THIRD EDITION program four

3.4 crown branches

An image comes back to me.
I remember the sparklers going off.
I remember the way they looked out, their eyes cast forward, unblinking.
The memory is still.
It’s a picture with no context,
like a dog with no name.
The image doesn’t fade,
it’s crystal

but then I move on to something else drink my coffee click my mouse look out the window recalibrate to the hum arch my back and it’s gone, forgotten, again, until, so long.

*Content warning: violence, nudity, implied sex, sexual abuse*

program 4 of 12
November 16 – November 29

Vote for your favourite experimental film or video art piece between November 16 and the last day of the screening, November 29. Rules.

artist response

Chantal Partamian, whose work Sandjak appears in program 12 (March 18 -March 31), responded to our fourth program with a “declaration of doubt or a state of puzzlement”:

Rites and othering

To be on the wrong side of the lens. On the margins of a memory, a story, a social construct. To explore through intimate and symbolic portraits, one’s foundational story, sexuality, trauma and healing.

Six short films are part of the latest program for Burnt Fest’s third edition. Films that revolve around parental relationships, transgenerational fears, identity and impulses and try to make sense, through gestures of peeling, of smoothing, of confrontation of characters, their journey of different realizations.

Remembering only the photographs in their materiality while stripping them from their surroundings, the photographs become more vivid than the lived memories.

“To find the day of 21st” by Kieko Ikehata, explores the memory taken over by images, by photographs that erase what isn’t in them and limit one’s past to bits and pieces of what remains seen. It examines how recorded images can become more vivid than our original memory, an impure historical evidence.

The time when a photograph is taken, a photograph is seen and then the time when it’s looked at again.

How much can one rely on the photographs? And how does one make sure a day is remembered when it does not have a signifier? Ikehata’s film is a mixture of archives and landscapes but also the narrator’s memories and those of their mother. A blend of past and present where mother/daughter realities, memories and their physical existence in a space in different times, intertwine.

The overlap in Masha Vlasova’s “Her Type”, is that between the filmmaker and their father. By the manipulation of a photograph through a masculinizing application, Masha now resembles her dad. The space between the mother’s gaze and the photograph on the phone becomes that of a romantic recollection, a longing for a deceased lover. A space where intimate desires surface and tension between the subject and the camera is palpable.

Where the object of desire is digitally fabricated in “Her type”, the object of fear is genetically transmitted in Nat Portnoy’s “42 Dni/ 42 Days”. Portoy’s film is that of confrontation of the self, not only with the disease but also with her surroundings. It is a body on the margins trying to accept its fate and desires, wondering if they are one’s own. How can one feel at home in the world when they feel failed by their body and lineage and through their visual diary, try to regain control?

Such is also the case of “Letter to my mother” by Amina Maher. A work of art consisted of many layers being stripped and shaved and peeled, where the protagonist tries to regain control over their narrative and trauma.

Amina Maher’s relationship with her mother had already been captured on film by Abbas Kiarostami in Ten. In one of the scenes, Amina as a child expresses that “we must grow up before we belong to ourselves”. When sexual abuse is denounced in “Letter to my mother”, those words hold the grown ups accountable of their failure to protect as well as their denial in order to preserve the spectacle of normalcy.

In “1975 of my mother and me” by Jun-Yuan Hong, this spectacle of marital bliss under patriarchal domination is questioned by the filmmaker who tries to merge memories and fictional narrative in order to make sense of, or question and critique a past. The film unfolds as vignettes of a woman’s life, through which we feel the impotence and inability to change one’s fate as if driven by external forces in addition to traditions and customs .

A fate manipulated by some external hand, such as in #DaughterFail by Krissy Mahan in which the small characters are gliding through the screen on a piece of paper navigating a preconceived path that situates them in a bigger narrative.

November 2021

For this edition we invited selected artists to respond to one of the 12 programs in the medium of their choice. Thank you to all participants, we are endlessly humbled by your contribution.


Her TypeMasha Vlasova

4:30 · Russia/USA · 2019

Her Type opens with my mother loading a selfie of me into FaceApp—a smartphone application that generates realistic transformations of photographic portraits. She adds a “male” filter to the picture. With the “male” filter, my selfie resembles a portrait of my Russian father, now deceased, when he was my age. The image creates an opportunity for my mother to express her desire for me (via the image of me as my father), while my camera frames my mother’s image, fetishizing it. Her Type explores the submerged desire between me and my mother, an immigrant and professional actress, who is my subject and collaborator.

#DaughterFail – Krissy Mahan

4:56 · USA · 2020

When a gender non-conforming person’s mother moves into a nursing home, revelations occur but COVID-19 thwarts a reunion.

This film was made in 2020 during the COVID-19 lockdown, while I was not allowed to visit my mother. Deaths in nursing homes accounted for 40% of all COVID-19 related deaths in New Jersey, so waiting to find out if she survived the day was a nightmare (she has Parkinson’s and she has difficulty using a phone). #DaughterFail was the most difficult movie for me to make, but it also helped remind me of the love and humor Mom and I always shared. Eldercare is very difficult, and even more complicated because I am queer and gender-nonconforming, which made the staff at the nursing home distrust me. I titled this film #DaughterFail because I feel like I haven’t done a good job of protecting Mom, when actually the movie should be called #SystemFail, because it is the nursing home system (and all carceral facilities) that have been exposed as deadly and inhumane. So the film is bittersweet, and I hope that many queers doing eldercare will be able to relate. And yes, this is a true story, I did find Mom’s vibrator, and yes, I tried to get it back to her after much deliberation!

To find the day of 21st – Kieko Ikehata

13:38 · Japan · 2017

The act of taking a photo is like cutting out a slice of reality, and also like preserving that moment as a specimen. One day, a woman who has been living by clinging to the certainty of the specimens rather than the uncertainty of reality loses one day’s worth of photos… This film examines how recorded images can become more vivid than our original memories. Her mother’s memories and her memories. Reality and fiction. These memories intricately blend together within private photos and videos, causing a complete picture of the faint memories to emerge.

1975 of my mother and me – Jun-Yuan Hong

17:00 · Taiwan · 2020

1975 of my mother and me is the final release of the series “Where do you come from”. The series segments the artist’s life experiences in different works featuring significant years. The previous three pieces are respectively about 1981, the year when he was born, 1990, in which his parents divorced, and the year of 2020 when his mother is living alone. “1975 of my mother and me” marks the year of 1975 when his parents got married. The artist explores the meanings of marriage and family in a retrospective way. From the artist’s viewpoint, his mother’s anguish is beyond her personal adversity; instead, she could symbolize any other females under patriarchy of the era. The work shows numerous customs of the traditional wedding ceremony, his mother’s suffering from his father and elder brother during her marriage, and imagination about the interaction between his uterine sister and his mother before her second marriage. The film was shot in Zi-long Village of Jiali District, Bei-men Senior High School, Siao-long Cultural Park, Yongcheng Theater in Yanshui District, and etc.

42 Dni / 42 Days – Nat Portnoy

11:15 · Netherlands · 2020

42 Days focuses on the moment of confrontation with a terminal disease and difficult family relations, examining their impact on the manifestation of fear, pain, desperation and desire. The film is a visual diary, where the author takes the viewers onto a journey of different realizations regarding her personality, sexual and gender identity, body and disillusionment surrounding the lack of control. It reflects on shame, guilt and the experience of queerness in a conservative, Catholic setting as well as on the concepts of migration and re-rooting. This film speculates whether it’s possible to fully accept one’s fate. 

Letter to my Mother – Amina Maher

19:33 · Iran · 2019

For myself, filmmaking has always been a process of self-exploration with wider societal implications. Of particular note is my most recent film, Letter to my Mother (2019), in which I revealed to my mother for the first time how a family member raped me over a four-year period. Breaking this silence required personal observation, analysis and courage that came to being through my use of filmmaking tools and techniques – predominately through those in the documentary style, such as the use of archival material, interview, narration, as well as recreations. This film has evoked wider social debate, highlighting the need and benefit of survivors and communities being able to speak openly about these experiences. 

Within the multifarious strands of filmmaking practice, my filmmaking uses trauma therapy as a theme and it is characterized by a few key factors: its autoethnographic approach, a desire for an honest self-examination, and a play with notions of cinema, reality and life. As the direct victim of abuse, I felt able to give an insight into an experience that is impossible to imagine.


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