Reviewed by Marc Glassman
Images Festival 2010
Runs April 1-10
Featuring: films, art installations, dance, performances, music and readings
Venues range from the Bloor Cinema to Workman Arts to OCAD to Innis Town Hall to York University
OK! Conflict acknowledgment: I am one of the founders of the Images Festival and am still on their advisory board. It says volumes about Toronto’s oldest avant-garde media festival, though, that they never call an advisory board meeting and my only financial interest in it is the money “well spent” that I contributed to Images as it grew over the years.
When the festival was initiated 23 years ago, the concept was to bring media arts together by showing film and video on the same screening programme, using a combination of projectors. Images has come a long way, baby.
The festival now features music, dance, performance art, lots of gallery displays, readings, lectures and, of course, video and film. The most popular component of Images is its Off Screen Installations, which currently number 19 (!) in galleries ranging from YYZ Artists Outlet to the ROM to the Power Plant. Artists exhibiting include Tacita Dean at Gallery TPW with a film that incorporates the last choreography of Merce Cunningham with footage of a defunct automobile factory; Sharon Lockhart’s video installation of six groups of children playing in Lodz, Poland (at Harbourfront’s Power Plant) and Jayce Salloum’s and Khadim Ali’s ROM installation “the heart that has no love/pain/generosity is a heart,” which focuses on the people and landscape of the Bamiyan Valley in Afghanistan, which was devastated by the destruction of its Giant Buddhas by the Taliban.
But—hey—films are my beat. What about them? The opening night programme (Thursday, April 1 at the Bloor Cinema) offers two thoughtful works about human rights and freedom rendered in a highly artistic fashion. Kamal Aljafari’s Port of Memory is a small, exquisite piece set in Jaffa, Israel. A Palestinian family—husband, wife and her mother—struggle to maintain their dignity, and home (threatened by a court case) while a virtual civil war is taking place outside their windows.
The film uses this dramatic but simple plot to quietly explore life in the Palestinian area of Israel. Aljafari’s styles the film around a mixture of doc footage of a bombed out Jaffa, shots of people gazing at the Sea and the trio watching TV, rarely questioning their miserable lot in life.
That film Is accompanied by John Greyson’s brilliant Covered, a split screen doc that tells the tragic tale of Sarajevo’s Lesbian and Gay Festival, shut down by hooligans in 2008. The veteran director mixes accounts of homophobic violence, shots of Sarajevo and its festival organizers with singers performing songs about birds—Mary Poppins’ Feed the Birds, Leonard Cohen’s Like a Bird on a Wire and Anne Murray’s Snowbird among them—with a mock essay on cover songs purportedly written by Susan Sontag. This is surely the first film essay to cover birds, songs and human rights. (Birds—especially crows—were seen eating the dead during the 1990s civil war and in accounts of the historic religious battle between Christians and Muslims fought in 1390.)
Another major feature of Images 2010 is a retrospective of Ross McLaren, an experimental film giant in Toronto’s scene back in the ‘70s and early ‘80s. McLaren films screened include Crash’n’Burn with the Diodes and other members of Toronto’s punk scene, the funny Summer Camp and the cheeky short Sex without Glasses—a title which is still a good idea.
As is Images. Check out their website for more details.