13 December 2010

Week in Lisbon

13 decembre, 2010

I’ve been back from Lisbon for a day now- time enough to gain some perspective on the past, rather unsettling week of travel, change of climate, and being “on assignment” again after three months of relative independence and free time to create. The 2nd InShadow International Festival of Video, Performance & Technologies invited me to serve as President of the Jury for this year’s screendance competition and also give a lecture and run a daylong workshop.  I had attended their inaugural season last November and written of it for Ballet Review. So I had a fair idea of what to expect. I was not prepared for the allergic reaction to the climate (and pollution?) that hit me the moment I got off the plane. I spent the remaining week drained of my usual dancer’s spunk, with my head feeling like it was wrapped in steel wool and stuffed with soggy cotton. So perhaps that got the best of my wits and ability to sustain my patience; I had forgotten that the festival runs a half-hour late on all of its posted activities, and that the directors are understaffed and burdened with the antiquated theater bureaucracy of the otherwise splendid Theatro São Luiz.

I’m thrilled to report that the Festival put me up in a 5-star hotel around the corner, with a bathtub fit for royalty and a terrific mattress. And yes, the lecture and workshop went off very well. I should not have volunteered to edit a sampler of studies by the participants for the closing night’s workshop showing, however. I managed to patch together and complete something on my borrowed laptop (Final Cut Pro in French with French keyboard, PAL instead of NTSC, frantic search for firewire adaptor for camera to computer connection) just a few hours before the presentation. And when I arrived at the theater to set up for both workshop presentation and presentation of jury awards, the theatre management staff would not let me in the doors due to technical delays in the theatre! I felt like a Bette Davis impersonator in a bad backstage drama, storming back indignantly to the hotel to await my summons from the festival when they had their shit together. A bad ending for many hours of careful scrutiny of 40 videos from all over the world.  I include the jury’s summary of the finalists below, with thanks to Paula Varanda, one of the jurors.

InShadow Official Jury: Miguel Clara Vasconcelos, Peter Sparling, Paula Varanda

Best film: Derrière Elle 

Realização / Director – collective (belgium/france); Ishrann Silgidjian, Natália Sardi, Laida Aldaz, Thomas Turine

Derrière Elle reveals an intelligent and very creative use of modest resources and simple ideas.  In this film the animate and the inanimate (represented by body and objects, or movement and space) combine and shift properties, defying gravity and volition. What is alive becomes dead and vice-versa within the unfolding of a subversive narrative that keeps the viewer interested all the way through. Camera movements, odd shots and close ups are appropriately sequenced to create an atmosphere of mystery and suspense further enhanced by dark ambiences and natural sounds. Achieving an original and successful combination between filmic and choreographic languages, the work scores well in all the video categories enunciated for this competition: dance, art, and experimental.

Best male performer: Ashley Chen – in Admit One, (by Steve woods) / Ireland
Energy, precision, youthness, combination of street  dance and contemporary dance language, perfect guide throughout the film

Best female performer: Maria Muñoz – in Wrists (Margareth Williams) /Spain/UK
Perfect body and performance to deliver the poetic atmosphere of solitude and reflection that characterizes the film.

Winner’s Circle: 
Despite having to make a one shot choice, we were also impressed by the quality of many other films. We therefore thought it was important to share with you the list of nominees that participated in our final discussion to decide the winner. Congratulations to their directors.

Perfectly scripted, flawless editing, clear intention and intelligent humor

Good mix of documentary, choreography and fiction giving balletic quality to a game while showing the fading life and culture it speaks for.

Technically mastered, very well danced and unexpectedly philosophical: can the screen trap dance?  

Amazing navigation through various natural locations creating a beautiful path that portrays the genuine power of its protagonist

A complete and sensual dance wonderfully synchronized with the musical score

Apart from the actual festival, John and I had a few good days on the tourist trail. We enjoyed visiting the world-class aquarium and Expo complex, Sintra's extraordinary castles and ruins, and the lovely beachfront town of Cascais, home of my dear friend from my London days, Ruth Silk. A video of a little dance in the ruins of an 11th century chapel in the moorish Castle at Sintra is on its way.