REVIEWS

Kachō Fūgetsu [Nobumichi Asai, Japan, 2016]

The term ‘Kachō Fūgetsu’ can be literally translated to “flower, bird, wind, moon”. A popular idiom in Japanese culture, taken in its more philosophical sense it means, “Experience the beauties of nature and, in doing so, learn about oneself.” Nobumichi Asai’s Kachō Fūgetsu is very much a continuation from his experiments with face-mapping technology used in Connected Colours (Japan, 2017) and developed later in Prayer (Japan, 2017) and We Pray All Nukes Will Eternally Disappear from the World (Japan, 2017). In all of those films, Asai uses this ground-breaking technology to convey some message of passive protest. Here, the message is more reverential, conveying the inherent beauty of nature

Connected Colours [Nobumichi Asai, Japan, 2016]

Connected Colours is one of Nobumichi Asai’s earliest ventures in the world of face mapping technology and in this way feels more like a rehearsal than a cohesive narrative piece. The film, as the title suggests, is all about colours existing in symbiotic harmony throughout all walks of life, and Asai relates this back to the intolerance that humankind as a species experiences through its modern constructions. Here, Asai wishes to promote racial harmony and in his own words “wishes that people [would] acknowledge differences between cultures, races and religions as diversity rather than division”. The concept is a noble one, but without ample explanation the message is lost behind the otherw

Connected Flower [Nobumichi Asai, Japan, 2017]

Nobumichi Asai’s Connected Flower is for more optimistic in outlook in comparison to his two films in the Inori series (see previous articles). This film has a very global approach, this time using technology to visually quantify messages of love. Asai takes twitter messages that contain loving sentiments, with each tweet represent by a single particle of light that appears on its corresponding place on a virtual globe. A robotic flower sits atop this globe with each unit of light/love acting as a kind of nutrient that will cause the flower to bloom. It is a nice idea, although it isn’t entirely clear if this experiment ever took place or if the video is more of commercial pitch (a Honda log

We Pray All Nukes Will Eternally Disappear from the World [Nobumichi Asai, Japan, 2017]

Another sensitive and challenging short film from Nobumichi Asai, We Pray All Nukes Will Eternally Disappear from the World is also inspired by the events following Japan’s national disaster in 2011. Significantly, the film was first released online on August 6 at 8:15 am, the same date and time that the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. In this way the film acts as a conceptual protest against the manufacturing of nuclear energy, using face mapping projections to demonstrate the massive destruction to our environment that nuclear energy is causing. In this film, Asai presents us with a “radioactive visualizer”, a device that detects radioactivity in space using a Geiger counter,

SHORT FOCUS 2018: Inori (Prayer) [Nobumichi Asai, Japan, 2017]

The 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami is the inspiration behind this technically mind-blowing and visually powerful short performance film. Inori utilises state of the art face mapping and projection technology to explore the harrowing effects of the colossal natural disaster from which Japan has yet to fully recover. The video starts with two faces in blank expression as (projected) black tears begin to run from their eyes. The stuttered repetition of the electronic score matches perfectly the movement of the light caressing the two women’s faces as they both gently wriggle their fingers and hands upwards, perhaps symbolising the suddenly toxic contamination of the atmosphere within which t

To the Ends of the Fingertips [Roswitha Chesher, UK, 2016]

What does freedom really mean? If one were to be truly free, how would the time be spent? Indeed, can we ever truly be free? These are the questions that many great minds before us have pondered, and will continue to plague mankind for the rest of time. In Roswitha Chesher’s surreal dance film, we are given pause to contemplate this. There is of course no easy solution to the burning philosophical conundrums that have tormented even the most gifted thinkers for millennia, and so here these ideas are posed through physically abstracted representations. The two performers – Sophie Arstall and Elizabeth Barker of Average Height Ladies – concoct a frenzied and jittery routine that cleverly depic

SHORT FOCUS 2018 – JURY PRIZE: XCTRY [Bill Brown, USA, 2018]

Bill Brown’s paean to the romance of the road is a wonderfully constructed visual journal and an artful document that elegantly captures a true sense of restlessness and loneliness. Shot on 16mm film, XCTRY is mostly presented as a moving triptych, with each separate image flickering between shots of expansive Midwestern vistas, neon hotel signs, storefronts and bridge crossings. Accompanied with subtitled journalistic musings and overdubbed radio broadcasts, the film works as a poetic experiment, as much an exploration of the self as of the rich and rugged American landscape. Except for one moment in this 6-minute short, the images are seen from the perspective of the protagonist, as we pee

Number 13 [Jonell Rowe, UK, 2017]

We’ve all been there before: stuck in a seemingly never-ending supermarket queue that dwindles only at the mercy of the dead-eyed, grumpy teenager who, in a heartbeat, would trade the repetitive swipe-scan-bleep of groceries for the equally thankless act of swiping their thumbs across the glass of a smartphone, lost in its magnetic gleam of backlit ones and zeroes. Just as you get towards the front of the crawling queue, the scanner breaks down, or the cashier is scheduled for their break, or they endlessly struggle to find the barcode for a loose bunch of onions, or (insert any number of other frequently experienced inconveniences here)… Number 13 starts out drily observing the relatable pe

Westbrook [Alexander Kaluzhsky, USA, 2017]

Westbrook is a semi-autobiographical and experimental short film that quietly explores the fractured elements of the filmmaker’s own family history and memory, with the film’s protagonist (played by Alexander himself) attempting to reconcile the erosive relationship between himself and his parents. Shot mostly in black and white, Kaluzhsky applies a neat touch by interspersing the scenes in the present with colour footage shot from scattered moments of his childhood, subverting cinematic conventions of temporal representation. After spending some time in his father’s bathroom freshening up, he wanders into the living room and flicks through family photos. Greeted by his father who still refe

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