22nd Lab competition
The Paradox of the Black Night
With the city lights, the contemporary world is in the process of “killing” the night. In some cosmogonies, it is the very origin of the world: it is the archetype of the matrix of the darkness of the mother’s womb. In others, the night represents the end, the symbol of death, the darkness of the tomb, but also the night that falls in the cinema before the film is screened. With El Sembrador de Estrellas, Lois Patiño sublimates these reflections, even slipping in a touch of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner in his imagined Tokyo. These sumptuous night-time atmospheres are already found in Montaña en Sombra (Special Lab Jury Prize Clermont-Fd 2014), which was shown last year in the Spain retrospective and is available in the 20 Years of Lab box set available at the Festival shop.
Another virtuoso of this Lab edition is Bi Gan. Arriving out of nowhere in 2015 on our Chinese cinema radars, he filmed the surrounding areas of his city in the province of Guizhou like a mystical tale where past and present rush together, like Hou Hsiao-hsien or Wong Kar-wai. His first feature film, Kaili Blues, became in one day the most profitable auteur film in the country’s history, with some 38 million dollars at the box office and 7.3 million viewers! This incredible feat will allow 29-year-old Bi Gan to make any film he dreams of in the decades to come and to return to short film as with A Short Story and his amusing tale of a detective cat that unfolds in a universe somewhere between Phillip Barker (of the Malody era) and David Lynch.
The Lab is also the place for documentaries, with no less than nine films out of the twenty-five in the selection. It is a pleasure to see Douwe Dijkstra again, winner of the Labo Grand Prix in 2017 with Green Screen Gringo. In Buurman Abdi, he takes on the story of his Somali neighbor with playful lightness and an air of innocence. Despite the evocations of war and past delinquency, he stages his neighbor’s life with a unique, luminous style, complete with special effects and clever tricks.
Fresnoy student Judith Auffray surprises with her unique approach to experimentation and research with Les Hommes de la nuit and its synthetic jungle, up close with the orangutans of Borneo.
Another brilliant offering: 45th Parallel by Lawrence Abu Hamdan, with a high-flying monologue that exposes the notion of borders and their potentially deadly implications.
After a 10-year absence, Yann Gonzalez returns to Clermont with Hideous. The film is structured around three songs from Hideous Bastard, the first solo album by British musician Oliver Sim, bassist and singer of the band The xx. Singer Jimmy Somerville makes an appearance, as a very literal guardian angel. A tutelary musical figure tells the story of a young homosexual in Smalltown Boy (with his group Bronski Beat). As the monster eventually emerges and is unleashed, we can feel Oliver Sim’s intention, who, in addition to telling his story, wanted to illustrate it with an extra dose of imagination, while keeping at the heart of the film this question: how should we appear to others?
This question also drives The Phantom Touch by Chilean Pablo Cuturrufo, who, using VRChat, takes us to a space where the laws of physics are meaningless. How do we interpret ourselves? With a bird as an avatar? And from there, search for the meaning of life through different encounters.
Another quest, La Mécanique des fluides, an open source drifting by Gala Hernández, an artist-researcher in search of traces on the Internet, ends up turning into an inner journey between our connected solitudes. This video essay, through a feminist, poetic and critical lens, offers a reflection on the representation of contemporary masculinity on the web through the incel subculture.
Pioneering and offbeat, welcome to Lab 2023!