Nations, Pollinations and Dislocations:Changing Imaginary Borders in the Americas
Centring around the physical as well as the mental concept of limitations Nations, Pollinations and Dislocations: Changing Imaginary Borders in the Americas advances a kaleidoscope range of visions on the social, cultural, political and personal issues existing on the American continent. The programme, which was compiled by the Bolivian-Canadian curator Elena Feder, consists of a series of films and videos spread out over seven topics. Her selection literally focuses on borderlines: in a historical and contextual reading both the differences and the similarities between South and North American territories are addressed. Apart from that the participating artists explore their figurative borders: linguistic barriers, limitations in genre and form are crossed. In essence Nations, Pollinations and Dislocations offers touching, hilarious, shocking and most of all surprising works by the likes of Jesse Lerner, Lourdes Portillo, Ximena Cuevas and Jim Mendiola. The programme also presents Rubén Ortiz-Torres, an artist born in Mexico City, who is living in Los Angeles. Apart from videos he will also put forward installations and three-dimensional projections with the shift in cultural variables, moral values and systems of power around the borders of the Americas as their subject.

Border-Crossing Art   111’
on Sat, 18 Oct 2003 20:00 at Cinema Nova 

From filmstrips to digitally manipulated images: the works presented in Border-Crossing Art foreground the material appropriation of technologies intended for uses other than their recording of the momentous.

Workshop of People’s Graphic Art / Taller de Gráfica Popular by Graphic Arts Workshop of Los Angeles 30’ 1947
35mm filmstrip, b/w, English spoken, 25’, U.S./Mexico, 1947

Who wants war,who wants peace / Quiénes quieren la guerra, quiénes quieren la paz by Graphic Arts Workshop of Los Angeles 30’ 1947
35mm filmstrip, b/w, English spoken, 25’, U.S./Mexico, 1947 This is the second public screening of these filmstrips in nearly fifty years, and in all probability the first ever outside the United States or Mexico. Based on material supplied by members of the Mexican Workshop of People’s Graphic Art, the filmstrips were created in the mid-forties in close collaboration between Irish-American graphic artist Pablo O’Higgins, one of the hundreds of artists and cultural workers who flocked to Mexico to share in the creative intellectual climate generated by the Revolution of 1910, and Jack Weatherwax, writer, activist, story teller, translator of the Popol Vuh. Graphic art techniques and design took on renewed importance after the Revolution. A popular tradition since the early nineteenth century, the graphic arts were used in post-revolutionary Mexico as both an art form and a political tool aimed at realizing the promises of modernization in a socially equitable manner. At Weatherwax’s suggestion, O’Higgins, who had taken up permanent residency in Mexico by that time, travelled to Los Angeles to photograph a thick stack of weathered and often tattered colour leaflets printed by the seventeen members of the Taller over ten years since 1937, the year the workshop was founded at the prestigious Academy of San Carlos. Weatherwax wrote the accompanying script and took charge of the filmstrips’ distribution throughout the U.S. Cutting edge in the forties and fifties, filmstrip technology—which can be seen as a precursor to the computer generated program Power Point—was widely used in the U.S. as an educational and commercial tool in those days. It consists of strip of film, of any length, where each frame was photographed individually in a given order; a bit like a consecutive strip of slides. In this case, each frame corresponds to a flyer or broadsheet printed and distributed collectively by members of the Taller. These two filmstrips represent a historically unique and outstanding example of the cross-border marriage between art, politics and technology, sought after by the art-historical avant-gardes the world over. The first one was intended to introduce the work of the ‘Taller’ to an English-speaking audience; the second, to help protect civil rights and promote world peace in the transition from World War II to the Cold War and beyond. To approximate the viewing experience for which they were originally produced, they will be shown here using an authentic filmstrip projector, accompanied by a reading from the text originally designed to accompany the images.

Una herida Americana (An American wound) by Lotty Rosenfeld 4’ 1982
Video, colour, Spanish spoken, English subtitled, 4’, Chile/U.S., 1982 Una herida Americana (An American Wound) is structured around three art actions performed by the artist: 1) outside the White House in Washington; 2) on the Pan-American Highway in the Atacama Desert, Chile— embodiment of the ‘Alliance for Progress’ and quintessential symbol of the union of both hemispheres in the sixties; and, 3) inside the Santiago de Chile Stock Market. All three spaces are both materially marked and symbolically connected by means of Rosenfeld’s crosses; the last one most unusually in that her Washington performance is replayed on several TV monitors scattered around the Chilean Stock Market during trading hours.

Proposición para (entre)cruzar espacios límites, (Proposal to (Inter)Cross Limit Spaces) by Lotty Rosenfeld 4’ 1984
Video, b/w, Spanish spoken, English subtitled, 4’, Chile/Argentina 1979-1984 Proposición para (entre)cruzar espacios límites (Proposal to (Inter)Cross Limit Spaces) consists of a performance based on two separate but integrated art actions: one on the border between Chile and Argentina, across a tunnel appropriately named Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer), the other, across the now-dissolved RDA/RFA border at the Allied Checkpoint (quintessential global signifier of the border between capitalism and communism until the fall of the Berlin Wall). The two crossings underscore the porous yet arresting and often ominous nature of borders. A disembodied, anachronic, anatopic and multilingual soundscape accompanies the repetitive images, including shortwave radio references, in German, to the Iron Curtain and the fall of the Berlin Wall, and a collage of radio announcements in Spanish, French, English, reporting on politics, museums, and nuclear disarmament. As with the earlier performance, Proposal… also maps out the earlier phases of the imaginary of globalisation, but here the sensation is rather one of borders collapsing under the weight of technologies less of seeing than of hearing.

L’obscurité de mon langage II, (The darkness of my language II) by Silvana Afram 5’ 1988

Antes de la televisión, (Before television) by Ximena Cuevas 2’ 2000
Video, b/w, Spanish spoken, English subtitled, 2’, Mexico 1983 and 1993

Encuentro con la television, (Encountering TV) by Ximena Cuevas 2’ 2000
Video, b/w, Spanish spoken, English subtitled, 2’, Mexico 1983 and 1993 “Mexico’s video artist extraordinaire: half magician, half mermaid, master of all she surveys.” This is how Ruby Rich describes this talented Mexican artist. These two early examples of her work can be read as experimental meditations on the encounters of her generation with communication technology. They address the threatening underbelly of rapid technological change in a humorous and self-referential manner, demystifying its promise at the same time as capturing its combination of excitement and fear, promise and threat. As vacuum cleaners and televisions break irredemptively through the thin line separating the private from the public, fear and desire become mingled to such an extreme that frenzy and silence become the only viable alternatives.

Víctimas del pecado neoliberal, (Victims of Neoliberal Sins) by Ximena Cuevas 15’ 1995
Video, b/w, English and Spanish spoken, 15’, Mexico, 1995 A series of loosely connected sketches of Mexican society during the NAFTA-signing presidency of Carlos Salinas de Gortari, this humorous, sardonic and wildly irreverent portrait of a country on the brink of cataclysmic change, comes through as a poignant agit-prop critique of the consequences of neo-liberalism. Based on a “spectacle” written by Carlos Monsiváis and directed by Jesusa Rodriguez, presented in a Mexico City bar before its release as a ‘video cabaret,’ Victims of Neoliberal Sins blurs every possible distinction between genres and codes. It lays bare, in the process, the highly dramatic events inscribed in the political history of those corrupt and violent times, including several high level political assassinations.

How to Read Macho Mouse by Rubén Ortiz-Torres 8’ 1991
(produced in collaboration with Aaron Anish) Video, colour, English and Spanish spoken, 8’, U.S./Mexico, 1991 A pastiche of a wide-range of cross-border images and cultural icons, this early experimental short by one of the most creative and multi-talented ‘transfrontera’ artists of his generation, makes evident the underlying hybridity of Mexican-American popular cultural icons, like Speedy Gonzales and Mickey Mouse. This smart and extremely funny experimental short draws upon source material from both American and Mexican popular media, as well as from live-action footage shot in the Los Angeles-Tijuana border region. It playfully demonstrates the ease with which such images were appropriated and reconfigured by the media to suit particular social, economic, and cultural contexts in the years that preceded the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Alien Toy by Rubén Ortiz-Torres 8’ 1997
Video, colour, English and Spanish spoken, 8’, U.S., 1997 Based in Los Angeles, Mexican-born Ortiz-Torres originally presented Alien Toy as an installation at InSITE97. This experimental short marks the beginning of what would become the artist’s long-term love affair with Mexican-American low-rider culture. Alien Toy expands on the transcultured meanings embedded in a U.S. border patrol car that was converted by car mechanic Salvador Muñoz into a low-rider dancing machine. Its precursor, the pickup truck Wicked Bed, had by then become world champion of radical bed dancing four years in a row (1994-1997). Ortiz-Torres explodes the alien nature of these cyborgian ‘beings’ to expose both the porosity of the border and the blind violence with which it is policed. Shown often as part of a live-feed performance where star-war-looking puppets are manipulated, digitally recorded, fed into a computer, and projected onto the screen while the film is running, Alien Toy expands the meaning of the word to include anything and anyone Other, from wetbacks to extraterrestrials.

The Garden of Earthly Delights / El jardín de las delicias by Rubén Ortiz-Torres 3’30’’ 2001
Video, colour, English and Spanish spoken, 3’30’’, U.S., 2001 The cyborg creature featured in this later piece is a converted lawn mower. The tenuous divide between nature and culture, restricted to the blurring of boundaries between human and machine in the previous piece, is here displaced onto two different registers. On the one hand, we have the manicured preciosities that may arise from the encounter of lawn and machine; on the other, the destabilization of the gaze that results when ‘nature’ responds in unexpected ways to the camera and computer ‘eye/I’—as in, for example, the hallucinogenic experience mimicked by the extreme close-ups of solarized flowers opening before our eyes intermittently throughout the piece.

Video Installations Rubén Ortiz-Torres   continuously looped in bar 20:00-24:00
on Sat, 18 Oct 2003 20:00 at Cinema Nova
on Sun, 19 Oct 2003 20:00 at Cinema Nova
on Mon, 20 Oct 2003 20:00 at Cinema Nova
on Tue, 21 Oct 2003 20:00 at Cinema Nova
on Wed, 22 Oct 2003 20:00 at Cinema Nova
on Thu, 23 Oct 2003 20:00 at Cinema Nova
on Sat, 25 Oct 2003 20:00 at Cinema Nova

El Bodisattva by Rubén Ortiz-Torres 5’55" 2002
2nd Generation by Rubén Ortiz-Torres 5’39" 2003

Trouble on the Borderlines   107 min.
on Sun, 19 Oct 2003 20:00 at Cinema Nova  

This programme focuses on the notion of the border itself. It maps out the varied, and often troubling, effects that different social and generational contexts can have on crossborder individual and cultural identity over time.

The Garden of the Forking Paths by Pablo Duràn 3’09" 2001
Video, colour, English and Spanish spoken, 3’30’’, U.S., 2001 The cyborg creature featured in this later piece is a converted lawn mower. The tenuous divide between nature and culture, restricted to the blurring of boundaries between human and machine in the previous piece, is here displaced onto two different registers. On the one hand, we have the manicured preciosities that may arise from the encounter of lawn and machine; on the other, the destabilization of the gaze that results when ‘nature’ responds in unexpected ways to the camera and computer ‘eye/I’—as in, for example, the hallucinogenic experience mimicked by the extreme close-ups of solarized flowers opening before our eyes intermittently throughout the piece.

The End of Thought / Final del pensamiento by Jorge Lozano 8’ 2002
Video, colour, English and Spanish spoken, 8’, Canada/Colombia, 2002 This bold experimental short by Colombian-born, Toronto-based film and video maker, pioneer curator and arts activist, Jorge Lozano is a stunning autobiographical sketch of his experience as a doubly transcultured artist of colour. A trip to the country of his birth becomes the occasion for meditating on what it means to live in between; to think about the people and things one has loved and left behind, about others one has found; to live between the extremes of greed and sacrifice, seeking recognition in foreign lands, finding acceptance from strangers only to be harassed by immigration officials at home in Canada. Masterfully shot and daringly edited, The End of Thought combines a heavy bag of visual tricks, from split screens to written text to solarized images, which linger like a strange yet familiar song long after the credits finish rolling.

Coca Cola in the Veins / Coca Cola en las Venas by Ana Rosa Machado 7’ 2000
Video, colour, English and Spanish spoken, 7’, Mexico/ U.S., 2000 This experimental documentary by Machado, a.k.a. AnaTijuana, is a stylish, cutting edge tribute to what is probably the most famous Mexican experimental film, Ruben Gámez’s 1965 classic, Coca Cola en la Sangre (Coca Cola in the Blood). A collage of intimate Super 8mm footage, fast-paced cuts, and music video-like scoring, this dynamic film by a promising member of a new generation of cross-border filmmakers, breaks away from other somewhat more Manichean depictions of the border. Departing from the motto that “borders exist to be crossed,” it captures the paradoxes of living between Tijuana and San Francisco from the perspective of a Mexican citizen trained and living in the U.S. This autobiographical account of an experience of the border as lived and experienced by a contemporary ‘transfrontera’ woman artist confronts long-standing challenges of cross-border identity formation with a new aesthetic vision and the energized agenda of a younger perspective: one ready to face the pitfalls and opportunities of living with Coca Cola in the veins.

Pretty vacant by Jim Mendiola 33’ 1996
16mm, b/w, English spoken, 33’ 03’’, U.S., 1996 Amy Taubin, from The Village Voice, described this film as: “Cultural hybridity incarnate…a genuinely joyous, funky, skilful film.” Stretching the meaning of cultural, generational, and representational differences to their absolute limit, this award-winning experimental gem features a Tex-Mex punk rocker, rock and roll historian, writer, publisher and budding filmmaker caught between her family’s enduring ties to reified ideals of Mexican culture and her own obsession with the British punk rock group, the Sex Pistols. Produced, written, directed and shot by Los Angeles based, Mexican-born Mendiola, Pretty Vacant has screened in numerous film festivals, museums and colleges in both the U.S. and Mexico. A Rockefeller Intercultural Media Fellow, Mendiola is a regular contributor on television, soap operas and all things Latino and pop for the San Francisco Bay Guardian and other publications. His first feature film, a rock and roll digital movie called Speeder Kills, was screened at the 2003 Los Angeles Film Festival.

Fronterilandia by Rubén Ortiz-Torres & Jesse Lerner 56’ 1995
16mm, colour, English and Spanish spoken, Spanish and English subtitled, 56’, U.S./Mexico 1995 Frontierland is one of the earliest postmodern examples of border-crossing art. A roller-coaster ride of a film, this feature-length experimental documentary stretches the meaning of the border beyond its geo-political determinants to explore the hinterlands of cross-border fantasies and the imagination. It is an exhilarating parody of ethnographic documentary, part fiction, part pastiche, part essay, which conceives the border as a continually changing landscape made up of actual and makeshift houses, restaurants, ‘barrios’, markets and an array of vending sites. Iconoclastic to the bone, it throws together a bunch of Mexican punk rock music videos, cross-border performers and performance artists, atavistic agitators, Chicano professors, and a line up of functional albeit mildly-insane characters who inhabit both sides of the otherwise polarized border between Tijuana and San Diego. Borders are everywhere, Ortiz and Lerner seem to imply, in every object we consume, every hybrid ritual we perform. From high art to kitsch, from colonial and religious icons for the connoisseur to cheap imitations sold to tourists as souvenirs, or, for that matter, from the fusion of punk rock and Mexican rhythms to the re-appropriation of pre-Columbian dance and costumes for museum performances, the market of commodities flows and proliferates unchecked across an otherwise heavily protected border. Here, exchange generates a real and imaginary liminal space: a cross-pollinated frontierland where endlessly mutating signifiers and the endless circulation of commodities becomes the most effective means of ‘transfrontera’ communication. Both playful and deadly serious, Fronterilandia implodes every distinction between high and low culture, history and myth, knowledge and power, madness and reason, and about every other binary opposition that may dare cross its frenzied path.

Shades of History: Politicizing the Liminal   104’
on Mon, 20 Oct 2003 20:00 at Cinema Nova

The films in this selection make a point of looking anew at the past for knowledge and inspiration, both as a struggle against paralyzing social amnesia, and to redress its wrongdoings in the present and for the future.

Pinochet’s Trial by Jimena Ortuzar 7’ 2001
Video, colour, English spoken, 7’, Chile/Canada, 2001 The contentious reckoning that followed the release and repatriation of Pinochet after his house arrest and trial before the British Courts in the year 2000, is the subject of Ortuzar’s short but richly textured film. Brought to justice as a result of being indicted in absentia for crimes against humanity by Spanish Judge Baltazar Garzón the year before, Pinochet was granted a pardon by the English Chamber of Lords on the basis of a medical report that outlined the reasons why the ailing dictator was unable to stand trial. In the film, parts of this report are read over documentary images of the 1973 coup led by Pinochet against Allende’s constitutionally elected government and its aftermath. Anatomical drawings, microscopic images and written words are superimposed on these images to create a multi-layered text where meaning is generated dialogically in the spaces between sound and image(s), memories and history, the individual and society.

Clandestinos (ClandestinePeople) by Patricia Moran 11’ 2001
35mm, colour, Portuguese spoken, English subtitled, 11’,Brazil, 2001

O Ciclone Lento e Sutil, (The Quiet and Subtle Cyclone) by Stephen Marshall 10’ 2002
Video, colour, Portuguese spoken, English subtitled, 10’, Brazil / U.S., 2002 An experimental documentary produced in collaboration by 17 students, 3 mini DV cameras and one and a half editing stations over a ten-day period, with assistance from the Guerilla News Network. GNN was invited by these students to lead a workshop in Diamantina, Brazil, with the intention of broadcasting the result through GNN’s website. It is part of an emergent series of works whose aim is to revisit the circumstances that led to the murder and disappearance of thousands of people during the Dirty War years in the Southern Cone. Haunted by the space of death generated by their unredeemable absence, the heirs to and survivors of the most gruesome chapter in the history of Latin America are left to grapple with the need to mourn, while at the same time needing to release the past without forgetting its victims. This hybrid testimonial documentary is one of the few to consider the costly consequences of the leadership vacuum left behind by the violent death and disappearance of an entire generation of middle class intellectuals, artists, and social activists. In both conventional and exploratory ways, it leads us to conclude that their shattered dreams—however utopian or at times misguided they may have been at times—have left behind a demographically chaotic, environmentally -devastated, and economically bankrupt continent. Largely bereft of either direction or a purpose generated from within, their heirs continue to be at the mercy of the same Quiet and Subtle Cyclone.

Native Americas: Sacred Histories, Secular Myths   104’
on Tue, 21 Oct 2003 20:00 at Cinema Nova 

The works in Native Americas: Sacred Histories, Secular Myths address the impact and complicity of technologies of vision and power from a variety of different Indian perspectives in the Americas today.

The Spirit of TV by Vicente Carelli & Video nas aldeas 18’ 1990
Video, colour, Waiãpi spoken, English subtitled, 18’, Brazil, 1990 In this video, the Waiãpi reflect upon their first encounters with television and the impact it has had on their lives. The Waiãpi are one of several Yanomami Amazon tribes to participate in Video nas aldeas, a project designed to record the momentous changes wrought by the latest, and increasingly more predatory, incursion of the Brazilian State, corporate and private loggers, gold surveyors and miners into their territory since the mid-seventies. Produced with the assistance of the Centro de Trabalho Indigenista, The Spirit of TV shows the Waiãpi reacting to the first TV images of themselves and their neighbouring tribes. Confrontation of their self-image with the image on the screen leads into a debate within the community about whether the ‘spirits’ visiting them through their screens are good or bad, benevolent or deadly. Newfound awareness of the difference in language, dress and customs between themselves and the other tribes leads, by contrast, to the articulation of political cross-tribal alliances based on a joint identification as Indian Others ‘vis-à-vis’ the White Man.

Take a Picture with a Real Indian by James Luna 12’10" 2001
Video, colour, English spoken, 12’10’’, U.S., 2001 An conceptual exercise in sorting out the complexities of the colonial gaze at the heart of the society of the spectacle, this unusual video is based on an intervention performance by Midwest reservation artist James A. Luna, held at the Salina Art Center in Kansas on February 3, 2001. In a more effective way than his earlier piece—Indian Having Coffee with Kerouac, Ginsberg and Hemingway, shot at the reservation in 1996—, Take a Picture With a Real Indian turns the tables on the Indian/White dialectics of seeing and being seen. In its unraveling of the apparently harmless but demeaning act of taking a photo memento of the ‘exotic’, commonly done since as long ago as the invention of photography, this performance video addresses the hurt and desensitisation, respectively felt by Indians and Whites as a result of the exotisation and consequent commodification of American Indian cultures, exposing in the process the complicity of institutions, the media and commerce in perpetuating this situation.

Promised Land / Tierra Prometida by Marcos Arriaga 21’ 2002
16mm, colour, Spanish and English spoken, English subtitled,, 21’, Peru/Canada, 2002 This hybrid documentary by independent Peruvian-Canadian filmmaker Marcos Arriaga, offers an autobiographical reconstruction of his family’s history over the last fifty years. With great skill and sensitivity, Arriaga combines personal and personal photographs with archival, super8, and documentary footage so as to allow for a multiplicity of viewpoints to come into play in an ambitious interweaving of memory, history and personal identity. Shot mostly on location in and around the Port of Callao, where he was born, the filmmaker’s personal discoveries of that history become intermeshed with some of the local, regional and continental political events that, unbeknownst to the family at the time, motivated many of their life-changing decisions.

Cases of Violence Against Indigenous Communities in Chiapas / Casos de violencia contracommunidades indígenas en Chiapas by Carlos Martínez Suárez 53’ 1998
Video, colour, Spanish and Quiché spoken, English subtitled, 53’, Mexico, 1998 The director of this disturbing documentary describes it as “A synthesis of what my camera has captured in four years of filming the harassment of the indigenous communities that sympathize with the EZLN (Zapatista Army for National Liberation), and who keep resisting attacks by the military and the police.” This award-winning documentary caused such a great stir when it was first screened at the First International Short Film Festival in Mexico City in 1998, that it was awarded Jury Prize. The capital had never seen the lines of battle so up close, so unmediated by local or national media, even though solidarity with the Zapatista struggles in Chiapas was strong since the first uprising of the EZLN on January 1, 1994, the day that NAFTA first came into effect. The uprising was in response to the elimination of the ‘ejido’, a form of peasant land tenure guaranteed until then by the Mexican Constitution, by the signatories of the accord.

Cases of Violence Against Indigenous Communities in Chiapas / Casos de violencia contracommunidades indígenas en Chiapas by Carlos Martínez Suárez 53’ 1998
Video, colour, Spanish and Quiché spoken, English subtitled, 53’, Mexico, 1998 The director of this disturbing documentary describes it as “A synthesis of what my camera has captured in four years of filming the harassment of the indigenous communities that sympathize with the EZLN (Zapatista Army for National Liberation), and who keep resisting attacks by the military and the police.” This award-winning documentary caused such a great stir when it was first screened at the First International Short Film Festival in Mexico City in 1998, that it was awarded Jury Prize. The capital had never seen the lines of battle so up close, so unmediated by local or national media, even though solidarity with the Zapatista struggles in Chiapas was strong since the first uprising of the EZLN on January 1, 1994, the day that NAFTA first came into effect. The uprising was in response to the elimination of the ‘ejido’, a form of peasant land tenure guaranteed until then by the Mexican Constitution, by the signatories of the accord.

Erotics of the TransFrontera Gaze   104’
on Wed, 22 Oct 2003 20:00 at Cinema Nova 

Who looks at whom, how, and from where are questions that take on particular poignancy in a cross-border or transfrontera context. These shorts attempt to unravel the vicissitudes of the diasporic look from a multitude of constantly shifting perspectives.

Mirror Mirror by Paula Levine 150’ 1987
Video, b/w, English spoken, 2’30’’, U.S., 1987 The instability of the gaze is at the centre of this powerful piece by this veteran US/Canadian media artist. Locus of the power of the apparatus, commonly associated with mastery, the ultimate vulnerability of the gaze is laid bare when Levine’s handheld camera goes unintentionally out of focus during her surreptitious filming of a Latino man’s unabashed performance of his manhood for the pleasure of his Latina friends. Suggestively unmasking both the violence and vulnerability that come to a head on the border between vision and power, Levine’s camera loses focus at the precise moment her voyeurism is unmasked by the young man’s realization that he has been the unwitting subject of the White woman filmmaker’s curious gaze. But instead of turning the tables on his Anglo ‘voyeuse’, this young Latino decides instead to settle for the position of object of the gaze, traditionally occupied by Woman in classical cinema, exposing in the process the utter constructedness and ambiguity of this position.

Mexican Cinema for Dummies by Ricardo Nicolayevski 15’ 2000
Video, colour, Spanish and English spoken, 15’, Mexico, 2001-2002 A wry critique of the implication of Mexican cinema in the construction of Mexican national identity, Mexican Cinema for Dummies is also an iconoclastic ode to its postmodern deconstruction. Rather than positing the more traditional association of the consolidation of post-revolutionary ‘mexicanidad’ with Golden Age Mexican Cinema, composer and media artist Nicolayevsky chooses instead to focus on the obsessions of Mexican B movies from the fifties to the seventies. He identifies a sequence of themes culled from these films as recurrent national mythemes, edits them with delirious dexterity, and plays them to an unexpected crescendo with the rhythm and complexity of a Baroque musical score. The ominous ending, a radical reversal of the masochism associated with the Mexican ideal of motherhood, is symptomatic of the dissolution of deeply held familial, social, political and cultural beliefs in the transition to the harsh postmodern realities of contemporary Mexico.

Bitten by Claudia Morgado 15’ 2002
35mm, colour, English spoken, 15’, Canada, 2002 A slick, seductive and formally polished new short by the independent Chilean-Canadian filmmaker, Bitten plays with and against classical narrative structure with a good dose of black humour and well-honed narrative skill. Taking Morgado’s trademark obsession with the vicissitudes of the fetishistic gaze (Sabor a mi, Martirio) to new and unexpected heights, it transforms the nineteenth-century Latin American legend of a powerful landowner, Doña Barbara, a.k.a. ‘la devoradora’ (the devourer of men), into a sexual initiation story set in a non-descript postmodern Wild-West-like town. Unlike in the original novel, however, Bitten does not pit daughter against mother. Instead, it translates a quintessentially Latin American frontier myth into a story with the generic lineaments of a Western, with a surprising ending.

Double Portrait by Marilu Mallet 37’ 2000
16mm, colour, French and Spanish spoken, 37’, Canada/Chile, 2000 This outstanding autobiographical hybrid documentary by veteran Chilean-Canadian filmmaker Marilu Mallet, reconstructs the filmmaker’s frayed relationship with her aging mother, the well-known painter Maria Luisa Señoret. With her well-wrought deconstructive palette, the uncoupling of voice(s) and image(s) from both the present and the past, Mallet paints an ontologically dense double portrait where the two women’s subjective and historical temporalities finally meet. Working through a number of long-standing personal issues and shared concerns with creativity and survival as both artists and exiles, Double Portrait offers a mature insight into the complexities of immigrant mother/daughter relationships as they unfold over time. The result is an exquisite painterly film where mother and daughter are able to become distant albeit intimate mirrors for one another.

Dadá by Eduardo Vaisman 20 2001
35mm, colour, Portuguese spoken, English subtitled, 20’, Brazil, 2001 A complex and highly entertaining crossover between documentary, fiction, and ethnographic film shot in a Rio de Janeiro ‘favela’, or shantytown. The story, purportedly about the filming of a fictional story about young people’s aspirations and broken dreams in the ‘favela’, turns out to be also a documentary about the lives of the three actors of the film and their families. As with the other shorts in this selection, Dadá ends up destabilizing the power of the voyeuristic camera gaze: notably, when the protagonists/actors of the film themselves turn the cameras around on the crew, unveiling the site of production in all its borderline frailties in the process.

Juana’s Grammar by Jorge Lozano and Juana Awad 8’30" 2003
Video, colour, Spanish and English spoken, 8’30’’, Canada, 2003 Created, directed, and edited by two of the most talented independent Latino filmmakers in Canada, Juana’s Grammar is an ambitious exploration of diasporic identity that literally inserts the body of a new generation of ‘transfrontera’ women in this country into the epistemological battlefront of cross-cultural relations. Structurally complex, technically daring, and with a wide emotional range, Lozano and Awad’s striking experimental short draws freely upon a variety of global art traditions: from Chico Buarque’s Brazilian compositions to Frida Kahlo’s sketches to Heiner Müller’s Hamletmachine, without losing sight of their immediate social, political and cultural contexts.

This and That, and other minor misunderstandings by Edin Vélez 12’30" 2002
Video, colour, English, Spanish, and French spoken, 12’30’’, France/Spain/Mexico/Cuba/Argentina/Puerto Rico, 2002 Funded in part by the Rockefeller Foundation, this exquisitely shot, multilayered journey through the labyrinthine corridors of memory and forgetting by New York based, Puerto Rican-born pioneer video artist Edin Vélez, is nothing short of dazzling. Poetic, meditative, and structurally evocative of the rhythms and pacing of World Music (a legacy, no doubt, of Vélez’s long-term association with Brian Eno), the film chronicles the invisible narrator’s six-year journey across countries, continents and emotional places following a divorce. The result is a semi-autobiographical account of the mending of a broken heart, which nonetheless allows the conventional first-person narrative voice to all but disappear into the folds of its Ultra Baroque fabric. Richly textured as a visual collage of still and moving images, electronic effects, aural and visual metaphors, graphic manipulations of the written word, and a multiplicity of global cultural signifiers, This and That… will long remain as an aesthetic milestone in the postmodern articulation of a globally-savvy diasporic identity in the making…minor misunderstandings and all.

Behold the Promised Land: ReVisioning the Past, Imaging the Future   97’
on Thu, 23 Oct 2003 20:00 at Cinema Nova  

From a casual diary of a journey to a harsh reconstruction of facts: the films in this selection are meant to expose the contrasting experiences the promises and threats of globalization on both sides of the Rio Grande.

Rinoplastia by Yoshua Okón 30’ 2001
Video, colour, Spanish spoken, English subtitled, 30’, Mexico, 2001 One of the most troubling films in this selection, and probably ever, Rinoplastia chronicles a day in the life of two twenty-something sons of the infamous ‘nouveau riche’ Mexican ruling class. Shot almost entirely from within a car in the Dogme fiction/documentary tradition, Okón’s film follows these vacuous figures as they practice their daily routine of senseless acts of brutality while pumping inordinate amounts of white powder up their greedy nostrils (the title of the film refers to the surgical procedure used to rebuild nasal passages of cocaine addicts). Other than the two actors and their immediate friends (who are apparently playing themselves), the ‘characters’ appearing in the film, from servants to peons to waiters at a restaurant, are all real life working class people who ended up caught, usually at great peril, in outrageously abusive situations of mindless cruelty beyond their control. Okón is the founder of La Panadería, an alternative gallery space that ran for ten years in Mexico City before it closed its doors in December 2002. As with other works by this young but already close to legendary artist and filmmaker, Rinoplastia is a passionately detached, close to the edge critique of the excesses of power in post-NAFTA Mexican society, a society Okón clearly both loves and loves to hate.

Objects Are Larger Than They Appear (SC) by Shawn Chapelle and Heather Frise 7’ 2000
Video, colour, English spoken, 7’, Canada, 2000 In this first time collaboration between Chappelle and Frise, a road trip to Mexico becomes a meditation on the experience of travelling itself. Imaginatively cut and adding saturated colour to the original footage, this experimental film pieces together disjointed images of the road and environs, flashes of colour layered over non-descript landscapes, and words read from a journal pointing to intricacies in the relationship among travel companions and suggesting the question of whether home is a place one can ever leave behind.

Conditional Love by Ardele Lister 60’ 1997
Video, colour, English and French spoken, 60’, Canada/U.S., 1997 New York-based, Canadian pioneer video maker, Ardele Lister, turns her inquisitive lens on her home country in this rare examination of the Canadian self-image. In 1988, when the Free Trade accord was being negotiated between the U.S. and Canada, Lister began work on a series that would examine the relationship between patriotism and propaganda on both sides of the border. Behold the Promised Land, the first in the series, featured interviews shot in several U.S. cities on July 4th, combined with archival film footage from the 1940s and 1950s, including educational films for high school students, Chevrolet ads for the emerging consumer class, and other propaganda which similarly helped shape U.S. identity in the postwar years. In Conditional Love, Lister, a self-confessed ‘teenage nationalist,’ delves into the archives again, this time to come up with a wide range of material which raised unsettling questions about the roots of Canadian identity. Narratively motivated by the essentially Canadian quandary of what does it mean to be Canadian, the film is a tongue-in-cheek, nearly encyclopaedic collage of documentary and archival footage, animation, clips of home movies, Hollywood cinema, and National Film Board of Canada films, intercut with telling segments from extended interviews with internationally recognized expatriate Canadians, such as PBS anchorperson Robert MacNeil, and personal interviews with ordinary citizens from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds: in the streets and cafes of Montreal, at the border of Niagara Falls, and at various Canada Day celebrations. “Sly and wry, charming and disarming, Conditional Love reveals Canadian national identity as equal parts Hollywood, negotiation of the U.S., and the fantastic. A fabulously smart tour de force decomposition of nation and nationhood. You’ll never see the North of America the same again” (Patty Zimmerman).

Three 3Dimensional videos by   25’
on Fri, 24 Oct 2003 21:00 at Cinema Nova

La Zamba del Chevy by Rubén Ortiz-Torres 5’56" 2000
3D Video, colour, Spanish spoken, English subtitled, 5’ 56’’, U.S., 2000 The first of the three videos continues the artist’s earlier fascination with the cultural re-coding of cyborgian constructs (Alien Toy, The Garden of Earthly Delights). Filmed partly in Cuba for an exhibition at the Getty Center, La Zamba del Chevy presents us with a new car performance. Featured this time is Che Guevara’s 1960 Bel Air Chevrolet, solo dancer on loan from the Havana Car Museum, and customized with hydraulics (using a double of course) to perform a classic low rider dance in the company of other vintage recycled U.S. cars. The music is a popular Argentinean ‘zamba’, composed by the artist’s father in the sixties in homage to the slain Latin American ‘cum’ world hero. Simulacra upon simulacra, the customized low rider Chevy dances to a new techno version of the original song. World history, art history, the history of material representation, and the artist’s personal history thus become intertwined in what turns out to be a genuinely American paradox: Che’s Chevy as an icon of freedom for two opposite sides of the political spectrum: Cuban Socialism and America Capitalism.

Spastec Aztec Visits the Alamo by Rubén Ortiz-Torres 5’05" 2001
(produced in collaboration with Jimmy Mendiola) 3D Video, colour, Spanglish spoken, 5’ 05’’, U.S./Mexico, 2001 The second video (Bad Ass Pictures), considered by the duo to be “the world’s first Chicano 3-D movie,” was created during the artist’s 2001 Artpace residency in San Antonio, in collaboration with Tejano filmmaker Jim Mendiola (Pretty Vacant, shown earlier in the program). It is a postmodern montage that uses as a background a number of different façades of buildings at the Alamo (site of a two-year frontier war (1835-1836) lost by the Centralist Mexican forces, leading to the foundation of the Independent Republic of Texas, later annexed to the U.S.). The façades include a bank, a film set, a house and the original church. Since the original façade has been altered and reconstructed to the extent that the original church is no longer recognizable, one is left with the futile task of decoding which façade is the more ‘authentic.’ The sound is a collage of different and contradictory versions of the events that make up the history of this mythic site, including the official tour guides at the site and Hollywood movies. With the participation of local performance artist, Spaztec, this ‘3D Spectacle’ both recreates and transforms a convoluted history ‘cum’ myth ‘cum’ spectacle into a multi-dimensional transfrontera film art hybrid.

P2 in 3D by Rubén Ortiz-Torres 14’ 2003
(w. Yoshua Okón & Miguel Calderón)) 3D Video, colour, Spanglish spoken, 14’, U.S., 2003 The last of the three videos could be read as a scatological spoof of car culture anywhere. It is described by Ortiz-Torres as “an experimental documentary of El Pedorrero (The Farter) and its owner-creator Bill Al Capone Mufflers.” Somewhere between a museum, a muffler shop, a potential tourist attraction, a metaphysical joke, or any and all of the above, this Los Angeles muffler shop was converted by its owner into a Temple of sorts: one where all kinds of personal and collective obsessions could be contemplated. With characteristic sense of humour and innovative visual style, P2-3D invites us to take, from a double perspective through our 3D glasses, a joy ride tour of this neo-urban, Ultra Baroque workshop/corporation/museum, purposely located in a non-descript space anywhere in the U.S. or Latin America. Equally obscure are owner and creator Bill’s nationality and cultural background, not to mention his ideas about the science and truth of life, sexual polarity, aesthetics, philanthropy, and the third dimension.

History, Memory, Action: All Things Solid Melt   90’
on Fri, 24 Oct 2003 22:00 at Cinema Nova 

Ov3r104d by Nathan Gibbs 2’30" 2002
Video, colour, English spoken, 2’30’’, U.S., 2002 Ov3r104d reconstructs the saturation of red, white and blue in the cultural and media landscape of the United States post-September 11th. A cry of concern by this up and coming New York media artist and host of The Border Pop Radio Show, Ov3r104d transforms the U.S. flag into a strobe-like blitz of red, white and blue. As the image undergoes progressive generation loss, the original soon becomes unrecognisable. The buzzy, machine-like barrage of sound and noise makes the flag look like a flickering neon advertisement nearing burnout. The title, pronounced “overload,” is an encrypted reference to the figure of the anarchist hacker, in this case a digital flag burner.

Paradox by Leonardo Katz 30’ 2001
Video, colour, English spoken, 30’, US/Guatemala, 2001 Argentinean-born, New York resident, veteran media artist and filmmaker, Leandro Katz, pits here the frenzied process of banana assembly-line production in today’s Guatemala against the quiet monumentality of the country’s ancient Mayan ruins. The doubling of these two radically different modes of cultural and economic production generates a paradox, a suggestive idea or question that goes against the ‘doxa’ or public opinion: Which system does a better job of guaranteeing the value of personal sacrifice for long-term communal survival? With calm rhythm and reflective tone, this outstanding experimental work juxtaposes United Fruit Co. plantation scenes and painstakingly slow long takes of the Mayan stone altar known as The Dragon of Quiriguá. Two narrative lines, one linear the other circular, make up the narrative structure. The linear narrative tracks banana production from the plantation to the packinghouse. The circular one builds upon the constant return to a contemplation of the Dragon punctuated by the song of birds and dull noises from the surrounding jungle. Each turn invites a closer examination of the intricate carvings on this monumental icon. The indirect superposition of women’s hands rinsing bananas in water laced with chemicals with the severed human hands that the camera eventually finds carved on the Dragon’s body, carries this outstanding video’s meditation on the Guatemalan paradox, shared by Latin America as a whole, to its full potential.

The American Egypt / El Egypto americano by Jesse Lerner 57’ 2001
16mm, b/w, English and Spanish spoken, Spanish and English subtitled, 57’, U.S./Mexico, 2001 A rare combination of documentary filmmaker and self-propelled cultural historian and visual anthropologist, Los Angeles based, documentary film and video maker and Fulbright scholar JesseLerner—who also co-directed Fronterilandia (shown earlier in the program)—has been instrumental in helping rewrite the history of Mexican film. This latest instalment of a lifelong dedication to the study of cultural and political relations between Mexico and the U.S. rescues from oblivion a long-forgotten chapter of Mexican history: the establishment, in the Yucatán, of the first Socialist government in the continent in 1915, which ended with the assassination of Governor Salvador Alvarado in 1924. Lerner’s acute analytical palette pieces together various fragments constitutive of this (anachronically utopian) historical moment, most notably, the development and collapse of the ‘henequen’ industry in the Yucatán—sisal fiber employed in the manufacture of twine in both Canada and the U.S.; the consequences of this boom and bust

This event is part of argosfestival 2003

Ruben Ortiz-Torres, 2000  
  • Sat 18.10.2003 - Fri 24.10.2003
  • Practical info

    Cinéma Nova
    Arenbergstraat 3
    1000 Brussels