Filmmakers from CalArts with Seven Entries in Rotterdam Festival

The Institute is once again well-represented at the International Film Festival Rotterdam, one of the most adventurous, experimentally inclined stops on the world festival circuit. The 39th annual edition of the Rotterdam showcase includes films by current MFA student Gregory Rentis, alumna Laida Lertxundi, Akosua Adoma Owusu and Deborah Stratman, and faculty James Benning, Janie Geiser and Lewis Klahr.

The festival opened on Jan. 27 and runs through Sunday, Feb. 7.

James Benning’s Ruhr (Germany, 2009, 121 min.), the School of Film/Video faculty member’s first-ever HD feature, returns to the continent following its U.S. premiere at REDCAT earlier this month. Shot in seven masterfully composed takes, the film is Benning’s rapt meditation on the urban and industrial landscapes of Germany’s Ruhr Valley, the cradle of heavy industry in that country and the birthplace of his parents.

Rotterdam veteran Deborah Stratman (Film/Video MFA 95), an artist and filmmaker with a special interest in sound and radio, is debuting Walking Is Dancing (USA/Malawi, 2010, 25 min.), a compact, exploratory observation of contemporary life in the country of Malawi in southeast Africa. Stratman’s piece is one of a series of films in the festival this year that contemplate, in a variety of ways, conceptions of Africa in today’s world.

Also considering contemporary Africa is Akosua Adoma Owusu (Art–Film/Video MFA 08), who is screening My White Baby (USA/Ghana, 2008, 22 min.), a lyrical documentary look at the hair salons in Kumasi, Ghana, where the legacy of European colonialism is evoked in scenes of women who practice braiding on dolls of Caucasian girls.

CalArts student Gregory Rentis, an MFA candidate in the Film Directing Program, is showing his thesis film Sundown (Greece/USA, 2010, 15 min.). This work enacts the moving rite of passage of a 13-year-old boy living with his grandparents on the Greek island of Rhodes. The boy, who finds it difficult to accept that his grandfather is dying of Alzheimer’s, only understands the gravity of the situation when an experiment with a stray cat goes awry….(Watch the trailer posted above.)

Laida Lertxundi’s My Tears Are Dry (Spain/USA, 2009 4 min.) is “a 16mm document of plenitude, in all of its complex simplicity.” Inspired by Bruce Baillie’s 1966 film (All My Life), My Tears Are Dry features the deep soul of singer Hoagy Lands and captures a languid moment in the eternal Californian sun.

Finally, two animated shorts by faculty round out the contribution of the CalArts contingent. Janie Geiser, of the School of Theater’s Cotsen Center for Puppetry and Arts, is presenting Ghost Algebra (USA, 2010, 8 min.), a remarkable animation that depicts a woman threading her way through unreal landscapes—and searching for the original meaning of the word “algebra.” Lewis Klahr, of the Schools of Film/Video and Theater, is launching a new series of short animated films with Wednesday Morning Two A.M. (USA, 2009, 7 min.). Set to music by The Shangri-Las, this work offers striking animation in the typical Klahr style, which this time derives its power from the art of omission.

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