Forward Motion Film Synopses
FORWARD MOTION: INTROS
Professor Liz Aggiss (University of Brighton) introduces the genre of screen dance. Intros includes short dance films with artist interviews, including Touched by Wendy Houstoun and David Hinton, Tra La La by Magali Charrier and rarely seen gems Basini by Liz Aggiss and Billy Cowie and Sardinas by Lea Anderson. In short, it is an ideal introduction to British screen dance.
Touched is a masterful collaboration between Wendy Houstoun and David Hinton, set over the course of an evening in a bar in north London. A romance for hands, faces and the odd foot, this dance film is a choreography of close-ups. The protagonists talk, smoke, drink, dance, fight, laugh, and weep providing an anthropological romp through their personal dramas of love, lust and inebriations.
The Incomplete Autobiography
The Incomplete Autobiography by Rajyashree Ramamurthi and Silke Manshott invites us into an intimate and idiosyncratic world of a child’s perceptions of the world around her. The film mirrors the sketchy and disjointed nature of childhood remembrances. The first person narration and sepia tinted film give a strong sense of authorship and antiquity. The animation seems to hint at a dreamy or much imagined world. Universal themes of memory and identity are explored through Ramamurthi’s personal journey back to the defining moments and essences of her childhood.
Sardinas is a relatively early piece from the ever ingenious mind of Lea Anderson, one of Britain’s quirkiest and most divergent choreographers and filmmakers. The audience is treated to an ever changing series of quick witted tableaux as the performers make like sky-diving sardines. The film was recorded in one shot, by a camera in a fixed frame position. The result is a film that could only exist as a film, it could not be replicated by live work. One shot, one way of viewing, completely controlled by the choreographer.
Basini is a short, poignant black and white film made by Liz Aggiss and Billie Cowie. It is one of a series of films which pays homage to the work of fictional choreographer Heidi Dzinkowska. A lone, vulnerable dancer features in this authentically produced and expressionistically styled showcase. The stiff framing and dark shadows compliment the awkward, painful and rigid choreography. The melancholic music and haunting vocals conjure up a feeling of desolation and despair; and the audience is left with a feeling of bereavement from which they know not what.
Tra La La
Tra La La is a poetic reflection on the ephemeral nature of innocence and childhood. The film takes us on a rollercoaster ride through the politics of childhood and sibling rivalry. This fantasy black and white film uses stop frame animation and live performance. Using the childhood props of chalk drawing and a macabre collection of dismembered dolls, we are led by the three female protagonists on a journey through the lost imaginary realm of their past. The filmmaker, Magali Charrier, narrates and it is her voice that adds authenticity, charm and a fatalistic tenderness as she recounts childhood squabbles, triumphs and adventures.
Inspired by dancing in a Brixton club, and the dynamic paintings of Jackson Pollock, filmmaker and choreographer Alex Reuben created Line Dance. Accompanied by a fluid Samba beat, the beauty of natural human movement is extracted from the performers bodies using the technique of Motion Capture. Initially we see a series of stick men performing their moves, these are then further manipulated into more illustrative and diagrammatic shapes. What is fascinating about Line Dance is that no matter how far the image is transposed from the original human form, the organic visceral essence of the performance remains, like a ghost in the machine.
Note: there are no cowboys in Line Dance.
Gold mixes documentary style filmmaking with staged set ups, as we track two young gymnasts through their demanding training and daily lives. Filmmaker Rachel Davies cuts seamlessly between locations and events in suburban London. This film beautifully captures the determination, vitality and playful competitiveness of the two girls.
Take one glamorous and ageing dancer. Trap her in the real world. Smash into her private reality. Control her movement, contain her emotion. Well, you can try but she has already beaten you to it!
Motion Control is a collaboration between Liz Aggiss, Billie Cowie and David Anderson. This is a malevolent poltergeist of a film. Ostensibly a solo, this is in fact a duet between camera and dancer. The camera is a performer with needs, agility and a personality all of its own. Using point of view filming , the performer is relentlessly pursued and courted towards an operatic and gravity defying climax. With hyper-sound and super smart awareness, submit to this bizarre journey of entrapment.
FORWARD MOTION: INSIGHTS
Dr. Vena Ramphal presents a programme of experimental dance films with artists discussing their work. Insights features the enchanting Hands by ex-Royal Ballet soloist Jonathan Burrows and filmmaker Adam Roberts, Vanishing Point by Rosemary Butcher and Horizon of Exile by Isabel Rocamora (winner IMZ best screen choreography 2007).
Vanishing Point is a bold and painterly film. With the camera holding an unblinking gaze across windswept sand dunes of Andalucia, we see the lone figure of Elena Gianotti making her way slowly towards the camera. She performs a simple series of gestures: collapses to her knees, rises up, and starts the process over and over again; each time moving a few steps closer to the camera. When combined with the haunting ethereal sound track, the viewer is left feeling that they have witnessed some form of meditation or pilgrimage.
Snow is the second film from renowned director David Hinton, constructed solely from archival footage of winter antics dating from the 1890s to the 1960s. In this collaboration with Rosemary Lee, the film creates the narrative and choreographic structure from found movement of a bygone era; sometimes from a well spotted gesture, and at other times from the careful juxtaposition and repetition of shots. The effect is often comic, partly because of the inherently funny sight of people slipping about on ice, but also from the comic associations of early black and white films from the likes of Buster Keaton and Charles Chaplin.
Night Practice is set on an empty floodlit playing field populated by seven young men hanging out after dark. They aimlessly jostle about, practice their football skills and show off to each other in the centre of the pitch. They are circled by a lone runner. His focused, rhythmic running, is mesmerising in its simplicity. This is an authentic and touching portrayal of young men, and the filmmaker, Susan Wallin, captures their fragile yet powerful physicality. Night Practice explores the undirected energy that comes from being able to do whatever you want, combining the structure of meticulous training with simple magical wonder.
'An exquisite jewel: an unexpected, eloquent, seemingly simple yet intensely concentrated dance for a pair of hands' Nadine Meisner, Dance Theatre Journal.
In the lap of a man lie his hands. Movement and rest, rest and movement: revealing, in unblinking close-ups, a dance for a single pair of hands. Jonathon Burrows, one of the UK’s most notable and respected choreographers, collaborated with filmmaker Adam Roberts to make Hands. Here they have not amputated or abstracted the choreography, merely concentrated it into the hands. This gives the camera and the audience an intimate experience with all the attributes of a large stage show, only smaller.
In a factory somewhere far far away, factory workers test the qualities and properties of Clingfilm…
Film was made through the creative, playful and textural exploration of materials, movement and pace. It is the third in a series of four Shelly Love films that run entirely backwards. This abstract piece occupies its own world.
Magnetic North is the eighth film from established director Miranda Pennell. She continues her exploration of large group choreography as in her earlier film Tattoo and sews the seeds for her exploration of private, personal worlds as in her later film Human Radio. Here she encounters the adolescent rituals which are played out across the wintry landscapes of a small Finnish town. A teenage girl skates on a frozen lake, while a teenage boy poses with a guitar in his room. The film evokes a world of adolescent fantasy and yearning, giving us a witty and orchestral piece.
Fold is a lush and vibrant rendition of a Bharatha Natyam inspired dance piece by Vena Ramphal. This South Asian dance form is transformed by the filmic medium which gives the viewer an up-close and intimate experience of the performance and performer that could never be realised in the theatre. Precise framing directs the gaze to the subtle detail of the bejewelled, costumed surface of the dancer’s body and the emotive depth of her movement. Paradoxically the camera’s brutal truncation of the body emphasises the importance of line within the delicacy of the movement.
Horizon of Exile
Award-winning Horizon of Exile immerses the viewer in an unforgettable and dramatic cinematic experience. The film is a meditation on female identity, land and exile. The film follows the journey of two women across timeless desert landscapes as they negotiate issues of self-image and belonging. Set to a soundtrack by Jivan Gasparyan and punctuated by voice testimonies of Iraqi exile, Surma Hamid, the bodies betray a serene violence, travelling as though released from consciousness or gravity, falling and recuperating, haunted by an irrepressible past. The combination of voice, choreography, politics, cinematography and location fuse to make a complex, layered film.
FORWARD MOTION: ARTISTS’ CHOICE
High profile dance makers select their favourite British dance films. The programme includes: Akram Khan introducing Lloyd Newson’s multi-award winning The Cost of Living; Russell Maliphant selecting Chris Cunningham’s music video for Portishead’s Only You; and Shobana Jeyasingh choosing Miranda Pennell’s Tattoo.
Filmed on the Norfolk coast, boy explores the imagical world of an eight year old who conjures up his imaginary twin. Rippling with animal imagery and shamanistic conjuring, it is about the boy’s perceptions of the world and his realisation of his own place in the universe.
Trees, insects and birds look on as the countryside is invaded by a lost regiment of soldiers engaged in a repetitive display. The senseless beauty of military drill dwarfed by the landscape is, in turn, absurd and disturbing.
The Tales of Hoffman (extract)
A film version of the Offenbach opera The Tales of Hoffmann which dramatises the three great romances in the life of the poet hero. Presented in a series of flashbacks, Hoffmann's tales depict the struggle between human love and the artist's dedication to his work. Hoffmann loses each of the women he loves but instead gains poetic inspiration, the ability to transform painful experiences into art.
Feature Film (extract)
Feature Film, a video projection of 1999, presents Bernard Herrmann’s musical score for Alfred Hitchcock’s film Vertigo. We hear the wonderfully evocative music, but all we see are the hands, arms and head of the man conducting the orchestra. Our memory plays tricks on us. So well known is the film and the music, so evocative its plot, that in our mind’s eye we seem to be transported into what is going on.
Only You (Portishead)
In this music video for experimental band Portishead’s track Only You, film maker Chris Cunningham uses stunning Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) effects to create a magical underwater world.
The Cost of Living
The Cost of Living was shot on location on the Norfolk coast in Cromer, a typical, old-fashioned and faded English seaside resort. The summer season has petered to an end. An air of desertion hangs over the town. Eddie and David are disillusioned street performers. Eddie is tough, confrontational and not afraid to defend his belief in justice, respect and honesty. David is a dancer with no legs (as he is in real life); watching him makes you reconsider accepted notions of grace and perfection. He is quietly determined not to let his disabilities or society's prejudices get in his way. A series of interlinked scenes show Eddie and David's encounters with other people; some are incredibly hard-hitting, others exhilarating because of their sheer physicality.