Film and Video

Olga Poláčková-Vyleťalová

A Gentle Woman, 1969

Affection, 1974Escapes Home, 1980Tristana, 1972Krehké vztahy, 1980

Born August 8th 1944 in Hradec Kralove.  Painter and graphic artist. Private studies (1963; Antonin Kybal), Art school (1968) and Academy of Art, Architecture and Design in Prague (1968-1969; Karel Svolinsky). She showed her works on collective exhibitions from 1974, on her own from 1980. She designed 76 movie posters between years 1969 and 1989. (
(See more here)

New editing project — Witness: South Sudan

The episode of the docu-series Witness that I edited will premiere on HBO on Nov. 19th. It profiles the photographer Veronique de Viguerie.  It was directed and produced by David Frankham, and produced by Michael Mann.

The four-part series premiers on Monday, November 5th. For more information on HBO Documentary Films, visit

Kestrel's Eye

This intrepid documentary by Swedish filmmaker Mikael Kristersson follows two European falcons as they go about their daily activities. Two years in the making, the film is shot without any supplemental audio, allowing the two birds to be the sole focal point. As the birds hunt for food and care for their offspring, viewers are treated to a literal bird's-eye view from their nest at the top of an old church steeple. (Netflix)

Dark Current

I am delving into dark currents, the scientific poetry of video.  This is what mimesis seeks to screen out: the medium.  Or more specifically, the primacy of the pheno-text.  I would even call it the accountability of the image.  The video image is imagined as immaterial, and yet the material itself is expressive — literally.  As Roland Barthes put it, "The 'grain' is the body in the voice as it sings, the hand as it writes, the limb as it performs." (IMAGE/MUSIC/TEXT, p.188)

In physics and in electronic engineering, dark current is the relatively small electric current that flows through photosensitive devices such as a photomultiplier tube, photodiode, or charge-coupled device even when no photons are entering the device.  It is referred to as reverse bias leakage current in non-optical devices and is present in all diodes. Physically, dark current is due to the random generation of electrons and holes within the depletion region of the device that are then swept by the high electric field.

The charge generation rate is related to specific crystallographic defects within the depletion region. Dark-current spectroscopy can be used to determine the defects present by monitoring the peaks in the dark current histogram's evolution with temperature.

Dark current is one of the main sources for noise in image sensors such as charge-coupled devices. The pattern of different dark currents can result in a fixed-pattern noise; dark frame subtraction can remove an estimate of the mean fixed pattern, but there still remains a temporal noise, because the dark current itself has a shot noise. (WIKIPEDIA)


Reassemblage: Trinh T. Minh-ha (1983)

"Trihn Mihn-ha's experimental documentary, Reassemblage, is for all intents and purposes a film about the people of Senegal. But Trihn has a higher purpose in mind. The film if self-reflexive in that as it is as much about documentaries themselves as it is about the people of Senegal. Trihn calls into question the conventions of the documentary and how such films have the power to manipulate the way in which the audience sees. She constantly reminds her audience that they are watching a movie through many filmic techniques. For example, at times she cuts sound completely to emphasize the fact that she has the ability to manipulate what we are feeling. By taking away the music (African drumming in this case), a tool filmmakers often rely on to tell us how we SHOULD be feeling, we are left to our own devices and must figure out on our own what we are seeing, what it means to us, and why. At times this makes viewing her film fairly difficult, but ultimately it's a rather interesting and thought-provoking experience." (Youtube)

Trinh T. Minh-ha's website

The Flattering Illusion

‘An eminent philosopher among my friends, who can dignify even your ugly furniture by lifting it into the serene light of science, has shown me this pregnant little fact. Your pier-glass or extensive surface of polished steel made to be rubbed by a housemaid, will be minutely and multitudinously scratched in all directions; but place now against it a lighted candle as a centre of illumination, and lo! the scratches will seem to arrange themselves in a fine series of concentric circles round that little sun. It is demonstrable that the scratches are going everywhere impartially and it is only your candle which produces the flattering illusion of a concentric arrangement, its light falling with an exclusive optical selection. These things are a parable’. 

George Eliot, Middlemarch, Chapter 27.

Inspirace (1948)

Karel Zeman (November 3, 1910, Ostroměř near Nová Paka, then Austria-Hungary - April 5, 1989, Zlín, Czechoslovakia) was a Czech animator and filmmaker. He is considered the co-founder of the Czech animated film. (Wikipedia)

Inspirace (Inspiration, 1948) was created from blown-glass figurines that were re-heated & re-heated to reposition for the stop-motion cameras. (Wild Realm Reviews)

The Shadowgraph

Schlieren photography is a visual process that is used to photograph the flow of fluids of varying density. Invented by the German physicist August Toepler in 1864 to study supersonic motion, it is widely used in aeronautical engineering to photograph the flow of air around objects. Its role is changing due to the increasing use of computational fluid dynamics, which reduces the need for all such experimental fluid flow measurement techniques.The basic optical schlieren system uses light from a single collimated source shining on, or from behind, a target object. Variations in refractive index caused by density gradients in the fluid distort the collimated light beam. This distortion creates a spatial variation in the intensity of the light, which can be visualised directly with a shadowgraph system.

Shadowgraph is an optical method that reveals non-uniformities in transparent media like air, water, or glass. It is related to, but simpler than, the schlieren and schlieren photography methods that perform a similar function. Shadowgraph is a type of flow visualisation.


Such lists make no sense, and we all know it.  For one thing, only the films made with guaranteed distribution deals — fewer and fewer, these days — are released in theaters the same year they have their "premiere" at a film festival.  If I saw a film at a festival this year but it isn't in a theater in my city until next year, when did it "come out"?

Secondly, films come out in theaters and on DVD months or even years apart depending on where in the world you live.  A few years ago, New Yorkers, Londoners and Parisians could imagine they had seen just about every film in the theater that was worth seeing, and cinephiles in Hong Kong could procure a DVD of just about any film as soon as the filmmaker had burnt a copy for a festival — but this is also rapidly becoming a thing of the past.  The only chance anyone has of seeing the bulk of the most interesting, innovative and important films in a given year would be to globe-trot from Venice to Cannes to Toronto to Sundance to Edinburgh to Rotterdam to Tokyo to Thessaloniki to Ann Harbor, ad infinitum.  

These facts make any list of the "best films of the year" highly suspect, because it takes either a genuinely or willfully ignorant person to believe they have had a chance to see all of the likely contenders — let alone be surprised by a first-time filmmaker or experimental work.  Most people's best-of lists look like an advertisement for their local megaplex, fully accepting and promoting the pretense that the studios and cinema corporations are going to serve up the coincidentally most important and most profitable films of the year in global cinema.  At the very least, these lists should come with a lengthy introduction of acknowledged biases and shortcomings — to not do so is at best misleading and indecent, at worst ethnocentric and damaging to the struggle of independent filmmakers to have their films seen.  Slightly less idiotic but still outrageous are the claims that any given year was "a bad year for movies" — which operates under the same pretense that the best films were the ones that had the movie stars, the huge budgets or the theatrical distribution in say, Los Angeles.

My generation seems to be far more enlightened and mature about their music than their films.  I have never seen a friend or a reputable magazine claim that the Grammy's represented the best albums of the year, or that all one had to do was tune into their local corporate pop radio station during their commute in order to be exposed to the best that the music world has to offer.  In both cases, most adults I know seem to distinguish between "popular culture" and the rest of it — but in the case of film, a lot of people I know and many contributors to cultural discourse that I come across make little or no effort to seek out the non-commercial, the international, the independent and the original.  In short, I don't know many people who would say with a straight face that the latest Beyoncé record represents the finest achievement in the art of music this year, yet I am inundated with similar claims for Black Swan, Toy Story 3, The Fighter, etc. 

I find it useful to think about the differences between the way we speak about film and the way we speak about any other art form, as it betrays the extreme value and burden that is placed upon moving images as the official conduit of mass culture.  If anything, film is discussed in similar terms to literature — we have our genres, our light fare, our masterpieces, our classics, our gender-specific categories.  What we don't have in literature, however, is the commonplace serious assertion that John Grisham's The Confession was the most noteworthy and finely written novel produced anywhere in the world in 2010.  While we are happy to describe such books as guilty pleasures, we stop short of giving them the ultimate praise for their "entertainment value", and yet in film, there is a pressure to only consider a film as great if it was able to "entertain" us.

We do not ask our paintings to "entertain" us, nor our sculptures or other fine arts, and this is perhaps due to some strict ordering of our experiences of all things "narrative".  More sinisterly, and accurately I fear, it is clear that "entertainment" is an extremely loaded term — one which carries with it the desire to see reflected back at us our own supposed desires, fetishes and foibles.  We want to see the film that everyone else has seen, that has made an obscene amount of money or cost an obscene amount of money to produce, the one which titillates us with it's giddy fetishizations of women's bodies, in part, I believe, because we seek an experience that is essentially masochistic.  This is the success of the culture industry: to have replaced our desire for emancipatory, ecstatic, beautiful and meaningful cultural experiences with a matter-of-fact hopelessness — that "good film" is either boring, too difficult, or simply a pretentious fallacy — which is gratified with increasingly exaggerated and distorted representations of violence, meaninglessness, fear and bigotry. 

I can't blame people who have no time or access to find the thousands of truly beautiful, enjoyable, and important films made around the world every year because their stores, their cinemas, their reviewers and their friends make no mention of them.  I haven't been able to see many of the films that have played around the world this year that I would want to see.  I do, however, blame reviewers.  They have a clear choice — to pretend along with the studios that the films that win at Cannes are in fact to boring to be enjoyed by "normal" people, or to actually do their homework and attempt to look at the culture of their time in a historical and economic context.

I also take our Facebook, twitter, blog and forum reviews seriously as non-professionals since we all know that such opinions have a greater and greater aggregate effect all the time in relation to the official reviews and awards.  Let's acknowledge that we haven't been able to see the best films of the year because they were under-funded, censored, unrecognized and hidden from us.  Let's acknowledge that we have been lazy about finding them and supporting them.  Maybe then we will get pissed off enough to change this sorry, sorry state of affairs.


Accidentally Sprayed

by Gonzalo Escobar (2008)

From Gonzalo Escobar's Vimeo page:

Winged performers in the streets, armed with water sprays bottles, become a metaphor to the relationship between a Colombian filmmaker living in the United States and the aerial fumigations of coca crops occurring in his native country. Different perspectives of the topic are explored through images and sounds, but especially, through his opportunity to travel to southern Colombia, where the fumigations have been taking place. Aspects of documentary filmmaking are mixed with elements of the film essay genre. Animation, news, and found footage also take part of this visual and sonic collage that thrives to represent the filmmaker’s position and to some extent, the position of any viewer.

Gonzalo is the lead performer in my film Oh My Soul, and a good friend.  This video taught me a lot about the issue of crop fumigation in Colombia as well as strategies for investigating the social and political through personal filmmaking.  I hope he makes more soon!

Medical Choreography, part 1

The Epley maneuver:

The Brandt-Daroff maneuver:


Vertigo is a disorder of the middle ear, caused by small crystals that have colonized in a sensitive part of the inner ear. These crystals become displaced, causing the dizziness of vertigo. Usually a physician who specializes in dizziness and balance disorders will perform The Epley or Semont maneuver to help settle the displaced crystals. The Semont maneuver is a calculated and rapid moving exercise, performed only by a doctor in the safety of a doctor's office. Brandt-Daroff exercises are similar to the Epley maneuver, but they can be done at home. These exercises can benefit anyone with dizziness, vertigo, imbalance, lightheadedness or faintness. They are safe and easy to perform.

Le roman de renard

Le roman de renard (or The Tale of the Fox) By LADISLAS STAREVITCH — 1930

(from Wikipedia:)

In the kingdom of animals, the fox Renard is used to tricking and fooling everyone. Consequently, the King (a lion), receives more and more complaints. Finally, he orders Renard to be arrested and brought before the throne.

This is the legendary feature film by Wladyslaw Starewicz (or Ladislas Starevitch, or Ladislas Starewicz, or Ladislaw Starewicz, or Ladislas Starewitch, or Ladislaw Starewitsch). It is also his only one, and he directed it with his wife, Irène Starewicz. The story is an adaptation of a compilation or medieval French legends called "Le roman de renart". It's an entertaining story, a social satire, but most of all a landmark in early animation. I find the stop-motion truly remarkable, even by Starewicz's standards. The facial expressions and the movements are very smooth and fluid.

It had a good reception when it was first released, but as it was wartime people quickly forgot about it. They later exploited in under the form of shorts, since it contains many independent stories with one linking narrative.