 2012’s “All This Can Happen”. The piece follows a single protagonist throughout his day, as he walks through his environment and makes observations about the activities and movements around him. “All This Can Happen” is a mosaic of what he sees, what he experiences and what he witnesses - workers, athletes, children, cars, nature, infrastructure. From games to pedestrian movements to daily tasks to habitual exercises, the film reveals itself as a study of motion. And while these everyday activities can seem mundane and unremarkable, the message from “All This Can Happen” is that motion is everywhere. Some of it may be elegant, some clumsy, but it is all around us, all the time. And perhaps most important, the film  compels the viewer to ask themselves important questions. Was the screening a valuable artistic experience? Yes. Was it beautifully constructed? Yes. Was it an important academic contribution about motion? Yes. But was it dance? Not for me. And so, was it a dance film? Not for me. Good art should provoke such thoughts allowing every viewer to reach their own conclusions.

San Francisco Dance Film Festival’s Executive Director Greta Schoenberg was right on point when she dubbed Saturday’s 6:30pm screening of short films as “eclectic”. Some were like commercial videos; others were emotionally touching; still others were artsy and avant-garde. Whatever your personal taste, Screendance IV: Saturday Night Fever had something for you. Twelve films from seven different countries filled this fourth short film session, each ranging from one to seven minutes in length. From that collection, four of the films stood out from the group, two of which were student entries. Boris Seewald’s “Momentum”, a 2012 student film from Germany, demonstrated that dance films can be hilariously entertaining. As the main actor/dancer told a story of how eating tortilla chips at a school dance turned into movement, the audience burst into knowing laughter. It was so refreshing to see a dance film that wasn’t filled with drama and angst. Radeck Moenert and Karabin Maszynowy’s “Baltic Dance Theatre At PGE Arena Gdansk” took dance to an unexpected space. The 2011 Polish film showed a dance company rehearsal on a sports field that was right in the midst of a major construction project. And, it made perfect sense – a structure was being created alongside choreography that was also in progress. Another student film, “Skizm” (2012) from Hungary, tracked the physical form and worked with accumulation. In a mere four minutes, Marcell Andristyak overlaid and superimposed images of the same dancer, and by doing so, created a living kaleidoscope. The final film that deserves particular mention is Quinn Wharton’s “Mechanism” (2013, USA). It was both stunningly crafted and narratively captivating, but what made “Mechanism” the best short film in this group was the movement itself. dancescreen 2013 was a festival highlighting the best of international dance film and the dancing and choreography in “Mechanism” were absolutely brilliant.    

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