Home » VoCA Recommends…Toronto International Film Fest: Wavelengths 2008

VoCA Recommends…Toronto International Film Fest: Wavelengths 2008

Wavelengths is a curated presentation of the best in recent international avant-garde film and video at the Toronto International Film Festival (September 4 – 13, 2008.)

This year’s Wavelengths features 26 films and videos by renowned and emerging artists, including James Benning, Olaf Nicolai, Pat O’Neill, Nathaniel Dorsky, Jennifer Reeves, Ben Russell and Jean-Marie Straub.

This year’s lineup reflects the remarkable staying power of 16mm and highlights the use of 35mm among emerging artists.


For dates and screening times, please click HERE

The six Wavelength programmes will run from Friday September 5 to Monday September 8, 2008 at the Art Gallery of Ontario’s Jackman Hall, 317 Dundas Street West ( McCaul Street entrance).

Wavelengths 1: Films by Nathaniel Dorsky and Jean-Marie Straub

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Following his acclaimed Song and Solitude, Dorsky returns to the Festival with Sarabande ( USA ) and Winter ( USA ), the first two films in a new triptych titled Three Songs. Following its screening at the Directors Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival, Jean-Marie Straub’s Le Genou d’Artémide (Italy/France) has its International Premiere in Toronto and marks the first work Straub completed after the loss of his co-directing partner Danièle Huillet. Filled with dappling sun and crafted with Straub’s implacable rigour, Le Genou d’Artémide is a heart-wrenching tale of the insoluble gap between mortals and gods.

Wavelengths 2: LOST AND FOUND

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Hannes Schüpbach’s L’Atelier (Switzerland) is a 16mm homage to artistic creation; Charlotte Pryce’s The Parable of the Tulip Painter and the Fly (USA) sumptuously uses 16mm Kodachrome to imbue painting and film with intoxicating colour; the latest installment in David Gatten’s internationally celebrated The Secret History of the Dividing Line series, How to Conduct a Love Affair (USA) hints at love’s mystical and abiding powers; Astrid Ofner (Antigone in Straub and Huillet’s Antigone) matches Franz Kafka’s heart-rending letters to his beloved Milena Jesenská with fragile images of Vienna in Sag es mir Dienstag (Austria); Abraham Ravett’s TZIPORAH (USA) is a careful and quiet response to grief and loss. The programme concludes with a recently restored print of Encyclopaedia Britannica ( UK ) by late British conceptual art pioneer John Latham, whose work has been collected by several major museums.

Wavelengths 3: Horizontal Boundaries

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Multi-disciplinary artist Pat O’Neill, whose work has been exhibited at The Whitney Museum of American Art (New York) and Le Centre Pompidou (Paris), opens the programme with Horizontal Boundaries (USA); Rebecca Baron and Doug Goodwin’s Lossless #2 (USA) is part of a series exploring the effects of digital compression upon the film image; local filmmaker Chris Gehman’s Refraction Series (Canada) finds moments of beauty and mystery through the use of optics; Public Domain (USA) is Jim Jennings’s response to a controversial New York City bill prohibiting filming in public places; Robert Todd’s Dig (USA) reconfigures orange and white Dig Safe marks into a frenetic visual suite; T. Marie’s Optra Field III-VI (USA) is a series of dichromatic time-based drawings reminiscent of Sol LeWitt and Agnes Martin. Eriko Sonoda’s Garden/ing (Japan) confounds a view from a window with an enlarged photograph of that very vista.

Wavelengths 4: RR

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An abbreviation for “railroad”, RR (USA) is the latest (and possibly the last) 16mm work by the great American independent filmmaker James Benning, who was recently the subject of a monograph published by the Austrian Film Museum. RR is a film of 43 freight trains traversing the expansive American landscape. The film is shot in 43 static shots, duration is determined by the length and speed of the passing trains. In addition to Benning’s synch-sound recording, sound excerpts and songs provide a clever counterpoint to the images, obliquely invoking past events including the Vietnam War. The collaged soundtrack includes Karen Carpenter singing for a Coca-Cola commercial, Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” and Gregory Peck reading from Revelations.

Wavelengths 5: Trips

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German art star Olaf Nicolai makes his film debut with Rodakis (Germany), a fictitious biography of Greek craftsman Alekos Rodakis; Chris Chong Chan Fui’s Block B (Malaysia/Canada) examines the lives of an expatriate Indian community weaving itself through the contradicting soundscapes of contemporary Malaysia; Norbert Pfaffenbichler’s rigorous MOSAIK MÉCANIQUE (Austria) systematically lays out the 98 shots of Charlie Chaplin’s 1914 short A Film Johnnie in parallel loops across a CinemaScope image; Ben Russell’s Black and White Trypps Number Three (USA) focuses on a young, mesmerized audience during a performance by the noise band Lightning Bolt; Rosalind Nashashibi (who represented Scotland at the 2007 Venice Biennale) and Lucy Skaer’s Flash in the Metropolitan (UK), is a sibylline nighttime excursion through The Met’s antiquities galleries; Erika Loic’s Parícutin (Toronto) chronicles the history of the titular Mexican volcano. Ben Russell, experimental filmmaker and Guggenheim award recipient, concludes the programme with Trypps #5 ( Dubai ) (USA/United Arab Emirates), a slice of happiness packaged under the flickering neon light of global capitalism.

Programme 6: When It Was Blue

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This year’s edition of Wavelengths wraps up in pairs: two double 16mm overlapping projections united in their study of colour, subject and form. Vanessa O’Neill’s silent Suspension ( USA ) is composed of a roll of black-and-white film and a toned roll, resulting in a diaphanous blue creation with seemingly endless hue gradations. Jennifer Reeves’s When It Was Blue (USA/Iceland) was initially shown at the Museum of Modern Art in 2005. Several residencies and finishing grants enabled Reeves to re-edit the original material and to shoot, optically print and paint additional footage. The result is the completion of a formidable three-and-a-half-year collaboration with composer-musician Skúli Sverrisson, music director to Laurie Anderson. When It Was Blue substantially expands Reeves’s impressive 16mm visual repertoire in a virtuosic display of luminescent overlapping imagery and it will be presented live, with Reeves projecting the film and Sverrisson performing the soundtrack.

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