23rd Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival
A thematic retrospective that demonstrates the diverse forms of representation of bodily desire, attraction, and manifestations of physical love. From fragile photogenic nudity and a deep understanding and acceptance of sensuality to political proclamations, the avant-garde film challenges society’s relationship with portraying nudity and sex while also emphasizing diversity in the form of queer eroticism. It also makes a point to criticize the censorship of sensual expression in works of art while at the same time celebrating and exploring human intimacy.
The thematization of physical attraction and admiration for sexuality, which is evident in various hints and delicate depictions of the naked body that date back to the interwar period, becomes the subject of more explicit symbolic games in the 1940s and 50s. Both tendencies intensified in the 1960s: depicting nudity and sex as a means of radical exploration of both intimate life and perception, as well as vigorous political manifestations. These were mostly directed towards official state regulations that imposed censorship of works of art in terms of a vaguely and conservatively defined “morality.” Helmut Costard, who depicted the minister as a talking penis, expressed an uncompromising opposition to German film law. Other films were not originally meant to be manifestos but became manifestos all the same thanks to the reaction from the authorities. Jack Smith’s now legendary work, Flaming creatures, was, according to his statements, meant primarily as a free-spirited, humorous film. However, the attitude of the state authorities (it was banned in 22 US states) made it a key film that articulated the opposition to film censorship after the film’s initial popularity within the New York underground scene and later amongst the American cultural community and the European avant-garde.
Nowadays, it may seem trivial to strengthen the discourse of a healthy attitude towards the human body and to accept diff erent body proportions and shapes, but many avant-garde films were groundbreaking in that they worked with bodies not belonging to models but to ordinary people and occasionally even the films’ creators.
The courage of some filmmakers also manifested itself in the form of self-presentation. Carolee Schneemann explored the feelings and experiences she had in sexual intercourse with her partner as she and others looked at his being captured. Among the explored areas also include queer sexuality, in which Kenneth Anger was a pioneer. Over the past three decades, filmmakers have also turned to analytical and poetic reflection of depicting nudity and sex, mostly in the form of found-footage collages that either refer to or work directly with pornographic films or otherwise critically remediate older representations.