Film and Video Program

The Program, expected to be one of the most popular and public-friendly events at the Biennale, aims to not only focus on the main theme of ‘Imminent Commons’ but to promote broader understanding of a city’s modern history through feature films whose narrative will show how modes of occupation and sharing of urban spaces and other common resources have changed through time, not in abstract or petrified principles but as reflected in the concrete realities of everyday life. 

Light and the City 

The correlation between film and architecture needs no emphasis. The birth of cinema coincided with the moment in history of architecture when its prime language, as suggested by Le Corbusier in his idea of “promenade architecturale” or by Sigfried Giedion in Space, Time & Architecture, was recognized as space and time, which were also the quintessential elements of the new media. Early silent cinema saw a series of city symphonies, from Walter Ruttmann’s Berlin: Symphony for a Great City (1927) to Dziga Vertov’s The Man with a Movie Camera (1929), which celebrated the dynamism of modern cities in terms of physical environment and the lifestyles it inspires.

Narrative films, which have since become the major form of cinematic production, were also fascinated by the city. Of course, as fiction films offer filmmakers and designers a chance to create imaginary environments, many take place in non-places and distant utopias/dystopias. However, the interest of the Film & Video Program lies in those films with stories that are intricately connected with the actual realities of a city and its unique way of life. Certain genres as film noir are inherently linked to the urban environment, just as some filmmakers are identified with a certain city: Martin Scorsese, Abel Ferrara, Woody Allen with New York, Federico Fellini with Rome, Wong Kar-wai with Hong Kong, and Michael Mann with Chicago and Los Angeles. Most of these filmmakers work on their own native home towns, but sometimes it takes the distanced, objective, yet affectionate eyes of an outsider to grasp a city’s unique features. 

The Culture of Urban Commons

Films are an appropriate media to deliver the aims of the Biennale since its theme, ‘Imminent Commons’, puts further emphasis not on the physical properties of a city but on how they are occupied in everyday lives. It is a focus on the culture of sharing, which need not and often does not coincide with spaces of sharing. Korea especially is familiar with the discordance between space and function, or the idea of temporally appropriated space: street cheering during 2002 World Cup games or the recent protest gatherings against central government’s political conspiracies have showed that urban spaces, not just those designated as plazas, are open to occupation when the need arises. Civic needs precede physical settings, and such temporal transition of a space’s function is one of the core issues in our expanding ideas on urban commons. These unique moments of spatial appropriation are captured and presented in narrative films, through which our views on the city of commons can expand on a horizon of concrete realities and exact incidents rather than abstract principles.