How Should A Person Be?

Directed by Margaret Salmon, Dan Browne, Anna Linder, Fedora Romita and Allison Hrabluik

BY Ben HarrisonPublished Apr 17, 2016

How Should A Person Be?, the first of two programs on Sunday (April 17) at Images Festival, moved the festival towards a more introspective place, tackling themes of identity, memory, personal history and love with a strong lineup of short films. This international collection has a strong emphasis on time, place and sound, and evokes the feeling of peering into a private diary.

Margaret Salmon's Pyramid is a wonderful abstract documentary about a working class, southern England family. Using a strikingly percussive score, Salmon edited the film intuitively, longingly gazing at the process of daily life, exploring the home and the lives of a young family who try to get by while raising infant children. From cooking to cleaning to the rare private moments of intimacy, Salmon has a keen eye for the little slivers of life that make up a memory. Pyramid is broken up into sections, structured by Abraham Maslow's theory on the hierarchy of human needs, from food to love to self-actualization, and each section is playfully introduced by the voice of a child. Effortless and full of beautiful, warm imagery, this is a highlight of the program.
Dan Browne's Poem has a strong formal command of experimental techniques, evoking dual projection imagery as two lives blend into each other in the privacy of a home. Objects take on literal human characteristics as one image transforms into another, in an adaptation of Michael Snow's Poem. This is a fine entry, but feels like it comes from too personal a place to make a connection with the spectator, compared to other films in this program.

Anna Linder's Spermwhore is a film years in the making, and finally brings the festival the queer text it has been lacking up to this point. The film, making beautiful use of Super 8mm stock, is explicitly focused on queer bodies, parenthood and the destruction of heteronormative power structures. Spermwhore argues that families should resemble any form that provides love and care for a child, and proclaims the two-parent (wealthy, straight) unit dead. This is a powerful, intersectional feminist text, and one that should be seen by all who love experimental film.
Pivot, by Fedora Romita, is a performance piece, an experimental dance governed by technology wherein a woman moves her body in ways determined by an algorithm that is based on body language lie detection. It's an interesting piece that exposes small gestures and movements and decodes their deceptive meanings. Pivot takes a slight political stance by staging the performance in the legal reference library in West Berlin, where John F. Kennedy made his infamous "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech. Still, this all feels a little too technical, lacking the sort of personal edge of the rest of the program.
Finally, Allison Hrabluik wraps the program up in splendid fashion with The Splits, a playful work of performing absurd tasks by those who do them daily. Hrabluik assembles an array of artists in an empty hall, from opera singers to dog groomers to sausage makers, and has them enact their daily labour. Hrabluik is fascinated by the sounds these actions produce, mixing them into a wonderful cacophony. Similarly, she presents bodies without judgement in various compositions, ever gazing on tasks in motion. This is a great short about the tolls of art and labour, a personal but feather-light film to perfectly wrap up the program.

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