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About Jenna Cato Bass

I'm a director, writer, photographer, aspiring explorer and retired magician living in Cape Town, South Africa

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Winterthur Day 1 and a Half

Posted November 13, 2010

Switzerland, or at least the part I`m in, has an almost fantastical quietness. Boots tap the street in discreet concorse,all sound is muted, buses pass without a sound.

That said, last night I was almost arrested. And I don`t mean "arrested" as in "Ohmigosh, last night, my friends and I were like totally almost arrested". I mean ARRESTED. As in, there were police dogs. Now, before those who don`t know me jump to any conclusions, no there were no drugs involved. In fact, I believe the crime was breaking and entering. And maybe trespassing. But moving along... You may think you live in a quiet part of Europe, devoid of all crime and related excitement. But just wait till the South Africans arrive. We bring the party. And, so it seems, the police dogs.

Either way, this town seems like the perfect place for a short film festival - a country of people who indulge in small fancies and bite-sized pleasures. Thus, in between the excitement, I have managed to see some very good shorts. Herewith, a chronicle:

One of the things I was most excited about seeing here was Paul Wright`s "Until the River Runs Red". I`d seen his previous short "Photos of God" in Berlin and was anxious to see how the, and I quote, "future of British cinema" would follow up. And boy, was I not disappointed. To it's credit, UTRRR is the kind of film about which it's best nt to say too much beforehand, thus I'll dispense with any description. Suffice it to say, ith UTRRR, Wright once again delves into the aftermath and often bizarre consequences of family tragedy, going far deeper than most others are brave enough, or have the imagination to explore. I would call this courageous and I would call this daring. And that's without even starting on the visual aesthetic. Though he has yet to completely win me over as a writer, Wright seems to get something which few, other than Tarkovsky, seem to grasp - the overwhelming, immersive, mesmerizing power of the single cinema image. I'm not talking here about photography, but something intrinsically bound up with the context, rhythm and movement of cinema. I'll speak no more on this (a group of people dressed in miscellaneous furs and covered in bells just walked past), other than to say Paul Wright is definitely one to watch. His storytelling is incredibly exciting, a commodity in short supply. I'll be paying good money to watch his feature, which I believe is currently in development. Thank god. 

What a pleasure it was to catch another screening of Liza Johnson's "In the Air" - also something I saw in Berlin and loved very much, covering in docu-fiction the trials, frustrations and triumphs of the teenagers in a small town circus class. Johnson does something similar, at least apparently, to Gus Van Sant in "Paranoid Park", getting her young, non-actors to act, but playing themselves. It succeeds and fails in the same way as PP, but ultimately I champion the method. As in PP, ITA as a result of this process has many moments when the acting is strained or unbelievable. However, these same flaws highten the realism and provide a hitherto unseen and unusual level of insight into the characters and personalities that would never be possible with traditional acting. The film itself is brilliant, and I wish it's speedy transition to feature, not because I believe the short format is irrelevent, but only to ensure a wider distribution, allowing more people to view "In the Air"s sincerity and genius.