UDVFF 15: A Week with Luis Arnias

Editor’s note: Welcome to the fifteenth program of our Virtual Film Festival, which offers a watching schedule of moving image works available for free streaming. Previous programs can be found here.

UDVFF 15 marks the exclusive streaming premiere of three short films by Luis Arnias, whose Malembe will screen in the Currents section of this year’s New York Film Festival. These shorts will be available to stream for ONE WEEK ONLY, starting Saturday, August 29th.

By Joseph Pomp

“You give me something to think about/I’ll give you something to live without/And you give me something to take the day away.” These words are the chorus of the relatively frivolous song by the dB’s for which Emily Hubley created the dazzling animation with which this program begins. The broad, gushy lyrics are at odds with the film’s nimble mechanics and visionary drawing style. Taken together, they make me think of the subtle power of Luis Arnias’ cinema: handmade, emotive, and deeply irreverent.

One of the first things I remember Luis (a friend, former teacher, and once collaborator) ever telling me was that he wanted to make a new kind of film, that would do in one minute what others need the length of a feature to accomplish. I’m glad that he’s worked on films of all different shapes and sizes, but I’m especially moved by the way that the three shorts included here all maintain something of that idea. As he puts it, they’re a bit like bouillon cubes, which I take to mean that they would look pretty funny sitting on a kitchen shelf alone, but toss them into a pot of boiling water, and you’ll be spellbound by how they explode with flavor. They’re hyper-concentrated with nourishing images, reflections, and sounds, bringing the whole soup of quotidian experience together.

If UDVFF installments are often like mixtapes, then it might be useful to think of this week as more of a set of 7-inches. The first one is college rock, with an ocular leitmotif; the second is New England chamber pop, concerned with how places are made and destroyed. The third, slightly longer, strings together three masterful tracks about dislocation as experienced equally at home and away from home.

Big Brown Eyes1982Emily Hubley2:01
Ojo Malcriado2019Luis Arnias14:19
Boston Fire1979Peter Hutton5:11
This Must Be the Place2011Luis Arnias5:55
Ilha das Flores1989Jorge Furtado12:34
Contras City1968Djibril Diop Mambety21:32
Bisagras Perpetuas
(work in progress)
2021Luis Arnias6:41

Joseph Pomp recently completed a PhD on French state sponsorship of international art-house cinema and has contributed to Cinema ScopeHyperallergicThe Los Angeles Review of BooksSenses of Cinema, and other publications. He is now an editor at Harvard University Press.

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