Monthly Archives: January 2008

  • Eyes Wide Open – Jan 08 open screening at the Star and Shadow

    adrin neatrour writes:The Jan open screening was remarkable for the broad range of material screened and the extent to which the viewings were testimony to a state of affairs in which film rages across the landscape as a force that that is alive and vibrant.Eyes Wide Open –  Jan open screening at the Star and Shadow featuring Filmmakers:
    Craig Wilson; Mat Fleming; Brian ? ; Conor Lawless; Brighid Mulley. Irit Batsry; Tina Gharavi; Bill Ormond; David Aspinal, the Koreshi Brothers; Adrin Neatour; Unknown German Film Maker(UGFM)

    Seen at Star and Shadow Cinema 24 Jan 08.   Cost of entry – free for contributing film makers; non contributors: £4 and £3

    Seeing’s believing

    The Jan open screening was remarkable for the broad range of material screened and the extent to which the viewings were testimony to a state of affairs in which film rages across the landscape as a force that that is alive and vibrant.

    The films viewed ranged in type from the tactile explorings of Brigid Mulley’s Fibres, the visual humour of  Brian ?’s level crossing gates to  Adrin Neatrour’s  political statement, Echolalia.  There was also material from other times so to speak, or at least from the ‘80s including the agitprop of Bill Ormond piece, a film in grand style about a grass roots movement in Newcastle opposing the extension into a public park  of the city’s football stadium;  Craig Wilson’s architypal punk video, Dead Boards,.  In the homage section there were two films: Tina Gharavi’s Two Lighthouses remembering the poetry of Julia Darling and Irit Batsry’s  1989 video of Joanna Peled’s remarkable performance of the 4th sentence of Joyce’s Molly Bloom soliloquy .  Most of the films screened were about film as a type of seeing: the filmmakers made use of film as an expressive form choosing to use possibility of film because it was the only medium which could tell what they saw – using the verb ‘to see’ in its wide  sense to embrace perception understanding and ordering of reality as well as the pure visual faculty.  

    Conor Lawless’ Midio Vampyros Lesbos uses acquired footage which he modifies through his own software.  In his film the picture and sound were run through a programme so that the individual notes in the Bach fugue triggered a picture in the looped footage of the same durational value as the note.  On viewing the film engendered a mild disoriented state.   I struggled to piece together what was happening.  It was a pure film field in which mind experienced a certain sort of assault on its processing capabilities. But there was no other intention other than effect.  As such it was like a media film lab experiment and the subject/partipant  knowing the intention of the film was pure effect, could open up to  the stream of images and sound allowing the effect to permeate and infiltrate consciouness.  Nothing was being sold; there were no arrows of desire.  And Conor’s film was a trip. A pure optical sound experience that took all those firing neurons in your head and momentarily tripped and scattered them in different configurations.

    The last film exhibited was shot and projected on super 8 and made by in the early 80’s by an unnamed german film maker (UGFM)working in France.  The scale of  buildings used to say something about their importance and also focused attention on their specific function: church and mosque. law courts and legislative builidings,  palaces theatres and cinemas.   The contemporary built environment is characterised by a giantism whose only rationalisation is the economics of intense land use. We struggle still, even given our familiarity with these spaces to cope with these  forms of modern architectural expression.   Modern urban projects create environments to which we don’t know how to react, spaces which we  don’t know how to describe and in which we still don’t know how to move our bodies,  Spaces which dwarf us and render us temporarily mute and paralysed.  We can’t easily possess these spaces.  They tend to take possession of us.  Graffiti and film are two modes of confronting(there are others) what is happening: graffiti  by claiming ownership of place,  film through its ability to be a force for understanding what is happening.  In film we can move through them with or without a shopping trolley with or without trying to mutiliate them.  As Deleuze notes they are not so much narratives as pure optical / sound  settings.  That is how we can approach them with our minds and bodies. 

    The UGFM’s film is not in itself original but the film realises a particular vision of this world of concrete steel and cardboard.  Many of the settings and cityscapes captured have become familiar through contemporary film  content:  the  Autoroutes,  the vast housing projects, the rebuilt concrete town centres with their ramps and walkways, the shopping malls.  These images are easily usable as visual clichés, but the fact that they can utilised as lazy short hand images or cheaply won metaphors is no barrier to their incorporation in forms other than the cliché: as poetry or as building blocks or sets of statements.  Their use by the mind and the eye of the UGFM to reach into reality with a primal urge to make an utterance: in this case an  utterance in filmic form that exploits the melding soft dyes of colour super 8 to express something that only film could express with this intensity of realisation. The manner in which the human form is both absorbed alienated entrapped and bewitched and set to abrupt cosmic scale in these modern built environments.   The UGFM;s film perhaps not in itself original in the choice of its component parts, but it is an intense self validating response to contemporary settings and situations.
    adrin neatrour

  • 12:08 East of Bucharest – Cornelieu Poromboiu Romania 2006

    adrin neatrour writes:A film made out of the ordinary everyday elements of the social matrix: a drunk, an old man in his ‘70’s, a second rate journalist. A film uses these elements to initiate a process that engages with the historical myth pertaining to what happened in Romania on 22nd Dec 1989.12:08 East of Bucharest – Cornelieu Poromboiu Romania 2006 – Mircea Andreiescu- Theodor Corban – Ion Supdaiu
    Viewed Star and Shadow Cinema Newcastle UK 13 Jan 2008. Ticket price £4-00

    In Bucharest the snow quickly turns to black slush

    A film made out of the ordinary everyday elements of the social matrix: a drunk, an old man in his ‘70’s, a second rate journalist.  A film uses these elements to initiate a process that engages with the historical myth pertaining to what happened in Romania on 22nd Dec 1989.

    Poromboiu’s East of Bucharest (EB) provides us with a continuous strip of action, over the period of a day, comprising the preparations for and the enactment of a TV chat show.  The stream of action allows the actors no escape from envelopment in time: the day unfolds, shot mainly in wide, and the film in the first section cuts between different situations but without montage per se, without cuts within and between actions.  Poromboiu does not use editing techniques as his source of tension in EB,  i.e. juxtaposition of shots to create energised action image links between images.  EB is not a film of ‘image’.  Poromboiu as director works to devalue image as a source of filmic information in EB and to enhance the meaning of time.

    Every aspect of the film from its desaturated low contrast colourisation its ‘found’ framing and shot composition work against the primacy of  the image in the production of EB.  What is central to EB as a formic process, is that it is a film taking place within and through time.  The endemic tensions within EB emanate from forces released and worked through by the film, both in picture and in sound, that are generated by the propositional question: was there  or was there not, a revolution here in our small Romanian town?  And it is, as this proposition is examined in the ‘real time’ filming of the chat show that the tension is expressed, released and compressed within the dialogue.  The tension comes from within the process, which is humorous but relentless in its discipline and leaves us with a final picture of Mr Manescu one of the two participants in the chat show with his head totally bowed down, bent at the end of the process in which he has valiantly participated.  But we also know that this Mr Manescu from the incidents of the day that have informed us about him.  Mr Manescu is no stranger to humiliation, it is one of the ways in which he copes with life. He will recover and continue as if nothing has happened.  So one way there is no humiliation as an event there is only the continuing process of Mr Manescu’s life. There is no image of humiliation rather an embraced ritual, a recurring process repeated endlessly.  There was no revolution. Simply a man with a bent head. This is not what the picture says. 

    Looking across the current filmscape it is unusual in my experience to view a film that does not engage in the explicit exploitation of  visual images.  Most European films are in thrall to a specific visual culture reliant on the excitement of visual stimulae and on retinal pornography.   A culture whose touchstone is the advertising industry which comprises of the worlds: of enflamed desires of iconic brands and of associative psychic linkage to self image/identity.  An industry that is founded on the manipulation and twisting of  human needs (that it describes as freedom of choice for the consumer).  An industry that has developed slick marketing machine to deliver the products which feed the artificially created needs.  And at the centre of this business is the image.  

    Many of us have passed formative years experiencing a  Pavlovian conditioning through our exposure to our visual commercial culture.  We have been conditioned 
    like the great man’s dogs to slobber at the chops when presented with the right stimuli.  An image is worth a thousand words. A smiling woman with white teeth and blond hair holds up a pack of Kellogg’s cornflakes. We desire to possess what that image represents, But the logic it also works in a sort of reverse sense.  We  see an emotive image – perhaps of suffering, a child in the final stages of malnutrition – which triggers another set of emotive judgemental reactions related to our internalised self image.  The problem is that image when wrenched out of context and detached from processes becomes open to manipulations and desires.  Image in Western culture over determines reactive relaxes at the expense of understanding processes through time. 

    Poromboiu has understood this as a problem.  His response is not to have one set of images replace another, but rather to make a film in which time is the principle agent forming the structure of the film.   Everything in the film points to time. It’s in the title. It’s set on the day of the anniversary of the ‘revolution’.  The question in relation to the revolution is defined strictly in terms of time, which of course a joke, and the film takes place through real time experience of the chat show.   

    In EB Poromboiu seems to suggest that the Romanian revolution belongs in that category of events that may be called trance. The image is of the revolution that took place in the squares of Romania but the temporal stream opposes this image. The revolution took place in a trance. The violent events in Timisoura started a process that was broadcast by the media to the people  who were entranced by the images that were relayed to them.  They understood that with the sudden downfall of Ceausescu that a revolution had taken place.  But they were in trance and very little had actually happened outside of the image of the dictator and his wife being executed.  The image was of crowds gathering in squares and calling for the overthrow of the regime.  But it was mostly an image a comforting illusion based on the simple device of reversing cause and effect.   There was no revolution so of course when the crowds dispersed and went home little had changed.  Without Nicholas and Elena in fact the same people continued in power using similar but slightly modified methods.  The people, by and large absent from the revolution came out of the trance and continued with their lives much as before. 
    adrin neatrour

  • The Yacoubian Building – Marwan Hamad Egypt 2007 – Nour el Sherif;

    Adrin Neatrour writes:The riddle of the Sphinx – Reflections on the most expensive Egyptian film ever.The Yacoubian Building – Marwan Hamad  Egypt 2007 – Nour el Sherif; Adel Eman; Hend Sabri
    Viewed Star and Shadow Cinema Newcastle 6 Jan 08
    Ticket price:£4-00

    The riddle of the Sphinx – Reflections on the most expensive Egyptian film ever.

    The opening  title sequence with its grainy soft focus macro shots of the stone cladding of the Yacoubian building followed by a sequence (probably pasted in directly from the novel)in which a warmly toned voice explains the history of the building, intimate a film form that might  comprise of some particular characteristics: a closely observing camera, a sensibility that understands ambiguity and a film that engenders time as a dimension.    The Yacoubian Building(YB) is a overlong grossly inflated soap opera better suited to afternoon TV.

    TB looks like a typical example of what happens when one from of expression –a novel  is interpreted in another form of expression – in this case a film.  What happens is that the film makers unable to find expressive equivalent filmic modes for novelistic internal dialogue and musing subjectivities reduce the adapted book to a series of externalised operatic melodramas. 

    Featuring a large apartment block as the axis around which a multiplicity of plots revolve is of course a classic film genre that exploits a certain culture of congestion as a vehicle for generating a universe characterised by parallel and interconnected stories.  The interstitial areas of lobby, elevator and landing are the key promiscuous locations.  Films in this genre include Grand Hotel and Airport : both of which are  characterised by a dull mechanical mediocrity.  YB doesn’t break the mould.

    Marwan Hamad makes no attempt to endow his film with any real sense of place or  time.   The Yacoubian building is an extraordinary piece of adaptive social engineering with its different levels of habitation.  The core of the apartment building is inhabited and used by a solid affluent middle class.  Coexisting above them in sublet tiny store rooms is a shanty town of the disinherited, living in conditions of high compression.  The YB seems unable to explore any of the intensities or  circuitries of this arrangement: the curious spacial juxtaposition is represented simply as a film image, a curiosity of time and place: something for us as sort of privileged  tourists,  to gaze upon.  The active force moulding and shaping the spacial elements in YB is the convention of the American soap opera.  Rooms exist  not to absorb or extrude but to admit and discharge.  Doors incessantly open and close, their only function being  to accelerate the action cuts.  Cairo and the Yacoubian building are used as picture ‘fill’ operating at the same level as a pub in a soap opera such as the Rovers Return in Coronation Street.    There is little sense made of the building itself or its apartments or the city in which it is located.  Cairo as a metropolis is used either to staged romantic affect as in the film’s final shot of the newly married couple walking at dawn down the middle of the street: or it is used as a series of bland establishment shots.  It never has a role as part of the film.    Hamad fails to allow the Yacoubian building or Cairo to make any claim on our imaginations.   

    As the Yacoubian Building lacks any spacial dimension there is also a lacking in the perception of the passage of time. The characters never observe, nor are they observed:  they simple simply exist in perpetual action time for the sake of the story lines in which they are embroiled.  The dimension of time which YB’s opening sequence suggests is a defining force in play, is disregarded at once, Hamad happy with a token opening gesture.  The rest of the film is played out in the temporal anarchy the characterises most of the Hollywood action image output, a form increasingly mimicked and copied.  Time is subservient to action cuts.  There is no time stream in the film. Rather there is a stream of action.  Time becomes meaningless and impossible to reconstruct or understand.  Simply put: one thing leads to another. That’s all there is.  Chains of events are compressed or etiolated( more rarely) according to the demand for action.  Action shot through the lens of highly agitated cameras: craning swooping panning tracking hand held and angled, but never still.  The camera movement is effected not for reasons underlying the meaning of the shot or of the film but to disarm the viewer of any awareness of  subjective time.  The camera movement in constantly engaging the eye with a stream of events, disengages the viewer from the stream of time.   YB then, is a series plots and subplots that claim our attention not for what they represent but simply as  a mechanical series of events and how they end. 

    There are claims that YB is a courageous film because it tackles taboo subjects in Egypt and the Arab world- taboo subjects such a homosexuality and terrorism.  I can’t really accept this point of view.  The homosexual subject, the newspaper journalist is a trite stereotype, represented in the script as a crude amoral exploiter of simple peasant men.  He is shown as having little personal morality, living a life dedicated to his own pleasures.  In what is the lowest point in the movie (and there are a few low ones notably in the becoming terrorist story) there is clumsy imbecilic flashback sequence involving the character which blames his parents for his homosexuality!   In the penultimate sequence he is murdered with expert dispatch by one of his pick-ups.  The event evokes no sense of loss within the film’s own conventions.   In that the moral stance of the film in relation to the homosexual character simply panders to the most prejudiced bands of attitude and opinion both in the Moslem and the Christian world YB  is not a film that tackles homosexuality in the media.  Just the opposite.  The plot line which describes  ‘becoming a terrorist’, is likewise reliant on an automotive mechanicality for its concatenation of events leading to outcome.  Just as having ‘bad parents’ makes a man homosexual: so being socially deprived and discriminated against leads to a boy becoming a ‘jihadi’.  Like the homosexuality theory it’s crass and untrue neither necessary nor sufficient but certainly uninteresting.

    The disturbing aspect of YB is its total adoption of Hollywood forms to try and explain the historical social situation of Egypt. That Hamad thinks he can make his film work in this fashion is either testimony to his ambition (he wants demonstrate he can make feature films in Hollywood or Europe) or to his deluded state of mind.  The potpourri of characters and events strung together without reference to place or time, not only fails to speak of Egypt or Egyptians; it is an act of cultural colonialism allowing American forms to define the state of affairs in this Arab country.  As such YB, as the most expensive Egyptian feature film ever made, is not a pointer to the future but  part of the present problem.
    adrin neatrour

  • 17 Dec 2007 – gen meeting

    Minutes from meetingStar and Shadow. Minutes General meeting 17 December 2007
    Adrin, Bill, Eftychia, Phipps, Craig, Phil, Haz, Ilana, Pauline, David, Roger.

    Apologies: Mat, Christo, Holly.

    Free chairs – Craig is on the case, putting feelers out, contacted the 2 furniture coops – no chairs available at the mo but ongoing research.

    Bottle recycling: We have a bin – need to clarify with Alan when it is collected.

    Feedback from Lucero gig to Pauline:
    As both Pauline and Stephanie were at meeting discussion about what happened Stephanie outlined problems and there was discussion around looking after volunteers and not becoming just a gig venue again. Also that events that do turn ugly have an impact on all events – especially in the light of petition Craig mentioned – he had heard about from local residents about restricting music events here – but we need to find out more about this. Ilana’s discussion with the council is that there are no probkes they know of regarding us.

    Pauline described how she researchs music and is working and nurturing relationships with promoters, and aiming to talk them through contract as that seems to work better than just the text which is easy to ignore. In particular that doorstaff (ticket ones) need to be on door at all times. Also that there aren’t actually that many gigs, and reminder that so many of them are lovely events and these kind are rarer. And problematic for our venue to blanket restrict  types of music. Discussion continued about merits and problems with tightening up our structure and where we draw the line – seems that treating each case as it comes and nurturing relationships is the way forward. This needs to include SIA trained doorstaff where necessary – as we already have to on late license nights. Pauline already has a list of promoters not to invite back and ones that worked well.

    Craig mentioned a petition that he had heard about from local residents about restricting music events here – but we need to find out more about this, as we don’t want to be restricted in everything by one or two events. ACTION.
    Ilana’s discussion with the council is that there are no probs they know of regarding us.

    VAT report going in by end Dec.

    BFI issue being resolved. Bill point of contact for delivery and pick up. 

    2nd Feb. Ghetto Method
    Want to put on scenario event.   Film, music, live drawing. Needs suggestions of films for theme the devil that comes between us.
    Adrin – suggestion to put out email for suggestion.

    Phil – green festival.
    Meeting date wanted to confirm but issue over wiki – what happens skateboarding film hadn’t been cancelled on the wiki. Caused confusion when things cancelled but not taken off.

    Explained about confirmed C as discussed at programming. Reiterated that contact details are ESSENTIAL.
    Roger outlined issues about personal contact details. As it is too difficult for wiki not to have details, solution is for individuals to set up new/forwarding email if it’s a problem to use a main one.

    25th January. Green fest agm. Confirmed.

    Need to look back at the idea for outlining how to programme for new promoters and connect in with Pauline. ACTION: make this happen find someone/people at programming meeting to do this.

    Next meeting – 7th Jan. General. Next programming. 14th. In the brochure.

    Eyes Wide Open – publicity needs to go out! ACTION: Steph emailing Debbie, Mat and Christo.

    Building Maintenance – day was successful.
    Phipps – can there be an email for building maintainers. Use like a diary? Ask Simon to set up – ACTION: Ilana to ask Simon, Phipps to activate its use.

    Feedback form meeting. Bulidng work happening. Roger can offer to get beer in his car.

    What happens with New Year restart up? Lots straight after New year – 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th   6th

    NYE – lot of volunteers needed. Email to Mike.

    If Films letter.

    Issue around protest. Need to find a way to discuss issues rather than cause conflicts to cinema users.

    ACTION: Bring agenda item about being animal/cruelty free/vegetarian at next meeting.

    S+S letter: apologise for what happened. Was not a volunteer. ACTION. Ilana.

    New Membership cards.
    Sarah Cook did last years– just put the year on. ACTION: Ilana to discuss with Sarah Make it white on black not black on white to distinguish

    Volunteers for events after new year – Steph emailing out.

    Offer of use of a PA in exchange for storage. From Bill – on loan not to borrow. He still uses it. Need to discuss re not getting it trashed. Pauline going to have some thoughts and bring it to another meeting.

    Xmas party – who is entertaining? Will be S+S stylee (last minute and fun).