Thursday, April 14, 2016

Images Festival 2016: Preview

Images Festival

April 14-23, 2016

The Images festival is to cinema what noise (or drone, or free improvisation) is to music — unhindered by, and desirous of surpassing, traditional structures and throwing out traditional tired narratives to find new kinds of emotional connections. Like noise (or drone, or free improvisation) that means it's less user-friendly and not every experiment works — and it can even fall into its own narrow clichés. But for those that find satisfaction in the rough, the unfamiliar and in terrain where the dots aren't connected for you, there's ample rewards for taking a chance.

Billed as "the largest festival in North America for experimental and independent moving image culture", Images brings a full slate of screenings, installations, talks and more each time spring rolls around. Every year, the festival challenges itself to not be constrained by format or technology, spending ample time away from the movie screens to investigate parallel paths in other artistic disciplines.

The on-screen portion on the festival begins tomorrow with Factory Complex, an experimental documentary from Im Heung Soon tracing a dark side of Korea's economic miracle — the brutal conditions faced by the women employed in the country's factories. The film's strength comes from a series of intimate face-to-face interviews with workers, some of whom suffered from health problems from under-regulated industries, and some of whom fought back through the union movement and other protests. It's no triumphant David-versus-Goliath story as the investigation detours to Cambodia to see the same capitalist logic being imposed on the factories' new low-wage homes while Korea's transition to a service economy makes sees the same disregard for workers' rights being replicated in new workplaces. Around this narrative, historical footage and some meditative moments of calm subtly comment on and deconstruct the spoken narratives. [Screening at The Royal, Friday, April 15th at 7:00 p.m.]

Although there are standout features like Factory Complex (and a special retrospective screening of Chantal Akerman's News From Home) the best viewing at Images often comes from the shorts programs – for someone looking to dip a toe into these waters, this is definitely a great place to start. I had a chance to view the Toronto-centric Conundrum Clinique programme, and it's worth checking out, especially for Robin Collyer's excellent CLOSED, a montage of elegiac static shots of bins of merchandise and other nooks inside Honest Ed's, the beloved garish tackiness rendered sad and lonely in its depopulated emptiness. That landmark of a now-passing pre-condo Toronto can be nicely contrasted with Oliver Husain's Parade, which presents the new city of glass boxes as austere and unsullied sci-fi settings. [Conundrum Clinique screens at Jackman Hall on Saturday, April 16th at 9:00 p.m.]

There's a lot that looks compelling in the rest of the shorts programmes (including How Should A Person Be?, whose title was inspired by Sheila Heti's novel) but the most vital might be the Black Radical Imagination showcase, which feels perfectly timed with the social currents pumping through the city's cultural veins right now. [PWYC screening at Jackman Hall on Monday, April 18th at 9:00 p.m.]

There's way more going on in the talks and installations that you should look into, but I do want to highlight two excellent musical events. After the screening of Factory Complex tomorrow, the action shifts to The Garrison for the Opening Night Party, which includes performances from the excellent Petra Glynt and Cris Derksen and a special performance by HATAW.

Petra Glynt - Of This Land [live at Wavelength FOURTEEN, February 15, 2014]

Cris Derksen - War Cry, Movement I [live at Track Could Bend #13, January 5, 2016]

Grander in scale, the festival heads to the beautiful Aga Khan Museum for Earwitness, "a series of projects conceived by Eve Egoyan that explore the intersection of sound and visual elements as equal creative partners." Nicole Lizée, Michael Snow, John Oswald, and David Rokeby join Egoyan for a "live multimedia performance on a grand Yamaha Disklavier, an acoustic piano with a built-in digital interface." I'm not sure what sort of synesthetic concoctions the musicians are going to come up with, but this should be a most interesting experiment. [Thursday, April 21, 2016 at 8:00 p.m.]


Tickets for most screenings is an affordable $12, and you can grab 'em online if you're planning ahead. Except for the opening and closing events, screenings take place in the lovely Jackman Hall at the AGO. You can make all your plans at the festival's calendar page.

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