Tuesday, 16 April 2019

SUPERFLY SUPER 8... Film (2016) by Avant Kinema

**Shortlisted for the EIFF Short Film Challenge 2016 with a World Premier screening at The Filmhouse, Edinburgh, 6th Aug 2016.** 

 **Two further screenings that same month at Edinburgh Digital Entertainment Festival.** 

**English Premiere at LSFF (London Short Film Festival) in January 2017 at the Moth Club in Hackney. (We attended this screening with the assistance of a Creative Scotland grant.) ** 

**European Premiere in Barcelona (17th February 2018) at an International Super 8 screening event (Mostra de Videoclips Rodats en Super 8) - part of the Minifestival de Música Independent de Barcelona.** 

SUPERFLY SUPER 8 circa NINETEEN SEVENTY SEVEN (2016) by Scottish experimentalists, Sarahjane Swan & Roger Simian (Avant Kinema), was the duo's first ever delve into Super 8 filmmaking. Shooting on TRI-X B&W reversal film, using vintage analogue film-cameras, Swan & Simian set out to create "the Super 8 dream of a classic Film Noir as if made by New York No Wavers".

Directed by Sarahjane Swan & Roger Simian

Performer: Sarahjane Swan

Cinematography & Editing: Roger Simian  & Sarahjane Swan 

Music: The Bird And The Monkey 

Duration: 2 minutes 30 seconds 

Cameras: Canon 514XL & AGFA Family

Film: Kodak TRI-X reversal 7266

Processing & Scan: Gauge Film

Film completed: 24 June 2016

Edited in iMovie

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

ALPHONSO'S JAW Installation / Film (2016)

In 2016 we created an immersive, multi-format installation for Alchemy Film and Moving Image Festival, called Alphonso's Jaw.

The installation, and subsequent short film, were inspired by our facination for two objects we discovered amongst Edinburgh University's Anatomy Collection: (1) the cast of a disfigured face; (2) a prosthetic jaw constructed on an early nineteenth century battlefield.

Through some research we unearthed the story of Alphonse Luis, a young French gunner struck by shrapnel at the Siege of Antwerp, 1832. Having suffered horrific facial injuries, losing his lower face, Alphonse's quality of life was eventually improved when the Surgeon-Major and a local Belgian artist collaborated on the construction of a silver prosthetic jaw, painted in flesh tones and adorned with whiskers. 


We uncovered historical accounts of Alphonse Luis' injury, surgery, recuperation and rehabilitation in medical journals of the day, and drew on these for an exploration of identity, disfigurement and reconstruction.

In Alphonso's Jaw we imagine that Alphonse Luis has become dislocated from history to exist outside of any specific time or place, trapped in eternal convalescence, soothed by the dreams of his Battlefield Muse, who is equal parts Night Nurse, Scheherazade and Beauty from Beauty and the Beast. Luis' Battlefield Muse is, in turn, both horrified and fascinated by her patient.

As well as multiple video projections, music and sculptural elements - which included dislocated white hands thrusting from walls clutching crimson rose buds; numerous handcrafted prosthetic legs; and an American army stretcher haunted by WWI shell-shock victims - our installation included the following poem.

short film by Avant Kinema


Beauty and the Silver Mask
poem by Avant Kinema

My name is Beauty.
My name is Scheherazade.
I gorge on words, feverishly
in the privacy of my cell cot.
Words nourish my soul.
Each twilight I whisper words of freedom and captivity.

I am the sadness of lost women
and the wild boys
who forgot the fluidity of youth
who forgot that skin and bones
will crystalize,
shatter into smithereens
like the Citadel of Antwerp
under the monster
mortar fire of the ticking clock.
Your name is Beast.
My favourite enemy, you invade
my dreams.
You are the Beast who imprisons me.
The shock of your devastated jaw holds me captive until morning.
They have allowed me one mirror.
In its shimmering skin, I see your face. Broken.

Your face has misbehaved.
It has smashed its shell open
with a spoon.
Form has fractured,
symmetry ripped in two pieces.
Did I smash the glass?
Did I smash it over and over?
Did I splinter your face to shards?

Your tongue is blind.
It falls, fat and undulating,
from the hungry centre
of your lost jaw,
craving nourishment,
searching all of the black space between stars for meaning.

I ache to have known your lips.

Through the haze of an
enchanted glass I see the dark forest,
your calloused hand tending to the wild flowers.
Your jaw is a ghost.
In the negative space
above your throat
I see the trace of your mouth's memory
sucked like smoke into the Vortex.

The Void whispers to me.

Restless, fidgeting, I turn
a pawn shop ring round my finger, thrice
and watch your face fall apart in silhouette.

Dragged by my heels
through the dark forest,
beyond the scratching branches,
and twisting roots,
mauled by wild talons
and the jaws of monstrous entities,
I see the green shimmer of a clearing,
breathe the rose's wild perfume,
witness the spilled blood of its petals, burgundy against the grass.
Your mouth has vanished into the mist, banished.
You have no words.
To hear your words I must first
enter your eyes, as green and deep and tempestuous as the ocean,
and become engulfed.
I must allow myself to succumb
to the brutal metamorphosis,
to allow myself to become you,
to become my favourite monster.

I fix my silver mask in place.

I will inhabit your skin and steal
the words from your mouth.

La Belle et le masque d'argent
poem by Avant Kinema
(translation by Raymond Meyer)

Je m’appelle La Belle.
Je m’appelle Scheherazade.
Fiévreusement, je me gave de mots 
dans l’intimité de mon lit de prison.
Les mots nourrissent mon âme.
A chaque crépuscule je murmure 
des mots de la liberté 
et de la captivité.

Je suis la tristesse des femmes perdues.
Je suis la tristesse des femmes perdues.
Je suis la tristesse des femmes perdues.
Installation by Avant Kinema 

**press preview**
- Hawick News
, 14 April, 2016

Friday, 15 March 2019

AVANT KINEMA / UNDERTOAD - "Ghost Worlds (Animal Rites)" soundtrack album - Indie/Alternative Handpan Collaboration

by Avant Kinema / Undertoad 
soundtrack album for Avant Kinema's 
Expanded Cinema Performance of the 
same name (Alchemy Film and Moving 
Image Festival, Hawick, 2018)

"The epic 24 minute long Ghost Worlds (Animal Rights), a gorgeous collaboration with Newcastle musician Neil Coles, aka Undertoad... is like listening to pillows of clouds floating over a zen garden while the Cocteau Twins' Liz Frazer gently ululates in the background. The first twenty minutes is so calming it should be available on prescription for stress and anxiety, one listen and you'll be so chilled your friends will think you've swallowed the Little Book of Calm. However as you hit the twenty minute mark everything gets a little more edgy and sinister as Sarahjane's unique vocals come more to the fore finally reaching a crescendo that sounds like they've opened Pandora's box to find it full of the inhabitants of the seventh circle of hell..." - Paul Kerr, The Devil Has The Best Tuna

Ghost Worlds (Animal Rites) is a collaboration between Newcastle-born Handpan player, Undertoad (aka Neil Coles), and Scottish Borders based artist-filmmakers & indie/alternative musicians, Avant Kinema (Sarahjane Swan & Roger Simian, who also create music as The Bird And The Monkey). 
The music was composed to soundtrack Avant Kinema's 25 minute long Expanded Cinema Performance, part of Alchemy Film and Moving Image Festival's Celebrate Super 8 event at the Auld Baths, Hawick (Friday 4th May 2018). The track's evolution began with Undertoad creating an improvised Handpan jam. To this recording the duo then added their own musical elements: Sarahjane Swan's voice and Roger Simian's instrumentation.

The album is available to download from The Bird And The Monkey's Bandcamp page.


Thursday, 14 March 2019

GHOST WORLDS: ANIMAL RITES  (The 10 Minute Edit) -
 Document of an Expanded Cinema Performance by AVANT KINEMA 
at Alchemy Film And Moving Image Festival, Hawick, May 2018

This is the 10 minute edit of GHOST WORLDS (ANIMAL RITES) - the video document of a 25 minute long Expanded Cinema Live Performance by Avant Kinema (Sarahjane Swan & Roger Simian) at Alchemy Film and Moving Image Festival, Hawick, May 2018.

An experimental hybrid of both digital and analogue filmmaking, Ghost Worlds makes use of expired Kodachrome 40 filmstock, home-processed using the Caffenol recipe (coffee, washing soda, vitamin c) and handcrafted by directly scratching & painting the film. 

The Super 8 footage was filmed on location throughout Scotland (Scottish Borders, Dumfriesshire, Perthshire, Ayrshire & The Orkney Islands). 

The full 25 minute version of the film is currently in post-production and will be released at a later date. 

The soundtrack is a collaboration between Avant Kinema (who also make music as The Bird And The Monkey) and Undertoad (aka Neil Coles, a Folk Musician & Psytrance exponent from Newcastle, also one-time friend and collaborator with Ozric Tentacles). Undertoad here provides the improvised Handpan phrases which act as a rhythmic and melodic underlay for Sarahjane Swan's vocals and Roger Simian's instrumentation. 

Ghost Worlds (Animal Rites) is a Vegan Art Film, inspired by Avant Kinema's interest in animal rights, veganism and the work of such activists as Earthling Ed and Joey Carbstrong. 

**Warning: the film contains some scenes which viewers may find disturbing** 


Friday, 5 October 2018

Review: Scottish Indie Psychological Thriller, "Far From The Apple Tree"

We would really love this Scottish Indie feature film to do well when it gets released next year. If you like the trailer, please feel free to share it around...
Tartan 14 - Far From the Apple Tree
from Year Zero : Tartan Features on Vimeo.
The film in question is the Arthouse Psych-Horror, Far From The Apple Tree, starring Netflix-star, Sorcha Groundsell (lead actor in the 2018 shape-shifting horror romance box-set series, The Innocents) and directed by Scottish low budget film director and Indie Music obsessive, Grant McPhee. McPhee's previous features have included documentaries on the history of Scottish labels & bands, such as Big Gold Dream (on the Post-Punk labels Fast Product & Postcard), which was broadcast last year on BBC2: a good year and a bit before the Beeb's Rip It Up: The Story of Scottish Pop and the National Museum of Scotland exhibition of the same name.

Far From The Apple Tree - written by the talented screenwriter Ben Soper and produced by Steven Moore and Olivia Gifford (both producers on the Outlander series) - is number 14 in the Tartan Features series of low-budget-but-high-production-values full-length Scottish independent films made since Grant McPhee's 2014 feature, Sarah's Room
It's scheduled to be released some time early next year "through one of the UK's most daring art-house labels", and there will also be selected BFI screenings.

The soundtrack for the film is by songwriter Rose McDowall (who came to fame in the UK in the 1980s as one half of Scottish Post-Punk Pop Duo, Strawberry Switchblade) and Canadian based "electroacoustic music composer and media artist, Shawn Pinchbeck.

Unlike the majority of feature films being made anywhere around the World today, the FFTAT production is notable for having an entirely female cast. We ourselves - being a micro-collective comprising of one woman and one man - were pleased to discover that the crew on the shoot was made up of a similar 50/50 male/female split. Mainstream cinema should take note and learn something from this new, more progressive breed of independent filmmakers. It is also heartening to learn that Grant McPhee and the rest of the Tartan Features / YearZero filmmakers are striving towards paying all crew members the Scottish Living Wage wherever possible. 

Before we go any further - in the interests of transparency - we should disclose our involvement in the production of Far From The Apple Tree. Last year, after reading our Avant Kinema blog post detailing our experiments with shooting Super 8 film using expired filmstock, home processing with household products and handcrafting film with scratches and colours, Grant McPhee invited us to join the crew on the shoot of his latest feature. We were blown away by the generosity and open-ness of this approach and also fascinated to see first-hand how a bigger budget production with full crew and production staff operates.

So, we joined the 2nd Unit for the first two days of shooting in Perthshire in March 2017 - along with performer Ashley Sutherland and photographer Lucas Kao - and we were given free rein to wander the house and its environs in order to help create an authentic looking archive of Super 8 and 16mm film for Grant McPhee. and his editors to draw on whilst making the feature. It was an amazing and quite mind-blowing experience for us, and we were both really impressed by the friendliness and generosity of everybody we encountered. 

Here are some analogue stills we shot of Ashley Sutherland with our Lomography cameras during the two day shoot, whilst setting up shots to be captured in Super 8 and 16mm.


apple tree rites - lomography fisheye stills by sarahjane swan & roger simian (scotland) w/ performer Ashley Sutherland

apple tree rites - lomography fisheye stills by sarahjane swan & roger simian (scotland) w/ performer Ashley Sutherland

apple tree rites - lomography fisheye stills by sarahjane swan & roger simian (scotland) w/ performer Ashley Sutherland

apple tree rites - lomography fisheye stills by sarahjane swan & roger simian (scotland) w/ performer Ashley Sutherland

apple tree rites - lomography fisheye stills by sarahjane swan & roger simian (scotland) w/ performer Ashley Sutherland

apple tree rites - lomography fisheye stills by sarahjane swan & roger simian (scotland) w/ performer Ashley Sutherland

apple tree rites - lomography fisheye stills by sarahjane swan & roger simian (scotland) w/ performer Ashley Sutherland

apple tree rites - lomography fisheye stills by sarahjane swan & roger simian (scotland) w/ performer Ashley Sutherland

apple tree rites - lomography fisheye stills by sarahjane swan & roger simian (scotland) w/ performer Ashley Sutherland

apple tree rites - lomography fisheye stills by sarahjane swan & roger simian (scotland) w/ performer Ashley Sutherland

apple tree rites - lomography fisheye stills by sarahjane swan & roger simian (scotland) w/ performer Ashley Sutherland

apple tree rites - lomography fisheye stills by sarahjane swan & roger simian (scotland) w/ performer Ashley Sutherland

apple tree rites - lomography fisheye stills by sarahjane swan & roger simian (scotland) w/ performer Ashley Sutherland

apple tree rites - lomography fisheye stills by sarahjane swan & roger simian (scotland) w/ performer Ashley Sutherland

apple tree rites - lomography fisheye stills by sarahjane swan & roger simian (scotland) w/ performer Ashley Sutherland

apple tree rites - lomography fisheye stills by sarahjane swan & roger simian (scotland) w/ performer Ashley Sutherland

apple tree rites - lomography fisheye stills by sarahjane swan & roger simian (scotland) w/ performer Ashley Sutherland

apple tree rites - lomography fisheye stills by sarahjane swan & roger simian (scotland) w/ performer Ashley Sutherland

The working edit of the Far From The Apple Tree movie, which we were priviliged enough to be allowed to preview recently, was, in our estimation, an exceptional example of the way that certain 21st Century directors are able to draw on their 20th Century influences (in this case the 1960s & 70s arthouse horrors / psychological thrillers which Grant McPhee and writer Ben Soper love so much) to create something utterly fresh, utterly contemporary.
The film, which is based mostly in a grand but spooky Scottish stately home, follows the increasingly fractured and disorientating interactions between up-and-coming artist and intern, Judith (Sorcha Groundsell), and the disfunctional, Mother Figure, artist she admires, Roberta Roslyn (Victoria Liddelle: "The Loch" tv series). Bringing the Scottish story-telling tradition of the Other Self / Doppleganger and the Duality of the Individual - as in Dr Jekyll or Justified Sinner - bang up to date, Judith is hired by Roberta to create an archive around the Lost Girl of the House, Maddy - a near double of Judith herself - whose absence is ever-present.
FFTAT glories in a smorgasbord of filmmaking techniques and formats, both digital and analogue, which helps McPhee and his team reference a whole history of cinema at the same time as looking forwards towards the future of cinema. 
We love the film and were honoured to be involved in its production. 
Share the trailer around if you like what you see, click on some links below and spread the good word about Far From The Apple Tree...

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Interview w/ artist, James Craig Page (Scotland)

From Sarahjane Swan's hometown of Dunbar, in East Lothian,
self-taught artist, James Craig Page, has been producing vibrant, exciting and hyper-imaginative paintings for many years now. As well as his Church of Gloss art-movement, inspired by a cloud over the Wicker Man Festival, JCP has garnered a great deal of attention for the meditative practice of stone stacking, appearing several times on prime-time BBC1, setting up the
European Stone Stacking Championships in Dunbar, and travelling to Austin, Texas, for the World Championship.

Last year Avant Kinema were privileged to be able to add these two James Craig Page originals to our collection.

Here's our interview with James. Avant Kinema: Who are you? Where did you grow up and where are you based now?

James Craig Page: Who am I? I am a singular aspect of consciousness having a living experience. I was born in Dunbar and remain there.

AK: Could you give us a history of your involvement with creating visual art?

JCP: I began creating art in my early 30s after being made redundant from my gardening job working with Sir George Taylor at Belhaven Gardens, Dunbar. I had written poetry and short stories for many years, but I remember the first piece of wood I found on the beach that I took home and painted on. I had no money for materials, and remember going to the early learning centre in St James Centre in Edinburgh to buy Poster paint for £1.00 a bottle. My brother in law worked in a paper factory and gave me large sheets, which I stapled together to create a canvas. I mixed up the paint, threw it on, and began experimenting like a child with primary colours. I'd wait till it dried then identify shapes, faces, creatures and then outline them in black line. I learned more from the paint that day than I ever did in art class at school. After a year unemployed I painted every day, more for my sanity than anything else. After another 6 months I got put on a job club course to encourage me to get a real job. I left after a day, walked home from Musselburgh penniless, and booked the local library, free of charge to hold my first exhibition. I decided I had nothing to lose and a houseful of art to sell. So a month later I sold 6 pieces at my first exhibition and never looked back. I've also never had a "real" job since.

AK: What were the major influences in the arts and in life which encouraged you to become involved in this field?

JCP: Finding I enjoyed playing with paint and general poverty encouraged me to keep going.

AK: What does the word experimental mean to you?

JCP: The word experimental means the starting point of an interesting journey.

AK: At Avant Kinema we have a particular interest in low budget, DIY or LoFi forms of creativity. What are your thoughts on creating work this way?

JCP: I have always created stuff with inspiration not money.

AK: Could you talk us through the whole process of how you generally go about creating a work, from the initial concepts through to the finishing touches?

JCP: I have never started a painting or a rock stack with any thought whatsoever, preferring to work from a Dwamic state of doing without thinking. Then I may reach a point where I consciously interact with what's been created, but not always. I have studied meditation, mediumship and palm reading from my teenage years, so find it easy to switch off, tune in, then create.

AK: What do you use to generate ideas and stimulate your creativity?

JCP: Nature has become my muse, and I've never failed to be inspired by her beauty.

AK: Have you been able to get much in the way of funding towards travel to festivals or for your art in general?

JCP: Through creating the European Stone Stacking Championships in Dunbar, and curating a major Land Art Exhibition at Summerhall Gallery, Edinburgh, it has opened doors to funding opportunities. I have had very little in the way of personal funding, and find writing applications to be the 2nd most arduous task I've come across in life. AK: Could you tell us what Stone Stacking is and how you came about the practice? What is your philosophy? Is it art or meditation?

JCP: Stonebalancing is a process of creative meditation which teaches you more about yourself and the inner life of Nature than 25 years of modern schooling ever could. I became aware of this practice through online videos and the photographic work of Michael Grab aka Gravity Glue, then through meeting and working with Sterling Gregory, Travis Williams, Tim Anderson and such like Land Artists from around the globe.

AK: Can you tell us what The Church Of Gloss is? How you created it and what it stands for?

JCP: The Church of Gloss or C.o.G was formed around 2007, after I met a cloud in the sky above the Wicker Man festival. Shortly afterwards I was given a word that came to me as a sound. This sound/word then revealed itself to me over a period of five years. I was in the presence of a another friend when I received this. I then chose a few trusted creative and spiritually minded friends to share the word with. We now have 111 members around the world: including a few well known musicians, actors and artists I've been fortunate enough to meet and trusted enough to share the word with. It was initially an art collective started with Callum Easter, with a spiritually minded ethos for self exploration and colloboration, and has evolved into something much more.

AK: What was it like appearing on The One Show on prime time BBC1 and having such wide media coverage?

JCP: Appearing on The One Show and Landward earlier this year was a great way to communicate my passion for this art form, and to make people aware of the many amazing artists and human beings that make up the ever expanding balancing community that I now feel a big part of. It encourages me to keep on doing what I truly love, even if the wages aren't that great!

AK: Do you have any future exhibitions, installations or artworks you would like to tell us about?

JCP: I'm currently curating the Dunbar Street Art Trail event 17th-26th Aug including a shop window pop-up exhibition featuring international and local artists and musicians. I will also be creating a Zen Balance Garden at Summerhall for the Edinburgh Fringe festival with Sterling Gregory. There will also be photographs from the Art of Balance exhibition, held earlier this year, featuring some of the best stone balancers and land artists from around the world. We are currently looking at options to tour this show in London and New York.

You can see more of my work at:

Art of Balance short film.
By C.o.G Productions.

Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions, James Craig Page.