German Expressionism, an early 20th century art movement, celebrated its centennial in 2016. To mark the occasion, a group of Regina artists put together The Caligari Project Festival of German Expressionism, held from September to December 2016.
The multidisciplinary arts festival, supported by a Saskatchewan Arts Board SaskFestivals grant, included film, theatre, dance, music and visual art, from contemporary collaborations to century-old archival works. It provided an opportunity for artists and cultural community members to create new work, perform, curate, present and share what they do best with local audiences. It also helped to connect audiences to new mediums.
A range of approximately 25 arts and academic activities and events were held. Participants include the Regina Public Library, Dunlop Art Gallery, University of Regina, Art Gallery of Regina, Regina Symphony Orchestra, MacKenzie Art Gallery, Prairie Puppet Underground, Saskatchewan Filmpool Cooperative, mispon, New Dance Horizons, Articulate Ink, FadaDance and many more.
Der Glöckner (German for “The Bell Ringer”) was screened as part of The Caligari Project. The 10-minute film, created by Chrystene Ells and Berny Hi with the help of a Saskatchewan Arts Board Independent Artists grant, is an homage love letter to German Expressionism.
With no voice dialogue and limited title cards, the character-driven story progresses visually. “Expressionist acting is highly stylized, with dramatic, mechanical, repetitive movements, broad gestures and extreme facial expressions. Performances portray inner worlds of madness or psychological unrest, rather than an outer world of reality,” says Hi. The film was scored by award-winning local composer Jason Cullimore.
Hi says, “We hope to inspire others to take risks, to live their lives and to attend to the questions and creatures in the shadows.”
Der Glöckner has already received two awards—Best Short Film and Audience Choice—at the 2016 Saskatchewan Filmpool Cooperative’s Saskatchewan Independent Film Awards in late November.
The training, community-building and experience of working on the film was a significant endeavour for all artists involved. Der Glöckner displays local talent, including Sable, a young, emerging Deaf actress in the lead role, to audiences locally and internationally.
The film is being submitted to festivals around the world, including several celluloid-focused festivals at which Ells and Hi have had past success, as well as other German Expressionist and avant garde film festivals.
Hi also led a three-day workshop on German Expressionist cinema as part of the mispon Indigenous Film Festival in early December. The workshop focussed on German Expressionist theory and production techniques using stylized lighting, acting and camera work. Hi collaborated with participants of all ages to reimagine a First Nations myth in a German Expressionist style. “It was a really interesting fusion of cultures and eras,” he says.
For more on The Caligari Project, visit www.caligari.ca.
Ells and Hi, along with Rowan Pantel and Gerald Saul, are founding members of the Cabinet Collective, the umbrella organization organizing and administering The Caligari Project Festival. Michelle Brownridge served as the festival coordinator.