Tiger Awards (Rotterdam, 2008)

Tiger Short Film Awards, International Film Festival Rotterdam 2008
Jury: Moniek Toebasch, Katia Rossini, Mike Hoolboom.

The jury was honoured to take part in this festival inside a festival celebrating cinematic shorthands. How very large these shorts appeared to us. It has been, it is, a dizzying and lavish bouquet which presents work wrested from the artist’s studio for the first time, but also looks back at delicious moments past in order to find a way to go on. Our jury, of course, was concerned only with what was fresh and newly appointed, twenty movies in all, to be named on this short list is already a prize and honour. From this diverse collection we have been asked to anoint only three, though each offered their own kind of happiness.

1. To name an attitude black and white suggests reduction, but in this rural, ethnographic portrait the artist unravels a thousand tones of each. How long does it take until this overflowing bath becomes a lake, until the simple forest drive (there is nothing simple here) tranforms these children into airborne angels of light? There is a tender brutality at work here, nothing is polished or smooth or well rounded, instead the advventure of seeing is undertaken ready to fall and bruise, to be wounded by its search. And it is from this necessary wound that the artist joins in with the life of a family grown wild out of doors with the horses and chickens. For its compassion, its refusal of the sentimental, its quick witted montage and dramaturgy of the everyday, the Tiger Award goes to Ah, Liberty! by Ben Rivers.

2. Oh yes, video can also look like this-drenched in black and white, each moment of light issued from a radiant skin, the blinds a mirror of shadows, but most of all, it is the face of a young boy we return to again and again, glimpsed in half light, his shadows a suggestion of lives yet to arrive. Will they ever? This chamber piece for two, for mother and son, collects its domestic gestures and makes small things large. Recoiling from the myth of endless reproduction, from a digital abyss in which the self can be multiplied without end, the artist works with the economy of a poet, insisting on showing before telling, making a virtue of his limitations, allowing even insisting on the necessary mystery which separates innnocence and experience, and so he is able to find, in the movie’s elegantly drawn final scene, a fitting resolution that is also an opening and riddle. For its picture perfect framings, its smooth and sure handed embrace, the second Tiger Award for short films goes to Ho Yuhang for As I Lay Dying.

3. The digital camera admits a picture straight away, in the words of Paul Virilio “we arrive beforewe leave.” But there are some artists who undertake the act of seeing as a search, their labours recall for us a moment when the viewing of pictures required pilgrimmage. In this starry quest, the artist has taken time to travel in order to see from a great distance, and above all she gives us time to look, she gives us a gift of time so that we migh be able to wonder again at what has been around us all along. In her world, where time is compressed so that it can be made long again, so that we can join her in the verb of seeing, we are turning in a kind of madness, always turning at a rapid unmet velocity, from the end of history to its reinvigoration of the present. For its quest narrative of seeing, unafraid of beauty, the third (and last) Tiger Award for short films goes to Observando el Cielo by Jeanne Liotta.