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Exhibition at Eye Filmmuseum marks 50 years of International Film Festival Rotterdam
Leopold Emmen, Filmwork for Eye: 5 Scenes at a Walking Pace, 2021. Architectural installation with coloured light and sound. Sound design: Donato Wharton. Photo: Studio Hans Wilschut.

AMSTERDAM.- Five leading filmmakers from five continents have been invited to take part in the jubilee exhibition Vive le cinéma!, marking 50 years of International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR) and the 75 years of Eye Filmmuseum. These directors were each invited to make a work specially for the exhibition that exploits the three-dimensional gallery space instead of the two-dimensional cinema screen. They each created — for some it was the first time — a cinematographic installation that explores the boundaries of their work and of the art of film in general. Eye and IFFR are celebrating in this way the unlimited power and diversity of world cinema, which is so vital for their programming.

Makers and works in Vive le cinéma!

Jia Zhang-ke (born in Fenyang, China, in 1970) represents the voice of Chinese independent cinema. Films like Platform (2000) and Still Life (2006) often explore the intersection of fiction and documentary. Social observation is another key element in his work. His most important stylistic device is the extended total shot. The individual always forms part of a larger entity — a space, a situation, or an era. For Vive le cinéma! he has made a new work, entitled Close-Up, based on the ubiquity of surveillance cameras.

Nanouk Leopold & Daan Emmen  (both born in Rotterdam in 1968) have been making spatial works together since 2009 under the name Leopold Emmen. Leopold’s films, which include It's All So Quiet (2013) and Cobain (2018), have been screened at the film festivals in Berlin, Cannes and Toronto and are celebrated for their consistent artistic quality, the way space and location determine the story, and the restrained expression with which they explore existential questions. In Filmwork for Eye: 5 Scenes at a Walking Pace, Leopold Emmen presents the most pared-down form of cinema, in which light and sound create a physical and spatial filmic experience.

Lucrecia Martel (born in Salta, Argentina, in 1966) rose to prominence as a filmmaker with her debut film The Swamp (2001), and more recently with the hallucinating Zama (2017). Time and space in her work are elastic and infinite, and the sound design often determines the final form of the film. In The Passage, her new installation at Eye, she works with heat images and gives a voice to vanished and forgotten languages from northern Argentina that tell a long history of violence and colonization.

Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese (born in Hlotse, Lesotho, in 1980) is one of the most exciting visual voices of today. He belongs to a generation of makers from Africa whose work questions the stereotypes surrounding the continent’s cinema and develops new visual imagery for their stories. His film This Is Not a Burial, It's a Resurrection (2019) uses wonderful and penetrating images to convey the story of his grandmother, who is forced from her land to allow for the construction of a water reservoir. For Eye he has made an overwhelming installation with multiple screens that focus on the representation of the black female body: Bodies of Negroes. I Will Sculpture God, Grim and Benevolent.

Carlos Reygadas (born in Mexico City in 1971) makes intuitive narratives of breathtaking beauty about human relationships and the mystery of life. Inspired by the transcendental visual imagery of Carl Theodor Dreyer and Andrei Tarkovsky, he explores the limits of human existence. Spirituality, sexuality, violence and nature are recurring themes in his sometimes provocative, sometimes controversial films (Japón, 2002, Silent Light, 2007, and Our Time, 2018). His installation The Eye Machine was inspired by a gigantic film reel, or a pre-cinema device, and confronts the visitor with his own view and that of the Other.

History – Exploding and Expanded Cinema

Since the emergence of cinema, there have been experiments in which filmmakers venture off the beaten track of the ‘ordinary’ narrative movie. As filmmakers and artists, they investigate the language and possibilities of film. That can sometimes lead to innovation within narrative cinema, or to intersections with other art disciplines. Such efforts are sometimes referred to as ‘experimental cinema’, ‘expanded cinema’, or simply artistic cinema. 

As far back as the 1950s, the then Filmmuseum, under its first director Jan de Vaal, began organizing weekly film screenings at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. That marked cinema’s incorporation as the seventh art in the rich palette of modern art. In the early 1970s, the Rotterdam Arts Council invited Huub Bals to organize an annual festival, and over the intervening 50 years it has grown to become one of the leading platforms for international cinema. Convinced about the close ties between film and art, Bals is credited with the saying: ‘Film is cinema is art’.

International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR) has been exploring that intersection more explicitly since the mid-1990s, initially under the name ‘Exploding Cinema’. Innovative filmmakers and artists from places and continents that, cinematographically speaking, had been ‘terra incognita’ for a long time had finally found a platform. 

Since the opening of the new Eye Filmmuseum in Amsterdam North, it has continued to build on that heritage with exhibitions that explore what cinema can be beyond the ‘standard’ movie picture. Film as art, film as the seventh art. Exhibitions focus on the intersection of film and visual art, presenting both filmmakers and visual artists.

Eye has made exhibitions with such artists as Ryoji Ikeda, William Kentridge, Hito Steyerl, Anthony McCall, Fiona Tan, Jesper Just, Isaac Julien and Francis Alÿs, and also with film artists like Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Wang Bing, Alex van Warmerdam and Chantal Akerman, and with film directors who had not previously made work for three-dimensional space, among them Béla Tarr.

In addition, Eye consistently considers the question of how to present film in the exhibition space, as was clearly demonstrated in shows devoted to the work of such figures as Andrei Tarkovsky, Michelangelo Antonioni and Oskar Fischinger. 

It is notable that over the past two decades the dividing line between film and visual art has become increasingly blurred. Not only do many visual artists make use of the medium of film, but conversely, more and more film directors are discovering the use of three-dimensional space instead of the two-dimensional cinema screen.

Video Essays and Online Platform

In collaboration with the IFFR programme Critics' Choice VII On Positionality, five new video essays were made to provide context for the works included in the Vive le cinéma! exhibition. The video essays are available on the online platform of Vive le cinéma! A side programme features a specially curated online environment where visitors can learn more about the artistic motives and central themes in the work of these makers, which are reflected in the installations they made for the exhibition. (available from 5th of June)

Film Programme

‘Film is film art is art.’ That was the statement with which Huub Bals, the legendary founder of IFFR, established his credentials. Since its opening, the filmmuseum has also supported filmmakers who dare to venture off the beaten track.

The Vive le cinéma! jubilee programme embraces film as the seventh art and features an overview of films that played an important role in the history of IFFR and Eye. During the exhibition Eye is presenting a programme of films by the five filmmakers participating in Vive le cinéma! The featured films are key works in the careers of these makers. The programme also includes special film evenings with the directors.

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