The Year of the Eternal Storm is a new anthology focusing on the cinema about and made during the pandemic. It will be available at the IFC Center starting Friday. The collection includes seven short films by seven well-known directors from five countries: China, USA (Chile), Thailand, Iran, and China. They are diverse in their form, including documentary, fiction, hybrid, and unclassifiable. Even the most basic of films is worth watching. The best, despite being short, are the strongest films of the year.
It is a bitter irony, that Jafar Panahi’s best film was made. He was a filmmaker who had worked in isolation for many years before the pandemic. Since 2010, he has been placed under house arrest in Tehran for political allegations. He was also prohibited from making films. But, he continued to work, worked secretly, and eventually brought his films out of Iran. His bravery to make films in such difficult circumstances is one thing. His art, especially “This Is Not a Film”, and “Taxi”, are some of the most treasured cinematic works of the past decade. Panahi’s entry for “The Year of the Everlasting Storm”, “Life,” was filmed in his Tehran apartment. It also featured Iggy, the family’s domestic iguana. The film is a cheeky and clever faux-naive blend of documentary and feature film. It shows Panahi’s family members who are not surprised at their involvement in making the film.
Panahi and Tahereh Saidi balsini are life’s cameramen. They use cell phones to record their private lives. Although the title of the film is “Life”, the film’s defining and lasting shadow is death. The simple, everyday acts of the family in lockdown are memorable symbols of the widespread effects of this pandemic. Iggy can be seen enjoying his spacious apartment. At the beginning, he is looking out through a closed window at two eggs that are far away from him on a terrace. A pigeon then sits on the eggs, protecting its future brood. It’s the life cycle with its threatening dangers. The whole of natural history is in just a few minutes.
The intercom rings. A safety video shows a person wearing protective clothing from head and toe. Tahereh (sixty-nine) and Panahi (sixty-sixty), are astonished to learn that their visitor is an official from the “Corona” unit. The visitor is standing in front of the door, and Panahi is filming through his cell phone’s peephole. It turns out that his ninety year-old mother has not had any contact with her son or daughter-in law since Lockdown began. She complains that Panahi throws her purchases in front and then runs. The visit is warm and nuanced. The elderly woman has no internet access at home and wants to talk to Solmaz, their daughter, who lives in Paris. Panahi calls her, then hands the phone to his mother. The grandmother recalls singing to Solmaz a song about her child’s birth when she was a little girl. Solmaz then comments that Solmaz is “dying” and takes the conversation into a more serious, dark, and happy direction. Later, while Panahi was filming his mother praying she calls him and unfolds a cloth containing jewelry.
The combination of simple and complex in “Life”, turns out to be a radiantly transformative. The film focuses on the practicalities of lockdown and the dangers of coronavirus and how these are reflected in family relationships. Panahi’s film has a haunting tone. His style is somewhere between casual home movies or thoughtful compositions. He subliminates the details of the immediate experience into powerful cinematic symbols. Jafar Panahi makes a short film called “What’s Happening.” He speaks to a friend of a filmmaker about the features Panahi shot while under house arrest. “I didn’t make these three films. They are the fruit of the situation I am in. These three films were made by those who forced this situation on me. ”The film“ Life ”This film looks more like Panahi’s pandemic film, but it is more like the pandemic itself making the film.
Laura Poitras (Citizenfour) is back on the subject of state surveillance with her short documentary, “Terror Contagion”. She speaks via videochat with Forensic architecture, an investigative journalism group. Your report focuses on the government’s use of Pegasus spyware by NSO, an Israeli technology company, to monitor private persons. They describe how the software spreads like an infection to computers of the target as well as those of their family members, friends, and coworkers. A 3-D map shows how activists and journalists are being targeted in one country and how it is expanding internationally. They discuss the Saudi government’s use Pegasus software in Jamal Khashoggi’s murder and the connection between Pegasus, the contact tracing software that was sold to governments during the pandemic. “Terror Contagion”This makes it easy to see the practical and metaphorical parallels between literal and virtuelle virality. In a moving interlude, Poitras talks about her long-held fear of being quarantined and the isolation that resulted from the spying she witnessed during her time working with Snowden. (A title card indicates that the “NSO denies all claims in this movie.”
Malik Vitthal’s short documentary “Little Measures”The special perspective of isolation is one that predated the pandemic and has been only exacerbated by it. This is Bobby Yay Yay Yay Jones’ first-person account about his relationship to his children Yay’Veontay and Bobby Levi, who each live in foster homes. Jones and his three children are seen on cell phones, making calls and meeting as he attempts to reunite them in a family and regain custody and visiting rights. The pandemic has hampered these efforts and delayed them. Vitthal too finds frightening continuities in life between the pandemic and normal life. Jones also reminds one son how to protect himself from gunfire when Jones is reminded of this. The playful, piquant monochrome animations that highlight the documentary film material offer a sense of imaginative freedom.
Three of the films of “The Year of the Eternal Storm”, however, are openly fictitious. David Lowery’s “Dig Up My Darling”, is a demonstration of concentrated ingenuity and forceful ingenuity. Lowery’s feature film “The Green Knight”, which is currently showing in theaters worldwide, returns to the metaphysical mode that allows for cruel local observation. This film, “A Ghost Story,” was his best film to date. “Dig Up My Darling” is a mystery that conceals details in its idiosyncratic purity. It is an echo of history that is furiously amplified through its stylistic compression. Catherine Machovsky portrays an unnamed woman. She opens a door to a warehouse to find a box containing old letters addressed from Mr. CE Crosby in Dallas. Clyde is greeting him in the letters. The woman reads the letters. She then drives her pickup truck along the long distance to carry out the mission. Clyde’s father sent the letters. They report Clyde’s death in a period of severe contagion and offer a map of the child’s unmarked grave. The only actress on the screen is the woman. It is mainly a duo film for the director/actress, whose stories and efforts make up the entirety of the film’s visual plot. Still, “Dig Up My Darling”The soundtrack is always the main focus of the film – the voice of Clyde’s father Bill Callahan (voice of Clyde), who uses the text of his letters to create a narrative that almost brings Life’s social history and distant, but still devastating family dramas. Lowery’s description of another long-ago contagion, and the lingering and revived traces its victims (alongside references to victims in other disasters such as war), Lowery visually defines imagination as an emotional connection and creates a real, practical vision of Mind and Soul.
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