Below is a transcript from the introduction and post-screening Q&A following the screening of our two films The Quest For The Cine-Rebis and In Search Of The Exile, which took place at Maus Hábitos in Porto, on 27th July 2016. Some of this discussion took place in Portuguese and has been translated for publication. Thanks to Júlio Mendes Rodrigo, Zeza Guedes, Mia Tintin, Andrómeda – Agenciamento e Produção and Shortcutz Porto.
Júlio Mendes Rodrigo: Before introducing Clara and Daniel, I’d like to say a few words of thanks. Tonight is the last screening in a series organised by Andrómeda – Agency and Production and Shortcutz Porto. My first thank you goes to the members of Shortcutz for making this happen and for being so receptive from the start. I’d also like to thank Maus Hábitos, a venue which has long been supporting artistic ventures which sometimes struggle to fit into these kinds of circuits so I very much appreciate their openness and high level of professionalism. This series has consisted of four screenings, namely on 5th and 6th of July with Sebastian Wiedemann and a showcase of experimental cinema from South America. Then on the 13th we hosted the premiere of Reino, a film by João Monteiro, and tonight we have here Clara and Daniel with a double bill.
Contrary to my usual habit, I’ve brought with me some notes for this introduction and I will tell you why. Since the moment I became acquainted with Clara and Daniel’s work I became a fan, and so that tonight’s introduction does not go wayward with some excess from my part, I’ll stick to this summary that I prepared beforehand. Clara and Daniel are a British-Portuguese directing duo, as you might have realised, who started their collaboration in 2011 under the banner of The Underground Film Studio. Their work has been developed in the form of filmmaking, installation, performance and photography, through which they aim to explore a certain dimension of cinema as an arena to deal with collective myths and, dare I say, personal idiosyncrasies. Their work together has been exhibited in over 20 film festivals around the world, from Chicago to Zagreb and Bologna. They are also the editors of Film Panic Magazine.
About the films we are showing tonight, both have been produced earlier this year, 2016. The first film, The Quest For The Cine-Rebis, is 25 minutes long and the second film, In Search Of The Exile, is 63 minutes long. The Quest For The Cine-Rebis is an essay-film, a kind of meditation in which the art of cinema and the journey of an artist are explored as a kind of manifesto that questions the patriarchal and industrial approaches that have been characteristic of cinema during the last century, that is to say, since its invention at the end of the 19th century. In Search Of The Exile is a film that deals with very curious circumstances, namely a certain mythical dimension, a certain dimension of the collective unconscious. The film also emerges as an alchemical language and approach that is explored by the two artists. It is a visionary experience. I have already had the opportunity to watch this film but maybe I’d leave it until after we have all seen it to exchange a few thoughts. That’s it for now. Enjoy the film and thank you for coming.
Zeza Guedes: Would you like to talk about how the film [In Search Of The Exile] came about?
Clara Pais: Well the film actually grew out of another film [The Kingdom Of Shadows] that we were shooting in the Autumn last year where we had a lot of people come from different countries and we shot a lot of things. While we were editing the film in the winter, we found that there were some scenes that didn’t fit into the original film but were still very interesting. For some time we had been talking about doing a film that was more abstract and with a more disintegrated kind of narrative so we started experimenting with these extra bits of footage and In Search Of The Exile grew out of this.
Daniel Fawcett: I think the other starting point was the poems. You’d been writing some poems about this idea of the exile and characters in a wasteland, a mythological wasteland situation, and the threads of these kinds of characters and situations grew into this film.
Zeza: The poems are yours too?
Daniel: No, the poems were written by Clara.
Audience member: Could you translate? Because I can’t speak English and the first film was not subtitled, in the second the language was universal so it didn’t need translation. I’m referring to the first film, I’m afraid I couldn’t enjoy it fully because I was trying to decode what they were saying, my English is terrible, it’s practically nonexistent, I lost it, lost it all, do you see?
Clara: Yes, I’m sorry but this is very interesting because in a way there is always something that goes amiss, at least in the films I’m interested in there are always elements that are lost. Sometimes it is because there is so much to see or the films are a sort of labyrithine experience so there are things that we lose but then there is also so much to discover, like we’re seeing it all for the first time no matter how many times you watch it. But if you would like I can translate.
Júlio: Your films raise so many questions, interesting questions in the first film and the second. I would like to ask three questions. The first one is to Daniel because you make a statement in The Quest For The Cine-Rebis, something about the director as a shaman, so I’d like you to further explain that role.
Daniel: I think we live in a time when the visual language that we have around us in advertisement, television and most mainstream movies is serving a purpose of carrying information and it’s an information with a very limited purpose, it is trying to communicate something very directly, and most of it is communicating something with a very similar kind of message. And what I’m interested in is creating a cinema which uses a visual language that breaks from this limited kind of language that we’re being bombarded with every moment of every day, online, on television and in the streets. And one of the ways I feel we can reach a new kind of visual language is to look beyond the intellect, to reach into the unconscious through dreams and through meditation and various forms of stream of consciousness exercises, to see what kind of images will come out. From studying my dreams and from doing these kinds of exercises I’ve found that surprising and invigorating images emerge that really break from the ideas and imagery that we’re bombarded with all the time, such as the usual representations of gender and identity and those kind of things. So I think when I talk about the idea of being like a shaman is really about accessing that part of ourselves that is beyond the intellect, accessing those vague things, those ungraspable and timeless things that really can’t be pinned down to existing intellectual frameworks.
Júlio: My next question has something to do with the medium. In the movie The Quest For The Cine-Rebis you approach the subject about digital and film. During your working process do you reflect on this kind of media, do you always have this in mind? Do you also think that the medium affects the message?
Clara: Yes, I’d say so, not message in the sense of information like what we were just talking about, but simply in that these different formats have different textures and induce different kinds of sensual and emotional experiences. In the film we give our take on this current discussion in filmmaking about the passage from mainly using celluloid to having digital also available. There are people who say that true cinema can only be created in celluloid and others who say that celluloid is obsolete. There are now many different kinds of image capturing formats and of course all are different, this question regarding film and video is really about the texture of the images, which is interesting, but I think cinema is more than this, cinema is a kind of language and a kind of experience of which for example this screening and this discussion are also a part. Film posters, trailers and screening spaces are also a part of what the cinema is. And this is what we find interesting, all these different aspects of cinema are the materials that we work with, not just the different formats but everything from creating the films, imagining them, presenting them and all the ephemera surrounding them, this is all part of the world that we like to explore in our work.
Júlio: The last question is something to do with In Search Of The Exile and your entire work. Do you think that you are too demanding with the audience? Because you are dealing with a lot of deep concepts like the archetypes, alchemy, myth and ritual, do you think that nowadays people are still interested and do they have to keys to decipher and enter into your creative world?
Daniel: I think those things are there for anybody who is interested in exploring them but when it comes down to it all that matters really is not understanding the films but experiencing them. We’re making films where whatever the experience that each of you has when viewing it, is the right experience. It isn’t about understanding, it’s about what goes on in your mind and what goes on in your body when you’re sitting there and the film is playing. You might have moments when you’re distracted and you’re thinking about something else and then you come back to the film and you’re interested again, that’s your experience and that’s valid and that’s what we’re really trying to do with our films. It’s about creating a situation where we’re not telling people what to think, we’re not telling people how to feel, we’re allowing people to have their own experience. This is about having the freedom to be yourself and for that to be valid. This really is the overall purpose of all our work.
Clara: In some ways it is about creating moments and situations where people can really push against their own limits and discover something about themselves. It is in these moments that we can find what we really feel, what we really understand of things, or how we feel about ourselves. And many times these feelings have no names, we don’t have words for them but we feel them and we must bring them up to consciousness.