Filmmakers can solidify time in some traces of time (symbols); audiences can touch these traces through the meaning behind them. ——Andre Tarkovsky
The theme of “The Labyrinth of Time” is not a pre-set topic or idea, but comes along with the richness, diversity, originality of the works we received and accepted, with a surprising connection on their topic among all these works in the Chinese Unit this year. These young Chinese filmmakers from Taiwan and mainland China have spontaneously explored the theme of “time” experimentally; they also present the new generation of filmmakers’ ambitious to delivery “time” and to innovate the language of film.
Although the four works in the Chinese Unit have their distinct flavors, they all pay attention to accessing a fundamental issue, “time”. Nevertheless, they do not construct a movement-image narrative in their videos as Christopher Edward Nolan does, but to approach a form of time-images, to question “linear time”, and to express, or precisely, to create “time, in the process”.
Before the Typhoon Comes (Jun Chen, 2020) is the closest one to the narrative films in the Unit, which also allows the audience to touch the theme of “time” smoothly. The film focuses on two specific moments in a young man’s life. These two moments may exist in different dime dimensions, but they meet in the man’s subjective consciousness. The scent which comes before a typhoon and the surging sea stir up the memory hidden in the depth of consciousness; then the smell from summer in childhood and those secret emotions, emerge. These memories are those potential images that are occasionally illuminated by the light of consciousness, constituting “recollection-images”. They also point out what Deleuze says, every moment in our life has two sides: one is it’s realistic, and another is potential; one is perception, and another is recollection. Besides, the film depicts the journey of the hero, as an adult, to reconcile himself with his memories.
Future Mysteries (2019), by Shijie Lin, a Taiwan filmmaker, deconstructs “time” more radically and also explores the issues of memory and human subjectivity. This short experimental video, which combines elements of sci-fi, traditional storytelling, and Buddhist stories, narratives a story after the extinction of humankind and at a future archaeological site. In the investigation of the relic of Mankind Realm, Mu, a rebirth, excavates an iron box. The iron box, like Proust’s Madeleine Cake, activates his memories and experiences of the past. The interweaving of dreams, memories and the past makes Future Mysteries reaches what Deleuze called “the crystal-image”, in which, the actual and the virtual alternately cycle, different from each other, but also can’t be recognized. With the help of these memory fragments (as a narrative), Mu, an “animal” controlled by “time”, can confirm his identity and his subjectivity.
A Letter from Huami, 2069 (Wenqian Zhang and Yue Huang, 2020) uses the elements of sci-fi as well. This prose-like film is set in 2069, telling a story about a cat called Huami relying on genetic technology and glue images to gain a new life. After getting a new life, Huami wanders in the future and writes to his owner, Wency about what he has seen. The imagination of 2069 projects two filmmakers’ criticism of the current society and their utopian expectation of art and film in the future. But they settle their film in a friendship between a cat and a human to dispense how friendship can transcend species and time. The film is shot with a Lomokino camera with 35mm of glue, creating a slow-motion image effect, simulating the impression of the past. The perception of flowing shots and stuck pictures makes audiences feel like rambling in memories, dreams and hypnosis. In the form of sci-fi, the film also reflects on the medium of film: Film is not only a container of memory but also a genre of spirit and consciousness, which is the basis for audiences and filmmakers to “rebirth”.
Inauguration (2020), by Zuqiang Peng, an experimental documentary with multiple shooting methods such as archives, oral history, on-the-spot records and double screens, questions “time” through a discussion of history. The film begins with a paradox discovery during the filmmaker’s archives research. Through two overseas Chinese revolutions related to youth society, i.e., a failed assassination and a trip full of doubts, the film inquiries into the construction process of history. Compared with trying to restore a real history, Peng chooses to let the historical details remain fragmentary in his works, which highlights the fact that they can’t be patched up and they don’t develop by linear causal logic. In this way, the film has further revealed the dual process of erasing/ forgetting and remembering in the production of history, as well as the hidden power mechanism behind.
The collective screening of these works originates from an intention. That is, while the vast majority of viewers are so accustomed to mainstream Hollywood films, we want to construct a new context. So that the audience can feel and understand some novel works (indeed, our curation is only one of the methods to exhibit these experimental videos). At the same time, we hope to build a connection between the audience and the films, to realize the effect of two plus two can be greater than four.
▌台风来之前 | Before the Typhoon Comes
漳州方言｜14:32 | China | 2020
The father takes Chen to the beach, but unfortunately there’s a typhoon coming. Chen is determined to swim. In the choppy sea, Chen meets his himself in childhood and tries to have a reconciliation with him.
Chen Yun, born in 1996 in Zhangzhou, Fujian and now a Beijing-based filmmaker. Chen Yun graduated from Beijing Film Academy and from 2016, has worked as cinematographer for films, commercials and documentaries. In 2020, Chen Yun directed his first narrative short film and started his career as a director. ▌未来奇案｜Future Mysteries
林仕杰 中国大陆首映 | 台湾方言，普通话 | 25:00 | 中国台湾 | 2019
Night falls on a broken house, where a man is dreaming about memories from the future.
In the desolate future, a male reborn is surveying the ruins of human civilization.
A rusty box, found by chance, digs out images from the bottom of the reborn’s consciousness: The man is taking a mysterious female reborn back to the broken house. LIN Shih-Chieh is a filmmaker and audiovisual artist based in Taipei. He holds MFA in Film and Video from California Institute of the Arts. His works mingle reality with mythology, folklore and paracosm, projecting a parallel landscape of realities based on the collective consciousness of human beings. ▌2069，花咪来信 | A Letter From Huami
英文, 普通话｜24:48 | 美国, 中国 | 2020
In 2069, a few rolls of films were found in a regeneration center occasionally. Then scientists extracted the genes from the hair which were left on the films to give a cat -Huami a new life. With human’s consciousness and the memories which belongs to the past time, Huami wrote a letter to her owner in 2019… Wency Zhang(1992) is an independent film maker and visual artist. She achieved her MFA degree in School of the Art Institute of Chicago. During her studying time, she finished an experimental documentary essay film A Letter from Huami and it was pre-selected by Visions du Reel in 2020 and part of the semi-final list of 47th Student Academy Awards competition. Now she lives in Shanghai and is working on her first non-fiction films.
Huang Yue(1992) is a filmmaker and artist who achieved his MFA degree of Filmmaking in School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2019. Now he lives in Shanghai and currently his works focus on the the highly diversified classes who live in the same city and the contradictory among those different individuals through paying attention on how they exist by themselves and how they connect with each other. ▌成立之时｜Inauguration
英文 | 13:32 | 美国，古巴 | 2020 Inauguration looks at the fragmented history of the Young China Association (少年学社). Interweaving temporal connections with faint chances of synchronous events between two disparate events at the margins of Chinese revolutionary history: a failed assassination and an impossible trip. The film narrates a forecast of the past, wherein it renders visible the processes of erasure, remembrance, and archival anchors of the early overseas Chinese revolutionary politics and its aftermaths. Movements, geographies, and events do not follow a linear arch but rather are scattered across memories and places, only to be treated as residues, witnesses or simply discards of the history. What happens when the premise of the story is, in fact, the assurance of its erasure?
Peng Zuqiang makes moving images. Zuqiang’s works have been shown at exhibitions and festivals including IDFA, Antimatter, UCCA Beijing, Connecting Space in Hong Kong, and Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. He has received fellowships and residencies from the MacDowell, Skowhegan, True/False Film Festival, and the Core Program.