Sheffield Doc Fest Shorts (Part 1)

Sheffield Doc Fest Shorts (Part 1)

Sheffield Doc Fest Shorts (Part 1). Esme Betamax | @betamaxer

Cinema meets sculpture, painting, dancing and drumming in this selection of short films from the Rhyme & Rhythm strand. From Croatia, Cuba, the UK and the USA, we immerse ourselves in the artistic expression of individuals and the joy of creative collaboration. The programme serves to help us (re)discover artists from around the world, reminding us of the radical potential of the arts and the importance of collective cultural experiences and spaces.

The Rhyme & Rhythm Shorts Programme includes 5 films, the first two of which are reviewed here. The rest will be found in Sheffield Doc Fest Shorts (Part 2)

A Cat is Always Female

Marija Ujevic Galetovic, her voice husky from cigarettes and schnapps, supplies us with a candid account of her life as a woman artist. Although that’s not how she refers to herself: “I don’t think it’s really all that polite to refer to yourself as an artist.” She prefers “Manual Labourer.”

Almost entirely animated, A Cat is Always Female is a playful introduction to her sculptures and her teaching style. She talks openly about how men have always positioned themselves as gatekeepers of the arts, insisting that women cannot or should not work as men do. She makes no bones about pushing back against this, insisting that it is simply work that needs to be done, to make improvements each generation. As she notes the small concessions that were offered to women over time, it reminds me of the prevalence of women as film editors in early cinema, as it was considered “women’s work”.

A Cat is Always Female is directed by Tanja Vujasinovic and Martina Meštrović. It is a warm and humorous collaboration, which follows, as they are two of Galetovic’s former students.  

All the Possibilities… Reflections on a painting by Vernon Pratt

All the Possibilities… is an ambitious project about an ambitious project. The painting: All the Possibilities of Filling in Sixteenths (65,536) is Vernon Pratt’s abstract painting that, due to its massive scale, has only been exhibited once, recently and posthumously. Directors Marsha Gordon and Louis Cherry take on this challenge of creating a film that would do justice to the scale of the work, and succeed.

The soundtrack is one long free jazz drum solo, which complements the artwork, in itself rhythmic and percussive, holding tension between order and chaos. The huge variety of possible notes a percussionist can fit into  4/4 time signature mirrors the possible combination of squares the artist can fit in the 4/4 box. The 16 minute film is split into four chapters in order to present the work in a varied way.

As an illustrator and drummer, I found this film immensely satisfying. It makes so much sense that Pratt was also a musician. In Gordon and Cherry’s desire to explain the connection between art and maths, they in fact show that music sits at the intersection of the two.

The title of Chapter 3 (all taken from Vernon Pratt’s extensive notes) is “Anything in the thinking is the art.” Artists of his generation certainly subscribed to Marcel Duchamp’s mode of thinking, that ideas are the most important aspect in making art. However, All the Possibilities… suggests to me that Pratt was more akin to mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot, wherein the visuals created are a byproduct of the question he wanted to answer.

The accuracy of the idea holds more importance than the execution of the image, as seen in the paint methodically but not precisely daubed on the canvas. Chapter 4: “There are interests to be discovered in this monotony after all”

The rest will be found in Sheffield Doc Fest Shorts (Part 2)

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Esme Betamax is a writer and illustrator. Often found in the Cube Microplex. Favourites include: I ♡ Huckabees, Where the Buffalo Roam, Harold & Maude, Being John Malkovich and In the Shadow of the Moon.