Speculation, dystopia, and other beautiful images

During the second half of March, Bucharest becomes a battleground for theater, film and sound festival organizers. BIEFF, the experimental film festival, is already at its 6th edition, and this year’s entries should give the rest of the festivals a run for their money, at least in some evenings.

One of the festival’s sections, “The Artist Is Present”, is probably the most playful, even with the typical artistic logic, in which humor is seasoned with a potentially snobby self-criticism. Films give a run-over of gallery conventions – for example „Please relax now” by Vika Kirchenbauer (Germany, 2014, 12′) –  or cinematic conventions – in this case, in the cutest meta-film I’ve seen in ages, „October is over” (Karen Akerman & Miguel Seabra Lopes, Portugal / Brazil, 2015, 24′).

“Visual art activism” remains a title that is a bit confusing for me, but in this category we have a few movies that are pretty hardcore, the most impressive being „Gangster Backstage” (Teboho Edkins, France / South Africa, 2013, 37′). The way in which this film showcases violence, combining children’s reenactment with interviews in which gangsters talk about their lives mixing with conviction candor and tension, probably makes for the right tone in projects which are artistic yet have a proper activist goal.

“Digital Dystopias” promises exotic pleasures for those who feel blasé about post-post-post-something. If you like dark, languorous scenes à la Le Fresnoy, here you can (literally) bathe in images about the end of capitalism that we all want, basically, plus visual parallels that are so didactic that they become conceptual.

The Romanian films selected for the festival were produced by artists that Revista ARTA has been keeping on eye on for some time  – Veda Popovici, Larisa Crunțeanu, Diana Miron, The Bureau of Melodramatic Research, Anca Benera & Arnold Estefan. There will also be a screening of the already famous documentary about Ion Bârlădeanu, as well as Dragoș Alexandrescu’s latest film which we discovered last year at Timișoara Art Encounters. Overall a good crowd, good films, identity-related themes and a lot of history.

Still, the crème de la crème is the selection of non-competing movies from the 2016 Berlinale. „This is cosmos” (USA, 2014, 30′), Vidokle’s film that recuperates a utopian Russian tradition from the late 19th century, is a typical contemporary art attempt at realist speculation in which beauty becomes the vessel of the spiritual, and the marginal is the model of the future.

„And on a different note” (Mohammad Shawky Hassan, Egypt, 2015, 24′) is another must-see, especially since the recent subversive movie trend in the Arab world is still unknown to us. I think a typical element of these films is the image-sound disjunction which has been appropriated after the censorship and repression of those who try to communicate, within their country and abroad, using social media. Anodyne images accompany written or spoken words in which politics is re-signified in the everyday. At the end of the movie you have a feeling that an important message has been sent to you, is now a part of you and it is your duty to spread it to those who can really hear it.

But, if I were to chose one film that you must watch – on a big screen, in the dark, with an empty mind – is Pierre Huyghe’s “Human Mask” (France, 2014, 19′). This 20-minute long video asks all the questions on post-humanism and also answers them; the spectator’s sense are, one by one, atrophied and exacerbated, tensed and relaxed. You’ll leave the movie theater wanting to become human, having just discovered the species.


BIEFF (Bucharest International Experimental Film Festival) is between 14-20 March 2016 in various locations throughout the city. The full schedule is available here.


Cristina Bogdan

Founder and editor-in-chief, between 2014-19, of the online edition of Revista ARTA. Co-founder of East Art Mags, a network of contemporary art magazines from eastern and Central Europe. Runs ODD, a s...

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