Credit Katia Gort

Review: Queer East Film Festival @ CCA

By Katia Gort

Short films are not often the focus of a cinematic experience. Longer format films are  often seen as the ultimate storytelling medium and therefore populate most of our screens. This is a rather sad phenomenon as short films can offer another way of engaging with the visual medium – one which is more open to experimentation and, due to lower budget demands, is a fertile environment for independent artists. Because of this, the idea of attending a screening revolving around ten of these short films intrigued me. Furthermore, the space where the viewing was going to take place seemed to be the perfect environment for the kind of alternative ideas the programme presented.

On the night of the screening, I arrived at the Centre for Contemporary Arts, where I was greeted by an unassuming room occupied by a friendly woman who handed me a printed version of my tickets. Having picked up a map of the venue, as it was my first time there and I had some time to kill before the doors opened, I wandered deeper into the building.

To my surprise, a cheerful bar was nestled into the right side of the industrial hull. The environment was warm and cheerful as people enjoyed food and drink with friends and the colourful bulbs strung above their heads, creating playful shadows on their bodies. The galleries were sadly closed, so I ventured to the second floor, where I found another bar tucked into a corner. The many paintings in this small room, as well as the lively conversations, made me think of what some of the bars frequented by the Beat poets in 1950s America might have looked and felt like. Having had no expectation as to what I would find, the Centre for Contemporary Arts easily made the cold and rainy world outside disappear. I forgot I was still on a busy road in Glasgow city centre, and became absorbed in the creative atmosphere that surrounded me.

Finally, the doors to the screening opened and I wandered in to find a seat. To my surprise, the room was quickly filled with a variety of eager faces of varying ages and ethnicities. I don’t think there were more than 2 empty seats by the time the doors closed, and the event started.

April Lin, the programme curator and one of the directors featured in the screening, gave a brief introduction to the event, emphasising her idea of the moving image as a way to bridge the gap between reality and dreams. She went on to say how each of the short films that we would watch were pockets into the eerie, comical or cosmical of the everyday, creating worlds beyond the internalised fictions of static existence.

What followed were a series of strange, beautiful and horrifying films, each vastly different from the one before. Some were thought provoking, such as the story of a young girl trying to bring her mother back using A.I., only to become consumed by the physical elements of her mother’s new body, turning her into a monster (A.I. Mama by dir. Asuka Lin), along with the story tying the director’s grandmother’s migration from the Indonesian islands to Singapore to the idea of wandering ghosts (A Spider, Fever, and Other Disappearing Islands by dir. Natalie Khoo). Others were of a far more comical tone: How to Become a True Post-Human (dir. Huh Need-you) prophesied that the only way to escape the existing order was to be reborn as an anus, describing it as the ultimate living form, and Cambrian Explosion (dir. Fuyuhiko Takata) showed a retelling of the story of Ariel where she viciously and graphically cuts her tail in half in her blind aspiration to become human.

In spite of two films that I did not particularly enjoy, I found the eclectic ensemble of pieces engaging and mesmerising. The experience of watching a series of short films rather than one continuous film – homogeneous in tone and visuals – allowed for a clear understanding of April Lin’s introductory statement. Instead of conforming to a normalised, sanitised, and static portrayal of life, Artist’s Moving Image: Destination: Other Worlds created a fluctuating, non-linear vision of reality – one that is not confined to the truth, but rather extends out from it, shifting and morphing each time we engage with it.

By featuring artists from different countries and backgrounds, as well as including a variety of animation, editing and filming styles, the screening caused an almost whiplash effect: each story spiralling in a new direction. However, the overarching ideas of what is beyond what we see and believe kept it from tearing apart. Instead, the viewer was left with fragments of a whole: many potential truths, with none taking precedence over the other.

At the end of the screening, April Lin took to the stage where she was interviewed about her work and choices when creating the programme. Here she explained how in her film TR333 she worked closely with a scientist, and how the speculative documentary fused both of their ways of understanding the natural world. This once more takes us back to the notion of splintered reality, viewed as a collaborative project formed by many individual perspectives, interacting with each other to create a whole.

I found this to be a very interesting and important way to think about existence. It is easy to limit the world around us to what we see and hear, however, these are mostly matrices established to simplify reality. In order not to let imagination and creativity die, it is important to occasionally shed those preconceptions of truth, and instead revel in our unique and subjective perceptions of existence.


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