Manifesta Screens Films
Participating artists’ favorite films to be shown during art festival.
Published: April 16, 2014 (Issue # 1806)
Manifesta, the biennial contemporary art festival that St. Petersburg is scheduled to host this year, has already run into its fair share of criticism. Artists have begun to boycott the event because of the situation in Ukraine, while St. Petersburg’s city hall has scrambled to rescue the reputation of an event that some in the local art community deem inappropriate considering the political climate.
However, the festival is not simply about artists in the painting, sculpting and photographing sense. In collaboration with the Goethe Institute of St. Petersburg, St. Petersburg will also be host to Manifest 10: Favorite Movies of Contemporary Artists, a film festival starting Apr. 17, two months before the official opening of the art exhibition.
Eight artists have chosen movies that are their favorites, ones they say that they can watch again and again without ever becoming bored.
As anyone will tell you, it is difficult to choose a favorite film and, for some people, the answers the artists give may seem like an unlikely choice. In this particular variation of a film festival, each artist will present his or her film to the assembled audience, screen the film and then discuss its merits so that viewers not only attain a greater understanding of the film but a better idea of the artist’s influences.
The first film of the festival, Billy Wilder’s comedy “One, Two, Three,” screens on Apr. 17. Wilder’s classic follows the exploits of a Coca-Cola salesman in Cold War Berlin who tries his best to keep his boss’ daughter from marrying an East German communist. The movie is the choice of Kasper König, an icon in the contemporary art world as well as the curator of this year’s Manifesta in St. Petersburg.
The film festival will culminate on Oct. 17 with the showing of “The Dead,” the 1987 drama inspired by the James Joyce short story from his famous collection “The Dubliners.” The film is the pick of Susan Phillips, an artist born in Scotland in 1960 who won the Turner Prize for contemporary art in 1960, the most prestigious British art award available. She lives and works in Berlin.
The films will be shown intermittently throughout the course of the coming six months. One of the other films is Federico Fellini’s “8 1/2,” the choice of Katharina Fritsch, a German sculptor. The film is about an Italian director in the midst of a creative crisis who decides to find inspiration in his own thoughts and memories.
John Varsha, the curator of public programs for this year’s festival, chose “Soy Cuba,” an ode to the Cuban revolution in 1959 that shocked the world and transformed Fidel Castro and Che Guevara from unknown rebels to international icons. The movie, made in 1964 by Soviet filmmakers, is a series of short stories detailing the struggle to overthrow then-dictator Fulgencio Batista.
“Soy Cuba” might not be the only film to portray the effects of communism in a positive light either. Pavel Braila, a Moldovan filmmaker, chose “12:08 East of Bucharest” as his selection for Manifesta’s festival. The film is similar to “Soy Cuba” in that it is a series of vignettes rather than one coherent storyline but unlike the other film’s portrayal of the socialist revolution as an uplifiting, proletarian experience, Braila’s choice of movie tries to answer more difficult questions about whether or not the revolution that deposed Nicolae Ceausescu in 1989 was, in fact, a revolution to help the people or something different.
The film festival will feature eight favorite films of some of the festival’s more prominent participants. All featured films will be shown at the Avrora Cinema at 60 Nevsky Prospekt.
The art festival is scheduled to begin on June 28 and stay in St. Petersburg until Oct. 31. The State Hermitage Museum is the planned sight for the artists’ work and St. Petersburg’s city hall hopes that the event will boost the international image of the city.
Deputy Governor Vasily Kichedzhi was quoted on City Hall’s website on Feb. 12 as saying that “Manifesta 10 is one of the main events of the Year of Culture in Russia.”