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Critics' Choice on the #IFFR: stolen images and 5 more snapshots

"Without me nothing would have been here," Napoleon confides to us when in Sokurov's Francofonia Emerges in the Louvre. Conquerors and their looting art. In the digital century, it is internet pirates who are cracking open the treasuries of cinema to bring film to the people.

Around these and related issues, curator-film critics Dana Linssen and Jan Pieter Ekker composed for the IFFR the Critics' Choice programme. And invited international colleagues to provide the films with an introductory video essay. Watching with an inquisitive eye. Kevin B. Lee, the unsurpassed master of the video essay, was also present. Here are six first impressions, plus an interlude with useful links for those who want more, and a recommended encore.

1. Whose film is it?

Whose Cinema is the title of this time's Critics' Choice. Who does a film belong to? To the producer, the director or the financier? That's the boring legal side the makers of last year's video essays ran into. How do you get film clips and are you allowed to use them? Are producers willing to lend whole film files or just the promotional clips? Thus the plan for this year's theme was born.

Sometimes you can only get snippets via (often illegal) downloads. For his video essay accompanying the scifi thriller, Joost Broeren used Brand New-U 28 short clips (from Chaplin and Hitchcock to Kubrick) and hopes it will be covered by citation rights and fair use policies. Not every creator of a video essay wants to disclose how he got the material.

2. A Russian Mad Men?

It gets more interesting when it comes to authorship. Films influenced by famous examples. Where is the line between imitation and inspiration? Mad Men-expert Matt Zoller Seitz was surprised to see the widespread influence of the series' Mad Men even reaching into Russia. In his video essay, he shows that the Russian protagonist of the Mosfilm studio situated around the The Thaw looks like Don Draper.

3. In the viewer's mind

Isn't it true that a film only really exists in the mind of the viewer? So that the viewer too can call himself a bit of an owner? That goes furthest in fanboy circles. Critics' Choice shows Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made, about three teenagers who in the 1980s make a picture-by-picture remake of Raiders of the Lost Ark made.

And what if the film you want to quote can no longer be found at all, as happened to Linssen and Ekker when they were introduced on Francofonia. Does it still exist then, and how? Is memory the final finding place? Is the viewer then the final owner? Thus, their essay became an associative reflection full of questions, because questions, that's where everything starts.


Critics' Choice On the IFFR website. Featuring all films.

Background article in De Filmkrant at last year's Critics' Choice, back from long gone.

Kevin B Lee on vimeo.

The vimeo channel of De Filmkrant, on which hopefully all the video essays of this Critics' Choice will appear.

4. YouTube's outlaw images

The compilation film, an old and venerable genre that makes use of existing material, has been given a new food source by the abundance of the internet. Belgian artist trio Leo Gabin set A Crackup at the Race Riots together from home movies and video selfies found on YouTube. It produces a bizarre portrait of America, a weird kind of dreamscape that may or may not really exist. So are all those girls doing their dances in front of their webcam robbed or not?

The model for this project was Harmony Korine's compilation book of the same name, compiled from fragments of text, invented or otherwise. This reminded me that the compilation principle is much rarer in literature than in film. Surely image and word are more different than we sometimes think.

5. Video/essay

You want to make a visual essay, but it can rarely be entirely without text anyway. Sometimes a video essay is just another name for a short collection of film clips with a voice-over explaining everything. Fine, but not new ground broken.

Broeren does it differently and excites us by quickly exploring possible angles for viewing Brand New-U back to back.

Video and webcam artist Paula Albuquerque is at the other end of the spectrum. She made at A Crackup at the Race Riots just its own compilation of web cam material. Frankly, then again, I had more use for the glimpse I got to briefly look at Korine's book after the performance.

6. Multitasking

Kevin B. Lee has been chopping away at the axe for some time, always looking for appealing ways to present image, text and voice-over his ongoing research. Lee analyses, zooms in, highlights details or seeks surprising montages. As if we catch the ever-curious critic at his work.

At the in itself intriguing Korean storytelling exercise Right Now, Wrong Then - two variates of the same story - Lee made a video with a teasing instruction. When watching, cover the top or bottom half of the screen, he advised us. Because he had put two completely different essays on top of each other in the same picture. He does have a sense of humour. Watching both at the same time would definitely not work. Multitasking is overrated, according to him. So now I have to try to see that essay again. In any case, it provided a lot of fun in the packed auditorium at the Old Luxor theatre.


On the fandor website appear the new episodes of Kevin B. Lee's video essays Who Should Win the Oscar 2016. Investigative film criticism at its best.

Leo Bankersen

Leo Bankersen has been writing about film since Chinatown and Night of the Living Dead. Reviewed as a freelance film journalist for the GPD for a long time. Is now, among other things, one of the regular contributors to De Filmkrant. Likes to break a lance for children's films, documentaries and films from non-Western countries. Other specialities: digital issues and film education.View Author posts

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