FILAF: Festival International Du Livre D’Art & Du Film
June 27—July 1, 2012
FILAF website: www.filaf.com
Before I attended this year’s FILAF festival, it was described to me as “an art historian’s delight.” Having enormously enjoyed the many great books and films presented there, I would add that it is a delight for anyone interested in art—from practitioners of every aspect of art to historians, curators, journalists and anyone with a serious “lay interest.” As this year’s catalogue puts it (in the English language section):
FILAF celebrates the best books and films about art published and released during the year . . . Books and movies about art are objects of specific interest to an art lover: they are vectors of knowledge and emotion that add to the works. More, they are often the first way for us to see works . . . They allow an understanding and appreciation so that without them [the works] would remain purely subjective.
The brainchild of philosopher Sebastien Planas and a group of friends, FILAF is sponsored by the National Institute of the History of Art (INHA) in Paris, as well as other institutions and individuals. It defines “art” very widely, from painting and sculpture to all areas of design and photography. There were so many excellent films to see and talks to attend about the books in competition for the prestigious prizes, as well as “mediateque” talks and round-tables on all sorts of cultural matters, including museums and the arts, and collecting, that it was difficult to choose which event of the two (often three) strands to attend. Above and beyond that was the pleasure of socializing and holding informal discussions with like-minded people, often after the Q & A sessions that followed each talk or screening, or at the many wonderful dinners and lunches that help FILAF achieve its stated aim of providing an atmosphere of discovery and conviviality. This festival revealed southern French / northern Catalonian hospitality at its very best (Perpignan was for many years part of Catalonia).
Using a system of distinguished jurors for each of thirteen subject areas, each year FILAF makes its selections for book winners from several thousand books published around the world, from Brazil and India to the United States, France, and Britain. The criteria are not fixed in stone but include quality of thought and writing. Nearly one thousand books were on open display at the festival and from these the jurors selected the 39 finalists and, ultimately, the thirteen prize winners—one for each category such as Artists’ Books and books on Design, Non-Western Art, Collecting and Collections, Works on Paper, Photography, Film, Architecture, Sculpture, etc. (see below). The thirteen books then all entered the competition for a yet higher level of award; the three top prizes of Prix d’Or (Gold Medal), Prix d’Argent (Silver Medal), and a Special Jury Prize (something akin to a Bronze). Nine films were selected for the festival and, again, three top prizes were awarded.
I found the films particularly stimulating, including that which won the Prix d’Or – Mendelsohn’s Incessant Visions, a beautiful study of the architect Erich Mendelsohn (“the busiest architect in Germany in the interwar years”) by Israeli film maker Duki Dror. The story was told largely through archive drawings, some of which were sent to his wife from the front during World War I, and from her memoirs; indeed the film was as much about her as him. Several of the films showed artists at work, making visual the complex work processes of the individuals concerned, including Gerhard Richter. Film treats shown out of competition included a screening of Catherine Meyburgh’s splendid In Conversation: William Kentridge and Marlene Dumas (2010). There was a special screening of a compilation of extracts from films by the noted French documentary director Adrian Maben, who was honoured with a special award in this his seventieth year, and a screening of his 1989 documentary on Helmut Newton. In addition, by popular request, an additional full screening of a pristine restored print of his Pink Floyd at Pompeii (1972) was added to the end of the program. A brilliant mix of art film, documentary, and music video rolled into one, it confirmed Maben’s early standing as a filmmaker of note.
I highly recommend it. I, for one, will be making every effort to attend in 2013.
Andy Hoogenboom is an artist (printmaker, sculptor, photographer) based in New York. He is currently vice president of the New York Society of Etchers.