Yearly Archives: 2010

Kenk

Filmed footage of bicycle thief and Slovenian immigrant Igor Kenk is transformed into a remarkable interactive, black-and-white comic book over documentary audio footage.

Slovenian immigrant Igor Kenk was filmed in and around his second-hand bicycle shop in Toronto – until his arrest for bike theft. The footage forms the raw material for a remarkable black-and-white comic book, or “graphic portrait,” as the Canadian filmmakers call it.

Photographic material was first passed through a copy machine and then graphically altered with scratches, marks and dark black lines around the figures. The comic book’s narrative style is also inspired by documentary cinema in that it uses voice-overs, archive material, flashbacks and “flash-forwards,” and also switches between wide shots and atmospheric close-ups. The comic book is the basis for a planned extended animation documentary. Meanwhile, “the world’s most prolific bicycle thief,” as the New York Times called him, is given plenty of opportunity to express – in his inimitable English – his vision of the world in general and modern consumerism in particular.

Kenk is a compulsive collector of scrap, which he uses to refurbish his old bicycles – it’s not his fault if they’re sometimes stolen. And if he bawls at people or kicks them, it’s for their own good. He simply cannot accept consumer society, even if his livelihood does depend on it – along with his wife, a successful pianist.

KENK – Teaser from Craig Small on Vimeo.

California is a Place

An expanding series of brief impressions of sometimes intriguing, sometimes alarming and always compelling stories the Golden State.

California Is a Place offers a look at California as part of an expanding series of brief impressions of people and places in the state. The subtitle of the project is Tales from the Golden State, and indeed, everything is bathed in golden light in the films and photo series by makers Drea Cooper and Zackary Canepari. The stories themselves are less sunny, however.

Borderland shows how the endless war against drug smugglers along the U.S.-Mexican border has a disheartening effect on the locals. The “original scraper bike team” in Scrapertown seeks to flee the back streets of Oakland by means of decorated BMX bikes. And in Cannonball, a group of skaters has some illegal fun in the empty swimming pools of houses left unsold thanks to the recession. Elsewhere, Cooper and Canepari pick out the eccentric, artistic souls attracted to the state. Such as Matt McMullen, maker of expensive “real dolls”: sex dolls so realistic they are almost undistinguishable from the real thing. Or the unemployed car salesman Big Vinny, whose nickname comes from a starring role in a pizza ad.

The short, poetic, smoothly edited films allow the people of California to speak for themselves, while an intuitive flow of images illustrates their words. Brightly colored photo series show the same topics, often in a slightly different light. For IDFA DocLab, the project will be screened live as part of A Showcase by Zach Wise (NYTimes.com).

HIGHRISE/Out My Window

Kickoff to the extensive documentary project Highrise, which delves behind the myriad high-rise apartment windows that tower into the urban skylines of the world.

Concrete gray apartment buildings have been the most common form of housing for the past half-century. You can find them all over the world, and they all look exactly the same. But in Out My Window, the kickoff to the extensive documentary project Highrise, a plethora of variety is lurking behind all those identical windows.

On the main screen, you see a collage-like apartment building. You can click on each of the 13 windows. Behind them, 13 apartments in 13 different cities around the world are lurking: Chicago, Toronto, Montreal, Havana, São Paolo, Amsterdam, Prague, Istanbul, Beirut, Bangalore, Phnom Penh, Tainan, and Johannesburg. There are collages to be found here as well: a 360-degree view of the apartment’s interior, including its residents and their view of the city, composed of separate photos. The stories of their lives can be navigated by means of various clickable objects. Occasionally they are represented in still images with sound, at other times with real 360-degree films in which viewers can move about at their own discretion. These films were made with the special YellowBird camera, presented at IDFA’s DocLab last year.

Out My Window is a direct continuation of “Filmmaker in Residence” Katerina Cizek’s way of filming in the St. Michael Hospital in Toronto (of which the result was on display at DocLab last year): aimed at media production from the angle of the community and explicitly dedicated to social change.

For IDFA DocLab, HIGHRISE/Out My Window was screened live as part of 3 Stories of Time & Place.

Welcome to Pine Point

A multimedia portrait of the disappeared Canadian mining settlement of Pine Point by one of its former residents.

The town was built in the 1960s, but closed down with the mine when the stocks of zinc and lead ore ran out in the late 1980s: literally torn down and wiped off the map. It existed exactly long enough for one generation to live there. The documentary made by Michael Simons, who grew up in the vicinity of Pine Point, and Paul Shoebridge about this former town revolves around memories and the objects that keep these alive.

Archetypal ways of dealing with your own past are examined through the cases of four former inhabitants. Kimberley Feodoroff, alias Kim Kastle, was the “beauty” who was always destined to leave the town, while brothers Lyle and Wayne Hryniuk were doomed to work down in the mine. Then there’s former bully Richard Cloutier, who turned out to be the custodian of the town’s collective memory. The makers tell their story in text – the project started out as an idea for a book – with a collage of material from and about Pine Point in the background: photos and home movies made by residents, newspaper clippings, excerpts from diaries, and yearbooks from the high school.

For IDFA DocLab, filmmakers Michael Simons and Paul Shoebridge created a live version of Welcome to Pine Point as part of 3 Stories of Time & Place.

The Test Tube with David Suzuki

A playful look at global overpopulation and food shortages, inviting visitors to share what they would do if they had one minute to spare.

A small project from the National Film Board of Canada, one of the most successful and progressive organizations operating in the world of digital documentary filmmaking. Lasting just a few minutes, The Test Tube with David Suzuki takes a playful look at global overpopulation and food shortages. The visitor is “placed” in a test tube as a bacterium.

It starts with a simple question: “We know you’re busy, but if you could find an extra minute right now, what would you do?”

Those who answer are addressed by the Canadian scientist and environmental activist David Suzuki. Since 1971, Suzuki has been dedicating himself to combating the consequences of climate change – in both his scientific work and his activities as a radio and television personality. While Suzuki explains his analogy of a test tube slowly filling with bacteria for our increasingly overpopulated planet, we see the screen gradually fill with digital bacteria. Clicking on individual bacteria reveals messages on Twitter from other people who answered the initial question. It turns out we are not as unique as we might like to think.

For IDFA DocLab, Test Tube was screened live as part of 3 Stories of Time & Place.