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25th Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival

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Fascinations: Roots

This thematic retrospective shows the various forms of the experimental, cinematic representation of roots – a visual motif that represents both their function and symbolic meaning.

The thematic retrospective for this year’s Fascination focuses on the theme of “roots” and seeks films from various historical periods that at least in some way incorporate the topic, whether it be as a visual motif, or thematically literal or figurative. “Roots” as a basic support system, but also as the originator of identity and symbolic values, are presented in both material and structural experiments, but also in performative and lyrical films. In many ways, the symbolic level is affected by the recording of the performance Living Room, which is a simple observation of the struggle between man and tree, including its extensive root system in an inhabited household. The roots here are not only a visual object or a part of the plant that gives it its stability, but they’re also an object that has its own weight, significance, and substantial influence on the situation. Among the material films in the series also includes the Czech film Turnip by František Wirth. We are familiar with the depiction of nature through photograms, i.e. the direct light imprint of objects on a film strip, from the depiction of various natural artifacts, including roots. The gesture of pulling roots out of the ground is also semantically strong, which we can read as an iconic image of this program section: man relating to a solid and anchoring network of roots.

film database

noimage

A Study in Natural Magic

Charlotte Pryce
United States / 2013 / 3 min.
section: Fascinations: Roots
Arbitrary Fragments
Using highly-manipulated and over-processed images, Latham investigates the process of video as inherently fragmented. Weaving together various people’s impressions of the artist and her work, the work demonstrates important parallels between video, storytelling, and the formation of identity — all processes of active fabrication that blend “lies” and truth in the construction of a certain reality, history, or past. Labeling an image of herself talking as “her most recent explanation,” Latham addresses “the construction of her video personality” as an identity outside of herself.(VDB)

Arbitrary Fragments

Barbara Aronofsky Latham
United States / 1978 / 13 min.
section: Fascinations: Roots
Celery Stalks At Midnight
The music animation (or animated music?) inspired by Will Bradley’s composition Celery Stalks at Midnight from 1940 is one of the early works of John Whitney, the pioneer of computer animation. Filmstrip only served as a means of capturing the abstract world created before the camera lens. Inspired by Oskar Fischinger, Whitney makes abstract patterns move and intersect on a blue background. The variations and permutations of simple shapes copying the form, melody and phrasing of the composition represent a visual equivalent to the language of music.

Celery Stalks At Midnight

John Whitney
United States / 1951 / 3 min.
section: Fascinations: Roots
FENOMEN
This celebratory ode to the life of the potato explores the structures and shapes of the root vegetable with a monumental orchestral accompaniment and the help of a dynamic camera. Dazzling rays of sunlight penetrate the wicker incubator and illuminate in backlight the impressive tangle of roots and wrinkled skin of the agricultural crop.

FENOMEN

Sigma Group
Romania / 1986 / 7 min.
section: Fascinations: Roots
Happenstance (part one of many parts)
The associative stream of images and sounds treats the word as an abstract structure. Spoken and written text flows from image to image, morphing into the shape of a circle, triangle or square. The robotic voice mechanically decomposes the geometric word formation, depriving it of its original meaning, finding a new one.

Happenstance (part one of many parts)

Gary Hill
United States / 1983 / 9 min.
section: Fascinations: Roots
It Matters What
A smiling woman in a 1932 film fragment holds a dead owl by the wings. This piece of experimental animation refers to a pathological relationship between humans and animals. A moving series of images is decomposed and shattered by a violent gesture. Using the interventions of digital, chemical and physical processes, it transforms human cruelty into a disappearing memory, an abstract painting sprinkled by flowers.

It Matters What

Francisca Duran
Canada / 2019 / 9 min.
section: Fascinations: Roots
Microphobia
A fantasy herbarium combining classical and computer animation. The roots, stems and flowers of plants from Western Europe and South Africa twinkle, tickle, intertwine and pulsate against the black background. They create symmetrical paired structures that resemble a grotesque biopanoptic with human organs.

Microphobia

Nikki Schuster
Austria, Germany, South Africa / 2010 / 7 min.
section: Fascinations: Roots
noimage
Between the walls of an unfinished building in the west of Ireland, a woman in yellow struggles with overgrown vegetation. Provocative miniature finds itself on the edge of all possible "ifs", at the crossroads of alternative stories that could have happened and lives that could have been lived.

Pulling Up Roots

Cecelia Condit
Ireland / 2015 / 8 min.
section: Fascinations: Roots
Rutabaga
The silent, stop-motion animation breathes life into a turnip, which resembles Švankmajer's Little Otík, an octopus, or a pole dancer, its green limbs groping the surrounding world. The nostalgic journey of root vegetables in the darkly morbid ending refers to the cycle of birth, life, and death.

Rutabaga

František Wirth, Radim Němeček
Czech Republic / 1996 / 2 min.
section: Fascinations: Roots
The Living Room
The cosy interior of the living room of a family home is dominated by an oak tree trunk that sweeps through the room like a tornado, leaving a mess and broken things in its wake. The absurd image of a tow rope pulling a tree through a dwelling speaks of the cathartic power of nature once again taking control of the ridiculously small and fragile human world.

The Living Room

Roderick Hietbrink
Netherlands / 2011 / 9 min.
section: Fascinations: Roots
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