Geli Mademli is a PhD candidate at the Amsterdam School of Cultural Analysis, University of Amsterdam, working on Greek film heritage and the concept of crisis as a modality of media archeology. She has taught at the University of Amsterdam and Amsterdam University College, she collaborates with the Thessaloniki International Film/Documentary Festival and the Syros International Film Festival as a publications coordinator and film programmer respectively, and also works as a freelance journalist and translator.
In its fourth edition, Syros International Film Festival gave a carte blanche to an emblematic figure of experimental filmmaking to curate one of its programs. Pip Chodorov was born in 1965 to a writer and a painter and raised on a farm. He started making films and music in 1971, after studying cognitive science at the University of Rochester. He then moved to Paris to study film semiotics, and in 1990 joined the legendary experimental filmmakers cooperative Light Cone. During his visit on the Greek island, this devoted supporter of the cinematic as a thought process explained how films can function as points of entry to a different state of consiousness and gave us a rare opportunity to discuss the challenges of programming in the era of vast accessibility.
Geli Mademli: The central theme of this year’s SIFF is “revision” – which is at the same time a prerequisite for change and a filtering method. Do you follow a specific method when “filtering” and curating a festival program?
Pip Chodorov: It is always different. For me every program has a different approach and it has a different audience as well. It depends if it is for a festival or for a university room, if the audience is already experienced in experimental film or if they have no idea what they will encounter. I am always interested in how the program will be received. In this case I was asked by SIFF’s head programmer Nathaniel Draper to make a selection, but I didn’t expect that on this Greek island there would be an interest in experimental films. When I started putting things together, the first film that came to mind was Jean Eustache’s film Une Sale histoire: It’s the same story told twice and it promotes the idea of repetition in a new way, where the second time is different and plus it informs the first time. ... More
According to a popular dictionary, the word “weird,” an adjective equivalent in connotation to the “strange” or “unusual,” is akin to the “old English term for fate, or else for what was ‘worthy’ to come into existence” (Merriam-Webster 2011). As fate would have it, the very same word was brought to the fore and has been highly associated with contemporary Greek film production, from the moment a Guardian journalist introduced this tag. In this unusual founding document, Steve Rose relates the aesthetic values of this art-house films that were channeled in the international festival circuit, to the status quo of Greek politics and finance in the beginning of the second decade of the new Millennium: “The world's most messed-up country is making the world's most messed-up cinema” (Rose 2011). The world film industry and criticism has already assimilated the notion of “weird” as a generic term for an innovative artistic current. At the same time, the regulating tag of the “messing up” is still applied in favor of the standardization of a national identity, in a “common process where the structural and morphological traits of a national cinema conclude to the formation of a particular genre” (Poupou 2014: 47). However, we still find ourselves puzzled by the most striking trademark of this cinematic expression; the appearance of a new, hybrid spoken language in the diegetic world, which consists in word plays, metaphorical schemas, elliptical sentences, loanwords and made-up words etc., while the concept of role-playing is central in the narrative and the character development. Approaching this recent artistic practice through the scope of the notion of language games in the context of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s philosophy, we will try to speculate on how this playful approach to language criticizes its power as an established social practice and domineering structure, and how these films disband a master narrative that would be articulated as a totalizing cultural narrative schema by a national cinematic apparatus. Eventually, the cultural idiom that is formulated by this roster of young directors is neither national nor transnational (Papadimitriou 2011: 493), but it is rather self-reflective, as it speculates on the place of a piece of art in a globalized context, at this time juncture. ... More