Photo: Sybille Bauer
Welcome to an exciting world of innovative film-making from Austria. This platform presents a broad selection of singular works produced in the past year with the financial support of the Federal Ministry for Arts, Culture, the Civil Service and Sport as well as detailed information about completed films,
works-in-progress, award-winners, scholarships, festivals and the Ministry’s funding schemes for productions supported in 2020. May this multi-faceted online sourcebook serve as an ambassador for innovative film-making across national borders, in both analog and digital forms. Enjoy!
One might think that it takes the effects of a pandemic to see with all clarity how indispensable the arts and culture are for our society. The performing and visual arts – including film as an artistic medium – are an integral part of our lives. The projects, events and institutions associated with these art forms also represent an important economic factor. Recent months have clearly shown how rapidly and easily our everyday life – both work and leisure – can be derailed, and our customary social fabric thrown off balance when arts and cultural events cannot be attended and experienced collectively.
The fact that filmmakers have reacted to the Covid-related restrictions in their own way is encouraging – and at the same time not surprising. For film and video artists, it is a daily practice and challenge to enter terra incognita in terms of both content and form. They take on changed perspectives, sense the unex pected and integrate things that are irritating and sometimes disturbing into their artistic work. Their approach and their works of art invite us to rediscover our everyday lives. Film and video create images that may never have been seen before. They are capable of rearranging the familiar in order to provide new insights or tell new stories, provoking a possible change of perspective. The resulting, specific artistic strategies and approaches to that which is not expected offer the audience a wide range of opportunities to research, rethink and reassess our changed living and working conditions. Film and video can provide orientation in a time of increasing digitization of our society, a process that has only gained momentum due to the pandemic.
For many years, innovative Austrian films have been very successful worldwide with their incomparable visual signature. This is a fact that makes me extremely proud.
With this in mind, this Innovative Film catalog introduces the audience to a broad selection of new works created in the past year with the support of the Federal Ministry for Arts, Culture, the Civil Service and Sport.
The 15th edition of the catalog serves as an ambassador for innovative film-making across national borders in both analog and digital forms, actively contributing to its international visibility and dissemination.
I wish you an informative and inspiring read and many extraordinary terra incognita adventures at the cinema – the undisputed linchpin of film art.
With best wishes
Secretary of State for Arts and Culture in the Federal Ministry
for Arts, Culture, Civil Service and Sport
English translation by Eve Heller
Photo: Josephine Ahnelt
From the perspective of an artist, the entire history of art is, to a significant extent, a history of the organized support of the arts. From the perspective of the consumer of art, the entire history of art is, to a significant extent, a history of wonder. This wonder is of a kind only art can provide – it cannot be found, for example, in religion, food or sex. Innovative Film Austria stands at the threshold of an ancient cultural tradition: It generously caters both to the adventurous artist hungering to experiment with audiovisual media, as well as the adventurous viewer, hungry for wonder of a kind s/he hasn’t experienced before.
After he had relocated from Rome to Milan in 384, Saint Augustine encountered Bishop Ambrose, a wise man responsible for Augustine’s eventual embrace of Christianity. In Confessions, Augustine remembers observing a peculiarly wondrous trait displayed by his beloved and respected mentor:
“I could not ask him questions I wished to ask, in the manner I wished to ask them, because so many people kept him busy with their problems that I was prevented from talking to him face to face. When he was not with them, which was never a very long time, he was reviving his body with the food it required or refreshing his mind with reading. When he read, his eyes scanned the page and his heart explored the meaning, but his voice was silent and his tongue was still. All could approach him freely and it was not unusual for visitors to be announced. So often, when we came to see him, we found him reading like this in silence – as he never read aloud. We would sit there quietly, for no one had the heart to disturb him when he was so engrossed in study. After a time we went away again, guessing that in the short while he was free from the turmoil of other men’s affairs and able to refresh his own mind, he would not wish to be distracted.”
Augustine met Ambrose well over 1,000 years before the European invention of printing technology, in 1450 AC. Despite the fact that children today continue to learn to read by reading aloud, it is still easy to forget – or, better yet, hard to imagine – that an act as simple as reading in silence wasn’t always as “natural” as we perceive it to be today. Back when books were a rare commodity and the ability to read a rare privilege, most people equated the technology of reading with vocalizing. Ambrose reading with a “silent voice” and “still tongue” was a source of profound wonder – even for an intellectual like Augustine who was already a teacher himself back when he first met Ambrose.
Roughly 1,500 years after Augustine’s encounter, Chris Marker stirringly portrayed Soviet master filmmaker Aleksandr Medvedkin in The Last Bolshevik and reported how the young Medvedkin joyously cried upon first discovering how placing two images together could produce a third meaning.
Medvedkin shed his tears of wonder at approximately the same moment in history when people all over the world started escaping into the darkness of movie palaces en masse – millions cried in front of the silver screen and continue to do so to this day. Perhaps the technology of exhibiting moving images on big public screens never really drove any Parisians to leave the theater in fear of being run over by the train arriving at La Ciotat station (by now cinema’s “founding myth” has been entirely debunked). But the cinema did serve and still serves as a constant source of wonder – a source of tears and laughter. Hours spent in the darkness of a movie theater are hours of wonder, while occasionally punctured by an interval of tedium.
Thanks to Jean-Luc Godard’s iconic close-up of Anna Karina, and Abbas Kiarostami’s close-up of Juliette Binoche, it is easy to picture the face of
a viewer glistening with tears in the darkened movie theater, illuminated only by the soft light reflecting off the silver screen. Now imagine the same face perusing moving images outside the sanctuary of cinema – in front of YouTube. Instead of a shadowy and sublime image of stillness and wonder, it is easy to picture the harshly lit face of someone picking their nose, masturbating, or nervously skipping through hundreds of streams: hours of tedium, occasionally punctured by an interval of wonder.
“Anyone who has wasted hours surfing the Internet knows that technology can encourage bad habits,” Ted Chiang laconically remarked in his 2013 story The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling. But on the same page, he conceded that the true benefits of (any) new technologies have yet to be discovered. We can be certain of one thing: Having experienced two different technological standards only seems to provide an ideal perspective for evaluation and comparison. It doesn’t. I am not an authority on the subject compared to someone born into the age of new technological standards simply because I experienced the widespread migration from analog to digital cinema and the subsequent widespread migration from cinema viewing to home streaming.
The true benefits of new technologies will only be discovered by generations that are unbiased and less judgmental, namely people who are perhaps already completely – and inevitably – transformed by these same new technologies.
We are standing at the edge of a precipice shifting before our very eyes, accelerated both by predictable factors such as commercial interests, as well as seemingly unpredictable events, such as viral pandemics. There is only one thing that remains certain: Whatever transformation or wonder lies beyond our horizon, it only can and hopefully will be facilitated by the persistence of progressive forces, such as Innovative Film.
Jurij Meden (b. 1977) is a Slovenian film scholar, writer, programmer and award-winning experimental filmmaker currently working as curator and head of the film program at the Austrian Film Museum in Vienna, while also serving as co-director of the Nitrate Picture Show and editor-in-chief of KINO! (www.e-kino.si). Meden previously worked as a curator at the George Eastman House and the Slovenian Cinematheque, and as adjunct professor of experimental film and video art at University of Nova Gorica School of Arts Department. In addition to his curatorial and filmmaking activities, Meden has written and co-written more than 250 publications on cinema.
Revised in English by Eve Heller
Published by Federal Ministry for Arts, Culture, the Civil Service and Sport, Division Arts and Culture, 2021, Vienna, Austria