May 2014, arsenal cinema

Correspondences – Six Cinematic Letter Exchanges


Initiated by the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona under the title of “Todas las cartas: Correspondencias fílmicas”, six cinematic letter exchanges were produced between 2005 and 2011, each of them between a Hispanic filmmaker and a geographically far-flung international colleague. The six pairs are made up of various renowned representatives of contemporary filmmaking: José Luis Guerín (Barcelona) and Jonas Mekas (New York), Isaki Lacuesta (Girona) and Naomi Kawase (Nara), Albert Serra (Banyoles) and Lisandro Alonso (Buenos Aires), Víctor Erice (Madrid) and Abbas Kiarostami (Teheran), Jaime Rosales (Madrid) and Wang Bing (Shaanxi), Fernando Eimbcke (Mexico City) and So Yong Kim (Pusan/New York). The result is a series of essay films that gathers together the diversity of different cinematographic signatures present in today’s cinema. We are very happy to be able to show all six correspondences thanks to the support of the Instituto Cervantes and that we can welcome filmmaker José Luis Guerín to Arsenal for the opening.

CORRESPONDENCE JOSÉ LUIS GUERÍN – JONAS MEKAS (Spain/USA 2009–2011, 8.5., screening attended by José Luis Guerín & 12.5.) Dear Jonas, dear José Luis – a cinematic letter exchange in the form of nine short film notes, framed in classic style with a salutation and farewell greeting. Jonas Mekas, the Nestor of the American avant-garde, and Catalonian filmmaker José Luis Guerín take turns in filming snapshots of their lives from all over the world, taking in driving snow, Ken and Flo Jacobs or pigeons on the street in New York here and reflections on a empty cinema screen and a moving conversation with Slovenian film critic Nika Bohinc there. Filmmaking and their two very different working methods also often form the theme. It is a correspondence between two different temperaments – Guerín’s stylized black and white and formalist will, Mekas’s wild video camera – and yet very much the work of two true pen pals.

CORRESPONDENCE JAIME ROSALES – WANG BING (Spain/China 2009–2011,9. & 17.5.) This correspondence between Spanish auteur Jaime Rosales and critical chronicler of contemporary China Wang Bing is divided into three short films each consisting of documentary observations. Jaime Rosales’ first contribution to the correspondence shows people in an airport departure lounge. Wang Bing’s HAPPY VALLEY is dedicated to the everyday life of farmers in the Yunnan mountains, where economic superpower China still looks backward and poor. He later made his first feature film "Three Sisters" about the three little girls of one of the families. Rosales' RED LAND is about Minas de Riotinto, an area in Andalusia that used to be characterized by ore mining and is now a tourist attraction, is a riposte to the end of heavy industrial work and responds to a certain extent to Wang Bing's entire oeuvre.

CORRESPONDENCE ISAKI LACUESTA – NAOMI KAWASE (Spain/Japan 2008–2009, 9. & 13.5.) The seven-part correspondence between Isaki Lacuesta und Naomi Kawase, who had only briefly met beforehand at a festival, revolves around proximity and distance as well as what it actually means to meet someone and get to know them. Their joint film IN BETWEEN DAYS shows scenes from their private lives, including intimate moments in home-movie style, sometimes without sound, as well as images of journeys to faraway countries, of a natural history museum in Catalonia, of prayers in Japan and of excerpts from a silent film by Segundo de Chomón, the Spanish Méliès.

CORRESPONDENCE FERNANDO EIMBCKE – SO YONG KIM (Mexico/USA/Germany 2010–2011, 9. & 15.5.) Mexican filmmaker Fernando Eimbcke and So Yong Kim, representative of the new American independent cinema, send each other eight impressions from their daily routines and family lives. A leaf dancing in a spider's web, sunsets by the sea, photos of Eimbcke's father accompanied by his mother telling the story of his illness, conversations about childhood, pictures of babies and snails and views out of a window in Berlin. A minimalistic, private film.

CORRESPONDENCE ALBERT SERRA – LISANDRO ALONSO (Spain/Argentina 2011, 10. & 16.5.) Both Catalan Albert Serra and Argentinean Lisandro Alonso are two of the most idiosyncratic formal innovators in world cinema. With just one film each, both of which refer to a previous work, they each reflect upon their respective forms of filmmaking without directly addressing the other. In the two and a half hour THE LORD WORKED WONDERS IN ME, Serra brings the actors from "Honor de cavallería"and his team of staff to La Mancha to follow in the footsteps of Don Quixote. There is a lot of debate, eating and waiting around. For UNTITLED (LETTER FOR SERRA), Alonso returns to the province of La Pampa to accompany the woodcutter protagonist from his film "La libertad" once again – a short film without words until the end, when the plot of a future film project is then read out.

CORRESPONDENCE VÍCTOR ERICE – ABBAS KIAROSTAMI (Spain/Iran 2005–2007, 11. & 19.5.) Spanish director Víctor Erice and Iranian auteur Abbas Kiarostami exchange ten cinematographic letters. Although they are only "written" with a digital video camera, actual writing, the Spanish and the Persian alphabet and a fountain pen are also visualized. Erice's video letters focus on children: in the courtyard with a quince tree in flower (famous from his film "El sol del membrillo") or at school, where a teacher shows and discusses Kiarostami's film "Where is the Friend's Home"? Kiarostami reacts by showing a quince he allows to drift in a river as a homage to Erice. In other letters, he films a cow's hide or the raindrops on a car windscreen. A poetic exchange whereby each cites the work of the other – and paraphrases his own work in the process. (bik).

An event in cooperation with the Instituto Cervantes. "Todas las cartas" is a cooperation between the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (CCCB), the Centro Cultural Universitario Tlatelolco in Mexiko, GECESA-La Casa Encendida in Madrid and Acción Cultural Española (AC/E).