Film

The 2013 Images Festival Brings Experimental Film to Toronto Audiences

North America’s largest festival of experimental film offers up plenty of movies you'll never see at a multiplex.

Still from A Third Version of the Imaginary.

  • Multiple venues
  • April 11–20
  • $6-$11

Since its debut in 1987, Images has had a special place on Toronto’s springtime film festival slate. Though the upcoming Hot Docs is bigger, Images’ selection of experimental and independent media art often feels purer. It’s a festival that invites audiences to consider the basic elements that make moving image-based arts like the cinema so resonant.

Given the festival’s commitment to expanding audiences’ understanding of film and video art, a good place to start is typically one of the avant-garde shorts programmes. One of the sturdiest offerings this year is All That Is Solid, which is loosely organized around the concept of ephemerality—meaning it focuses on objects in various states of transition. The selection opens with Gordon Webber’s gorgeous 35 mm animated short, Un film inedit, a classic from 1945 that depicts shapes playfully reassembling and orbiting one another. The highlight of the more recent offerings is probably A Third Version of the Imaginary. Benjamin Tiven’s film, set in the film-and-video library of the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation in Nairobi, follows an archivist as he dwells on what it takes for an image to survive through time.

Those seeking local work may wish to take in mmNemonic DVices, which gathers recent films from Toronto-based artists. The programme (co-curated by Torontoist contributor Julian Carrington) features striking work from Yi Cui and film preservationist Stephen Broomer, among others. Broomer’s Christ Church – St. James is a time-lapse portrait of Little Italy’s historic black church, lost to arson and invaded by the surrounding foliage. He captures its transformation in a series of haunting polarized images.

As much as we recommend the short works, Images’ longer offerings are also worth a look. Adele Horne’s Maintenance brings a political imperative to its experimental form, training our eyes on the mundane process of cleaning homes, and drawing attention to the biographies of a largely ignored labour force. The fixed distance and unblinking stare of Horne’s camera reminds us of Chantal Akerman’s infamous Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles. The effort is marred only by the unnecessary blocks of text that fill the screen between each portrait, rendering the subjects’ life stories in overly literal terms.

Jane Gillooly’s Suitcase of Love and Shame opens up a different sort of reflective space. Where the stillness of Maintenance has us noticing incidental details in people’s houses (like a plush Super Mario doll), Gillooly’s film has us fill in the missing images as we listen to a number of intimate recordings, taken during the 1960s, of a married man and his lover. Reconstructed from over 60 hours of reel-to-reel tape rescued from a suitcase the director bought on eBay, the film juxtaposes the couple’s sometimes dull, sometimes startling conversations with images of microphones and recording devices, as well as the world that surrounds them.

In addition to its screenings, Images boasts a number of live events, including Francesco Gagliardi’s Rope, a riff on one of Alfred Hitchcock’s most experimental films; and Duane Linklater and Tanya Lukin Linklater’s grain(s), a performance piece that responds to the representation of indigenous people and the natural world in both Robert J. Flaherty’s Nanook of the North and Hiroshi Teshigahara’s The Woman in the Dunes.

The festival opens on April 11 at St. Anne’s Anglican Church, with a collaborative performance between Montreal electronic musician Tim Hecker and filmmaker Robert Todd. For tickets and a full schedule of screenings and events, be sure to visit the festival’s website.

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