Festival guide: Wildscapes March 19, 2017

Pille Runnel, festival director


  • Shadows of Endurance is screeningonThursday, 23.03, 13:00, Jakob Hurt Hall
  • Linefork, is screening on Wednesday, 22.03, 15:30, Jakob Hurt Hall
  • Half-life in Fukushima is screening on Saturday, 25.03, 13:30, Jakob Hurt Hall
  • One Long Journey is screening onWednesday, 22.03, 13:30, Jakob Hurt Hall

This year’s film selection forms different groups and clusters. Unique sets are obviously created by each viewer as they attend the screenings one by one. But also the program team grouped films in ways they appeared us as meaningful or "talking" to each other.

Here are four of them. Although not the intention of the film directors, all four appeared me to be dealing in some ways with wildscapes - marginal spaces, located outside rules and regulations.

As spaces, wildscapes are wild and unstructured. When linked to popular (urban) culture, this concept refers to playfulness and promise of freedom. Wildscapes have evolved rather than designed or planned: former industrial sites, landfills, woods, urban wastelands, varying from small sites to entire regions and cities. These spaces are signs of big structural changes. Full of life and possibilities once, but empty and outside the fast pace of life nowadays.

Although people try to leave these areas there are those who stay - voluntarily or because they don’t see ways out.

Wildscapes form the background for two stories on life after coal in Harlan county. This area has an outsized place in American conciousness and a song made famous by Amanach Singers at 1963 sounds familiar perhaps even to those who are not familiar with this story of American working class, the coal miners and their role in American political history.

Currently the communities in Harlan are at different stages of grief and anger. The crisis of the mining industry has resulted in poverty, crime and social isolation. While there is agrowing acceptance that the coal boom is not coming to save the jobs or create new ones, just recently the world could follow US presidential candidate Donald Trump promising to restore the coal industry to its former health, gaining the majority of the local voices.

The links between everyday life and politics is central in a short film Shadows of Endurance (dir Diego Scarponi, 22 min), interveawing the interviews with people that live in Harlan today and the voices from the past gathered by Alessandro Portelli, one of the leaders of the ooral history movement, whose book They Say in Harlan County told the story of the coal mining community between 1964 and 2009.

Linefork (dir Vic Rawlings and Jeff Silva, 98 min) portrays a different kind of life in the area of Eastern Kentucky. Subistence farmers Lee and Opal Sexton are an elderly couple working on their garden. Their daily life is slow, but steady. Coal mining is just a barely visible backround for this story, as Lee is a retired coal miner. But he is more known as a legendary banjo player, representing mountain music, a vanishing traditional culture. Lee continues to perform at square dances and teach his distinctive style of playing to a new generation. Lee is a vibrant, living link to the deep past of American music beyond the reality created by coal.

A kind of derelict industrial site is located at Fukushima. It was already 2011 when a devastating tsunami in Fukushima region, Japan, damages the nuclear power plant, causing the evacuation of the entire population within a radius of several dozen kilometers. The third film in this program, Half-life in Fukushima (dir Mark Olexa, Francesca Scalisi, 61 min), tells a story about this region five years after the disaster, when just one man still lives there: Naoto Matsumura. While the area is far from risk-free, he continues his life in a landscape transformed by the lack of people and the ongoing decontamination work. In order to look after the abandoned animals that inhabit this new world, Naoto Matsumura decided to confront the invisible threat embodied by the ghost-town of Tomioka. His life is a silent resistance in the contaminated zone.

One Long Journey (dir Andy Lawrence, 86 min) follows the adventures of Vik Pengilly-Johnson as he attempts to fulfill a lifelong dream and to escape the lonely confines of his flat in the south of England. His aim is to rebuild the broken shell of a river cruiser that he has found in a northern boatyard and sail it home. The English waterways, successfully utilised for contemporary leisure lifestyles as a backround for this story need no explanation for the English viewers. For me, this combination of rivers and canals is a kind of industrial ruin. Especially the British canal system of water transport played a vital role in the United Kingdom's Industrial Revolution. The UK was the first country to acquire a nationwide canal network already back at a time when roads were only just emerging from the medieval mud and the strongest canals survived until the Second World War. Nowadays, the canal- and riverboats, Vik dreams of, are part of leisure lifestyles. Huge structural changes, affecting the whole Britain, form an amusing setting for the slow life at the boatyard and the mundane tinkering.