“Long live the cinema! answers the call of Tabakalera, International Center for Contemporary Culture, at this year’s San Sebastián International Film Festival (SSIFF).
The Centre’s exhibition hall hosts four film installations by leading global filmmakers, a project that sees them transform their usual filmmaking practice into a more expansive and experimental gallery space.
The exhibition at Tabakalera is a continuation of the series that began last year at the Eye Filmmuseum in Amsterdam in collaboration with the Rotterdam International Film Festival. Two works from the 2021 exhibition by Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese and Jia Zhang-ke will once again be exhibited in San Sebastian, alongside two new productions by Georgian filmmaker Dea Kulumbegashvili (“Beginning”) and Spanish director Isaki Lacuesta (“ One Year, One Night”).
“Our main mission is to promote artistic production and act as a platform to connect a wide audience to the arts of our time”, explains the cultural director of Tabakalera, Clara Montero.
“For Vive le Cinéma, we offered filmmakers a space for experimentation and invited them to go beyond the boundaries of the cinema screen and play differently with space, time and interactions with the public.
For the arts center, Montero adds that “supporting artists and giving a wide audience the opportunity to access contemporary creation and to see how artists deal with crucial issues, is essential for us and representative of the objectives of Tabakalera. throughout the year”.
Lemohang JeremiahMosese: ‘Corps of Negroes. I will carve God, sinister and benevolent’
For Mosese, working with installation and adapting his practice to the medium was not a new challenge. Video installation is always in the background of his directorial mind and much of his previous work has been adapted to both theater spaces and galleries. “Sometimes when I shoot certain film sequences, I know they’re going to end up like an installation so I make them very long. I’m always in between, my work can exist in both spaces I think.
In his play “Corps de nègres. I Will Sculpture God, Grim and Benevolent”, a seven-channel installation that follows a series of works presented in 2021 at the Humboldt Forum in Berlin, Mosese explores an “African consciousness, or what we call both in Sesotho. Nietzsche has his ubermensch, the ultimate man, and for me both is the ultimate human being, or state of being, which is devoid of suffering. The work depicts the ritual cleansing of a dying mother by her daughters through which, says Mosese, “I sew the skins of mothers and fathers into the skins of sons and daughters. My main focus and my main interest is the imagery of this ultimate human, this spirit of African consciousness.
Isaki Lacuesta: ‘Prohibimos en España’
Lacuesta, likewise, has worked with the medium several times. His practice of installation dates back to 2003 and has cohabited comfortably with his filmmaking. His Tabakalera article, “Prohibimos en España”, confronts a climate of censorship in Spain where he says “for five years, we all have the feeling that there are more and more cases of censorship and attacks on the freedom of expression.” He adds: “Spain’s most important newspapers are very angry with censorship in Iran, for example, but they forget that people here are in prison for speaking out against the king.”
Lacuesta’s installation takes the form of a mirrored cube in which specially developed sensors track viewers’ eye movements and hide images of banned books, movies, plays, songs and even tweets from view. The only way to see the images is through a mirror or phone camera lens, to “fight the machine” as Lacuesta explains. It’s an innovative concept that offers a powerful and immersive look at what it means to demand the right to be seen. Elsewhere at the festival, Lacuesta presents in the official selection “Offworld”, a Movistar Plus + series that he co-wrote and co-directed, as well as his latest feature film “Un an, une nuit” in the Perlak section and a piece of accompanying installation also on display at Tabakalera.
Dea Kulumbegashvili: “Captives”
The idea for Kulumbegashvili’s Captives installation came to the filmmaker before Tabakalera offered her a commission. “It was a very big coincidence in a way because I was already looking for a place to present the work and of course I have a very special relationship with San Sebastián and I thought it would be perfectly logical that this facility starts its life there,” she says. Curious about the form for some time, Kulumbegashvili adds that she was “challenging the limits of cinema” and looking for a way to make “a viewer physically part of the work”. “I wanted the viewer to question their own physical existence,” she continues, “to eliminate all intellectual notions of our existence and our being and really ask themselves how strongly we feel our physical presence at any given moment? »
Sound plays an essential role in “Captives” which explores the mutual relationship between watching and being watched. A creature appears on a curved screen, seated in a domestic space, while the viewer observes and contributes to the environment by creating heightened sounds through floor sensors. As with Lacuesta’s work, the project alludes to surveillance and the question of “who gives us permission to watch someone,” says Kulumbegashvili. It was an exciting chance to break into new territory for the filmmaker who relished the opportunity to “think about a physical space and how your work is experienced, to really work with something material”, a luxury that, according to her, lack of cinematographic activities.
Jia Zhang-ke: “Close Up”
Also working on the themes of surveillance and observation, world-renowned Chinese filmmaker Jia Zhang-ke presents “Close-Up”, a five-channel play that observes a man standing at a road junction via four CCTV cameras. and a fifth camera, that of the director. “I had the experience of walking into a control room once and was amazed at the world seen by multi-screen monitors,” says Jia. “In China, where the streets are heavily guarded, surveillance cameras are creating a new state of images. How do they relate to movies? In these new atmospheres of imagery, what is the singularity of the film?
“For this work, the meaning of ‘Close-Up’ must be realized through multiple screens. The work requires multi-angle surveillance photography, which provides the visual environment where the close-up dwells,” he adds. While eye-in-the-sky images privilege scale over detail, Jia’s own camera sits in the man alone and invites us to ask ourselves what we are paying attention to in an image and why. The director guides the audience to a focal point that is otherwise lost in a sea of footage in order to dismiss the idea that individuals are ‘negligible’.
Overview: San Sebastian’s booming cultural axis
SSIFF director José Luis Rebordinos commented on the exhibition as “a new collaboration with Tabakalera that goes beyond the dates of the festival itself and is linked to the intention of the festival to be not only an event of 9 days, but a festival all year round.It also means broadening our traditional audiovisual framework by emphasizing works by very interesting filmmakers who have a link with the field of installations.
“It brought together four filmmakers who we admire doing work that was outside of traditional theater,” Rebordinos added. “Jia Zhang-ke is one of the most important and established directors in the world. Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese represents the hope of quality African cinema that transcends his continent. Isaki Lacuesta has twice won the San Sebastian Gold Shell and is one of the Spanish directors whose work we follow with interest. Finally, Dea Kulumbegashvili, won the Golden Shell in 2020 with her first feature film “Beginning” and we hope to support the future of European cinema”, he concluded.