FIFA Montreal

“Sleep is in itself a  form  of criticism.”  If Bernard Shaw had been at the just finished FIFA it is unlikely his polished cynicism would have been in action.

FIFA continues to show itself to be among the best, if not the best, art film festival in the world. This year was FIFA’s  30th.  The Festival International des Films sur l’Art (International  Festival of Films on Art) showed 232 films from 27 countries , to enthusiastic audiences.  Art is defined in the widest sense—-architecture, music (from  Handel to Mahler to Brubeck),  stained glass, dance, and so on. Art, as ever, is  well represented, but so too film, sculpture, photography and many other categories.  One particularly popular one,  for example, was Produced by George Martin, a portrait of the affable, modest man behind the Beatles, but also Peter Sellers and many other world-wide hits.

If there’s one theme here it’s diversity.  Indefatigable founder and director  Rene Rozon seeems to have left no film reel unturned.  In nine welcoming attractive locations all within easy reach of the centre of this city, film-goers tastes are more than adequately met.

Remember the Oympics in Peking with the highly imaginative Birds’ Nest Stadium? The co-designer, Ai Weiwei is highlighted in an entertaining, lively film, entitled “Ai Weiwei:Without Fear or Favour.”  (Directed by Matthew Springford, it’s a BBC Scotland production).

Ai Weiwei has a host of achievements, many illustrated in this lively film, from his art to his political activism.  His talents are deep and wide: for instance, he got  1600 Chinese artisans to paint 100 million sundlower seeds.  They, (the seeds, not the artisans), ended up on the floor of the Tate Modern Turbine in London, where we see people admiring this art work from a distant place.  His father, one of China’s leading poets, suffered with his  family during the cultural revolution, and Ai Weiwei takes us through this period of turmoil.   There are many other dimensions to this fascinating film, which won the award for Best Film for Television.

Another first-class film from BBC Scotland, this time about England, “Art of the Sea–In  Pictures. ” Welsh poet Owen Sheers, looks over the last few hundred years, from the 17the century, to modern day artists .  The coast itself has changed much–the great resort of Brighton had up to 1865, 50,000 visitors a year, and then, starting that year with the railways, 75,000 a week.

The sea itself has changed less: The film goes  from the period of Charles the Second, when the once great maritime power started its ascendancy, up to Trafalgar, when the UK was fighting against France, the Netherlands, and Spain.   We see some of the work of Turner and Constable then up to American painter Winslow Homer, who developed his crafts on the English coast near Newcastle, to modern day painters, such as Anish Kapoor, Barbara Hepworth, Maggi Hamildon, for whom the sea is ‘orgasmic.’  Another of today’s painters, John Wonnacott, thinks “all beauty is surprising.”  Lighting, he said, “is at the core of painting.”  There’s some stunning cinematography of the Royal Naval College at Greenwich (soon to be challenged by the equestrian events in the impending London Olympic Games.)

Opalka

The Grand Prix was won by Opalka–One Life, One Oeuvre, directed by Andrzej Sapija from Poland.It’s a well-made film about a conceptual artist whose grand project lasted 46 years, till his death.

In 1965 Opalka began a single work entitled 1965/1 to infinity, in an attempt to visualise the passing of time.   The first Detail counted from 1, recording white numbers on a black canvas, with each succeeding canvas continuing where the last one ended.   In 1968 he changed to a grey background and in 1972 he started adding 1% more white to each new canvas so that by the time we see him in his studio he is painting white on white. At his death he had reached 5607249.

The director  gives us a  vivid image of Opalka working in the centre of his bare studio, white walls, white canvas, white shirt, painting the numbers on the canvas, murmuring the numbers into a microphone, and each day taking a photograph, passport-style, of himself.   Three records of the irreversible passage of time.

Architecture always takes pride of place at FIFA.  Casa Estudio de Luis Baranguren   shows us the liife’s work of one celebrated Mexican architect.

A “Life devoid of beauty is not worth living, ” he believed. Born in Vera  Cruz, he trained as an engineer.   He cultivated tranquility  and beauty, and wanted to become a landscape artist.  He moved to Mexico City, to a working class area, so his work should not stand out.  The only difference was a library, whose window had bars.  The film is divided into clear sections, as befits someone who trained as an engineer.  The patio has a lava rock pool, with plants and pots.    (Another excellent Mexican film, The Mexican Suitcase is s about the recent discovery in Mexico City of photos taken during the Spanish Civil War by Robert Capa and two other photographers.)

Another outstanding  film on a more famous architect, Oscar Niemeyer, now104, shows his astonishing resilience and creativity.    He was the father of Brasilia, completed in 1960., which he emphasised was to be not European nor American, but Brazilian. Brasilia was indeed a vision of Brazil, but was spoiled because of the history that followed.  During the military dictatorship from l964 to 1984, NIemeyer was in exile, in Paris.  His noble ideas were praised by Fidel and others.

Britain’s leading stained glass artist, and his changing techniques are well shown in another ward-inner, COLOURING LIGHT: BRIAN CLARKE – AN ARTIST APART, by Mark Kidel, of the UK.

The attractive Canadian Centre of Archittecture hosted various films, such as on the great Barcelona architect, Gaudi, And on the man who more than anyone made Paris what it is today- COMMENT HAUSSMANN A TRANSFORMÉ PARIS

Plenty of American material, of course.  e.g.on the life and work of Bert Stern. Stern flourished in the 60′s.  The” original  ‘madman’,” as the film is titled,  “he created, everyone else copies.”  He pioneered ads, such as those of Smirnoff  Vodka, which he greatly popularized in the US.  He was photographer for Cleopatra,, and photographed Marilyn Monroe, Woody Allen in Paris with Twiggy, and so on.  He knew how to make women look beautiful–”women are everything, man is just a muscle.”

Keeping in the art area, a sprightly young Picasso is one of the extras in the lively French film on Gertrude Stein, La Famille Stein, la fabrique de l’art moderne, and how the Stein family helped the rise of modern art.  Art encompasses fashion and design, of course, and there’s an interesting film on Givenchy.   Ecology is more of a science than an art, but the two meet for example in Deborah Dickson’s The Lost Bird Project.

Ashok Kapoor, noted British artist, who also appears in Art of the Sea, has a film to himself.   Other art films included an excellent film on Miro, and there are various others–e.g. on the legendary Canadian artist, Tom Thomson.   Bone, Wind, Fire, is on Kahlo, Emily Carr, and Georgia O Keefe .  Staying with women artists, another award winner WAR –Women Arts Revolution–77–is a first-class survey of feminist art.  Tthe importance of art, in this case, the cinematic, in maintaining some form of tradition, is shown by the Armenian film,  The Last Tightrope Dancer in Armenia.

The last few days of FIFA saw the second version of
>  International Market of Films on Art,  comprising activities and services designed for film industry professionals.

> Since its inception, this competitive event has crowned 330 prizewinners. FIFA’s international tour now has stops at such prestigious institutions as the Louvre, Tate Modern, Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and National Gallery of Art in Washington.

PRIZES

Alain Labonté
Alain Labonté Communications
3704, rue de Mentana
Montréal (Québec) H2L 3R3
514-523-9922
alain@alainlabonte.ca
www.labontecommunications.ca

Palmarès – lauréats des films en compétition

Grand Prix
Parrainé par Astral
OPALKA – ONE LIFE, ONE OEUVRE
Andrzej Sapija (Pologne)

Prix du Jury
Parrainé par Zone3
! W.A.R. WOMEN ART REVOLUTION
Lynn Hershmann Leeson (États-Unis)

Prix du meilleur film éducatif
Parrainé par Télé-Québec
LA SPIRA
Gérald Caillat (France, Italie)

Prix de la création
Parrainé par Groupe Média TFO
SOUNDBREAKER
Kimmo Koskela (Finlande)
Prix du meilleur film canadien
Parrainé par Digital Cut
DÉSERT VENT FEU / BONE WIND FIRE
Jill Sharpe (Canada)

Prix du meilleur essai
Parrainé par Le Devoir
VOYAGE AU BOUT DE CÉLINE
Jean-Baptiste Péretié (France)

Prix du meilleur portrait
Parrainé par Entreprises Vidéo Service
TINGUELY
Thomas Thümena (Suisse)

Prix du meilleur reportage
Parrainé par Concept Audio-Visuel
UNFINISHED SPACES
Alysa Nahmias, Benjamin Murray (États-Unis)

Prix du meilleur film pour la télévision
Parrainé par Digital Cut
AI WEIWEI: WITHOUT FEAR OR FAVOUR
Matthew Springford (Royaume-Uni)

Prix Liliane Stewart pour les Arts du design
Parrainé par la Fondation MacDonald Stewart
COLOURING LIGHT: BRIAN CLARKE – AN ARTIST APART
Mark Kidel (Royaume-Uni, Pays-Bas)

Prix Tremplin pour le monde ARTV
AUX LIMITES DE LA SCÈNE
Guillaume Paquin (Canada)

Mention spéciale
ROMAIN GARY – LE ROMAN DU DOUBLE
Philippe Kohly (France)

Prix du public ARTV
FRÉDÉRIC BACK : GRANDEUR NATURE
Phil Comeau (Canada)

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