The 3rd edition of the Naples Independent Film Show is one of the most interesting events in this field. For it's audience, filmmakers, curators and organisers. I do not intend this to be a competitive statement, (as there are many other extremely wonderful shows) - I simply want to underline the uniqueness and the beauty of this annual event.
The philosophy behind this series of film presentations is freedom from any of the pressures of conventional festivals: presenting new work mostly only from the past two years. Many of the films of the avant-garde, even those which are highly praised in many essays, have found their way into the canon of the highest achievements of contemporary art and its history, yet they are hardly known by the audience and rarely seen even by experts and art lovers. So, very often it seems dull to handle these precious and almost invisible works, which are of such great importance, with the same restrictions many other festivals do: showing premiers of one or the other kind, and very often not showing a work just because it has been screened at another festival before. Older work is normally shown only in retrospectives.
There is hardly any venue that gives so much freedom to the curators invited as Naples does.
There is no pressure to select the spectacular, the new, the exceptional or the popular or unpopular. There is only absolute freedom and the possibility to present whatever makes sense as a program. Not being limited, the curators (like filmmakers and all artists) may do outstanding work by either presenting very well or curating sublime programs that combine the work of all generations of independent filmmakers throughout the world.
This year we find a one man show of an exceptional talent that is hard to categorise, even the term "filmmaker" may not properly apply. The witty title of McClure's presentation, "Reciprocal Emulsion", gives a certain hint of what the viewer may expect: sublime and almost minimal projections of films that have been manipulated in often simple and always very direct ways, for example by hand-tinting the emulsion, thus creating little changes in the surface that cause the event on the screen in the projection.
In Piero Pala's program we find classics such as Jacobs' Little Stabs at Happiness (one of those films hardly ever seen, especially in Europe) and Looking for the Mushrooms by Bruce Conner. This film maker's use of footage he shot himself, represents a rare exception in the work of a filmmaker who is the most prominent protagonist of found footage filmmaking. Looking for the Mushrooms is a psychedelic masterpiece about the search for magic mushrooms, accompanied by the score of Terry Riley. The entire program will be dedicated to films with a strong affinity to music and very characteristic scores.
Louis Benassi in the 2nd program stretches this year's festival into a context that is also linked to contemporary video art from Great Britain and is dedicated to the idea of "Topographies and space".
Florian Wüst's program "Ecstatic Bodies" deals with the sensual perceptions being triggered by film, by either using imagery that evokes strong or extreme sensations in the viewer.
One of the relevant examples of such an attempt is Paul Sharits' T,O,U,C,H,I,N,G, that tries to attack the viewer physically and grab his retina, touch his eye. Both visually intense and structurally complex, and extremely rigid, Sharits was able to even include allusions to his own autobiography. We see a face being scratched by a woman's fingernails and its tongue being cut out with scissors; Sharits himself had comparable experiences and towards the end of his life his body was covered with scars from being wounded by shotguns, scissors knives and fist fights.
The festival in Naples takes place in a location of overwhelming beauty and atmosphere: the Fondazione Morra, a gallery under the roof of Palazzo dello Spagnuolo in via Vergini, only few meters from the Centro Storico of Naples. This location, being beautiful itself, also seems to have soaked up the intensity of decades of artistic intensity and harmony and radiate it to the extremely receptive and enthusiastic Neapolitan audience.
The intense atmosphere in the gallery room is enhanced by the fact that films are projected from within the room, the filmmakers mostly projecting themselves which guarantees for a perfection in the presentation of film that could never be achieved with a cinemas projection booth. Also the physical presence of the machinery makes the audience aware of the technology that presents each work as well as creating an intimacy between makers and audience.
It has always been the basic idea of this Independent Film Show to create an interest rather than meet an existing one, and the makers had from the very beginning in mind to create a series that might change the perception of independent and artistic filmmaking, not only in the south of Italy.
Working with film very often means that an artist stands between the fine arts and conventional filmmaking, and is viewed suspiciously from both sides (and also very often faces the bitter reality of seeing the achievements of avant-garde filmmaking successfully applied in another context, without being given due credit).
The Independent Film Show Naples - at least for one week a year- has given independent film a home: right in the heart of fine arts.