Aarde aan Daan is a Dutch Indie pop band consisting of 5 members (Daan Hafkamp, Luuk Hafkamp, Daan Henselmans, Jesse Fleer and Bram Koldenhof), with singer-songwriter Daan Hafkamp as the lead singer. This is their very first video clip for Drink Meisje Drink (“Drink Girl Drink” for the international readers) and is quite ‘special’ in the strict sense of the word. Although Hafkamp himself is currently crossing the Dutch borders to Belgium, he prefers to say that his band Aarde aan Daan is a baby with mixed roots in The Netherlands (Amsterdam) and Belgium (Antwerp).
The director of Drink Meisje Drink, Michiel Robberecht, is a good friend of Daan’s and is currently working on a feature film. He made the clip in a very abstract, almost avant-garde style in which the time seems standing still by using a static camera. The band consciously chose to catch the contrast of being at a standstill versus the superficiality and volatility of the digital era. Hafkamp himself explains that the clip is inspired by Coffee & Cigarettes (Jim Jarmusch, 2010) and the arts project The Artist is Present by the Serbian performer Marina Abramović (2010). These influences can be clearly noticed in the use of black and white and the static camera. The only thing to be seen in the entire video clip is 2 heads (the male character is Daan Hafkamp himself), who are just staring at each other. This might seem dull for some viewers, but wait for it! Near 2:30 mins the focus is on the tears welling up in Daan’s eyes, which will leave you wondering and speculating about the song’s actual meaning. Consequently, the lack of action makes you focus more on the music and lyrics.
The video clip for Drink Meisje Drink is a matter of ‘love it or hate it’, but cinephiles, who are fond of Jarmusch’s poetic visual style of long-shots and minimal sets will probably go for the first option.
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How is life in China after a life-wrecking tsunami? This is the question posed by Tsunami, a fantastic animated short by the Danish director Sofie Kampmark about an elderly man named Haru who lives in denial after a tsunami. He discovers a sea spirit, who makes him face reality and deal with his loss, but that is not how I experienced it and interpreted the story. Although I do agree that this 7-minute short that got selected for this year’s La Séléction Cinéfondation at the Cannes Film Festival is more about the message it conveys than about the Visuals.
This is how the story goes: life goes on after a big wave trashed Haru’s little Chinese cottage, and he tries to leave the dramatic event behind him by picking back up the banalities of life, although the traces are still visible from the crabs and fishes lingering around. But all of a sudden he finds a gigantic fish in his bathtub risking death by dehydration. Kampmark wonderfully uses colour in order to show whether the fish is still alive; he almost seems to lighten up every time he touches the water. This contrasts with the rest of the animation, where colours remain rather dark and less vivid. After a dream sequence, that in my opinion was not really relevant for any narrative progress, Haru personally takes care of bringing the poor fish back to the ocean.
The moral of the story lies in the fact that he chooses to save the life of the fish above getting his own life back on track, and then how this heroic deed affects his future. I question, though, whether Kampmark aimed for such kind of responses and interpretations from her audience. Also, I really wonder where she got the idea from to make an animation film about a tsunami in China, although she herself lives in Denmark. One might want to know whether there is any personal motivation involved.
Tsunami is a visually beautiful film, but the way its content makes you think more deeply about current global phenomena might distract you from its technical side.
Eva Riley, a well-known and talented British director of shorts, perfectly captures the effects of family tradition and social prejudice in her 14-minute drama appropriately called Patriot. No wonder this short film was selected to compete for the Short Film Palme d’ Or at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival.
In the aftermath of a series of racial tensions in a rural British community, the young 11-year old Hannah (played by the new young talent Halle Kidd) bumps into a boy (Rafael Constantin) from a forbidden district. They play together, although different in every possible way; she’s native British, he’s a gipsy living in a trailer. But even though they initially get along, eventually things go wrong, and the film seems to end where it started. Hannah unfortunately lives a brainwashed existence, influenced by her chauvinistic far-right and foul-mouthed kin.
The opening and closing of this short film is framed by an English patriotic hymn called Jerusalem, celebrating the rich heritage of the native Brits. But while the film starts with Hannah singing in pride, it ends with the ambiguity between faithfulness to her own cultural mores and values and the shame of how she got moulded into a racist.
Patriot‘s strength lies in its symbolism. Hannah leaves her father (Michael Elkin) wearing their red cross-flag like a superhero would wear his cape. Standing tall and fierce, she seems to not be afraid of the unexpected, until the moment she bumps into a gipsy boy. When she returns home, there is no trace of the flag; she has put it away just like her short-sighted attitude.
The use of space also adds to the themes of the film. The closer she gets to the boy, the closer the camera approaches them, but nonetheless, the montage techniques are kept at a bare minimum and one should definitely pay close attention to the mise-en-scène. Riley’s approach of distance and proximity between the characters symbolises their relationship and emotional attachment. There are no flash-backs and forwards. The entire narrative looks like a continuous shot, which almost literally sucks the audience into the story.
Riley leaves her audience abashed, making us aware of any negative stance we take toward other cultures and of the discriminating behaviour we ourselves are guilty of. At the same time, she also takes us back to those good old times of our childhood innocence by showing us in only 5 minutes how easy it was back then to get over social prejudice and accept each other as equals. Although Patriot ends like it started, the circle is not completely round, because one can tell from her face that Hannah struggles internally with who she truly is, and who she is expected to be.
Check Eva Riley’s website for more information and a trailer.