Everything You Always Wanted to Know About the Gimli Film Fest 2019

PART 3 | Cinema Outside the Box & More!

by Festival Director Aaron Zeghers

In Part 1 we discussed some of the incredible guests coming to GFF 2019, and in Part 2 we previewed what I think is perhaps the most truly International Gimli Film Festival lineup to date!  And it part 3 we are going to leave the theatres behind and talk about some of our very special events at this year’s Festival, including our 2019 special focus – Cinema Outside the Box!


What the heck is “Cinema Outside the Box?

Cinema Outside the Box (COTB) is GFF’s special effort in 2019 to bring the cinematic arts out of the traditional black box movie theatre, and present it in new and interactive ways in and around the Festival area!  Stop by various local businesses to find our COTB video installations by local and Canadian filmmakers.  Follow this interactive map to find them all!!

You’ll also find a variety of virtual reality experiences around the Festival.  New Media Manitoba will be presenting virtual reality experiences from the National Film Board of Canada at various locations, including as part of RBC’s Beach Boardwalk on Friday evening from 7:30pm – 9:30pm!  Don’t miss your chance to experience these immersive and impactful VR works by Canada’s leader in VR, the NFB!

And the keystone project for GFF’s Cinema Outside the Box series is a presentation of expanded cinema performances from around the world, taking place Saturday Night from 9pm – Midnight.  The Cinema Outside the Box Performances feature audio-visual performances by artists from Mexico, the United Kingdom, Saskatoon and from right here in Winnipeg.

To Boldly Go… Outside the Box

Cinema – like all art forms – is ever-evolving, ever-changing.  I like to think of cinema as a language that develops and goes in a multitude of different directions over time.  When The Great Train Robbery was released in 1903, people had little-to-no experience with the language of cinema.  And as a result, the penultimate scene from the film where the leader of the bandits shoots his pistol directly at the camera was an absolute shock to most viewers at the time!  Many reacted almost as if they were nearly shot – in some cases they ran out of the picture house entirely!

Since then cinema has developed and took on different forms and styles.  As you look across the years you can see how trends in cinema come to reflect the times, the status quo, the topics of the day.  Like many art forms, you see different movements and trends develop as the language of cinema evolves and enters new territory.  And I believe that it’s the job of any critical film festival to boldly venture into these new, uncharted territories – and to bring audiences with them!

One of the easiest examples of new cinematic territory in our present age is of course Virtual Reality. But like many things considered cutting-edge, the river runs deep.  While many examples of “virtual reality” can date back as far as the 1800s, virtual reality as we can understand it most notably started with The Sensorama (seen left) – an interactive personal viewing experience, devised by Morton Heilig in 1957.  A viewer would insert their head in an enclosed booth where they would witness stereoscopic images.  The experience was enhanced by a device that emitted scents, oscillating fans and audio.

The mainstream film industry would also get on board, attempting to create irreplicable immersive experiences that would keep audiences shelling out the cash even after the introduction of the television.  Everything from IMAX mega-sized screens, to 3D to Smell-o-Vision were attempts to create more immersive experiences.  But none of these efforts come close to the real-life virtual reality portrayed on the Starship Enterprise’s hairwired Holodeck.  And it is this ghost that the modern virtual reality producers are still chasing to this day.  How to create a truly immersive VR experience is an incredible task, especially if you are also trying to engage in story-telling.  But if anyone knows how to do this, it’s the NFB Interactive – and so we are so excited to feature their work at GFF 2019, with the help of New Media Manitoba.

Can You Expand On That?

Similar to VR, “Expanded Cinema” is something we have been seeing more and more at Film Festivals around the world – but in truth it’s a practice that has existed for perhaps millennia. It’s a bit of a clouded and vague term, but in my opinion “Expanded Cinema” in a contemporary context simply means a live performance composed with the fundamental building blocks of cinema: projected light and sound. This definition is vague enough that it’s nearly certain that some prehistoric being – banging rocks together and to match fire light dancing on a cave wall – was the original “expanded cinema” performer.  And these same simple elements of light and sound are the field of reference for which we have curated our Saturday Night Cinema Outside the Box Performances at this year’s Gimli Film Festival.

The term Expanded Cinema was first coined by Gene Youngblood in 1970 in his seminal book of the same name.  Youngblood – much like the well-known University of Manitoba graduate Marshall McLuhan – was fascinated by the emergence of many digital medias of the time and their sociological effects.  In Expanded Cinema, Youngblood looks at a variety of cutting edge new medias, including computer art, video art, multi-media environments and holography. His work would be fundamental in establishing the now ubiquitos field of “media arts” and his spirit of inquiry is very much in the vein of the spirit of GFF’s special Cinema Outside the Box project.

Of course since then the language of cinema – and the sub-dialect of “expanded cinema” – has changed greatly.  And in Gimli on Saturday, July 27th the conversation will continue with a smattering of incredibly talented expanded cinema performers from across North America and the United Kingdom.  Two of the performers – Bea Haut (UK) & Jael Jacobo will be using 16mm projectors and 16mm film as their primary source of image creation, and a third will be using digital overhead projectors modified by using a variety of physical objects.  The fourth – local analog video superstar Colby Richardson – will be manipulating PowerPoint to create not just images but also sounds, displayed via three digital projectors and heard via three distinct speakers.

Jael Jacobo and Ezequiel Guido (Mexico) compliment each other with Jael making the images and Ezequiel creating the sound.  Their performance Glyph is a frenetic dual-projection that covers the evolution of pre-Hispanic symbols in Mexico, and the beautifully hand-drawn images are contrasted beautifully by the flickering projection of image confused with afterimage.

Bea Haut (UK) will be performing for Cinema Outside the Box, but she is also screening a collection of her short films at the Festival – Gimli Film Festival’s first ever all-16mm shorts screening! Her COTB performance Pending calls on the audience to help her feed 100 feet of 16mm film through a projector.  In her own words, it’s a piece that “conjoins the audience, the artist and the subject in an act of duration and suspension.”

Chad Munson & Lindsey Rewuski (Saskatoon) will be performing their ongoing collaboration Surface Tension.  Munson’s audio compositions straddle between organic and synthetic sound, while Rewuski plays with a variety of physical objects, organic materials, chemicals and textiles to manipulate light in one moment that seems tender and delicate, and the next which seems vicious.

All of this may not bring about a new human consciousness as Gene Youngblood so presumptuously anticipated in Expanded Cinema (1970), but it will certainly be a fun and dazzling experience and one that might just leave you feeling a little inspired about the state of the cinematic arts!


COTB Saturday Night Performance Lineup:

*doors at 9PM, performances starting at 9:30PM*
Sat, July 27 | Johnson Hall (5th Floor, 94 1st Ave)

1. Composition for PowerPoint by Colby Richardson

2019 | 20min | Video | Winnipeg, CA
Composition for Powerpoint is a 3-channel expanded cinema performance which uses Microsoft PowerPoint to animate both light and sound. At times playful, at times self-referencing, and at times brutally structuralist, Richardson aims to re-examine the familiar motifs of a PowerPoint presentation as a catalyst for new experimental animation.

2. Pending by Bea Haut

2018 | 10min | 16mm | United Kingdom
This 100ft length of film is formed by the audience into a ‘living loop’, before being taken up and played out by the projector. Thus creating a sympathetic film which conjoins the audience, the artist and the subject in an act of duration and suspension.

 

3. Glyph by Jael Jacobo and Ezequiel Guido

2018 | 25min | 2 x 16mm w/ live sound | Mexico
Glyph is a expanded cinema project by Jael Jacobo and Ezequiel Guido, about the evolution of pre-Hispanic symbols in Mexico, specifically, petroglyphs found in the areas of Jalisco, Chiapas, Guerrero and Michoacán, which were drawn, animated and filmed on 16mm film.

 

4. Surface Tension by Chad Munson & Lindsey Rewuski

2017 | 30min | projections & live sound | Saskatoon, CA
This exercise in deep listening is augmented by Lindsey Rewuski’s reactive live visual performance that incorporates liquids, organic materials, chemicals, textiles and other found objects. Surface Tension is a visceral, submersive, and intimate performance, that Munson and Rewuski have been refining since 2017.