VIFF 2019: Lively new docs unearth designs for living

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      A number of this year’s festival films explore the relationship between art and everyday life—particularly in the areas that are considered craft, as opposed to the paintings et al that hang in European-style museums.

      The Dutch artist known as MC Escher considered himself a draftsman, and a kind of mystical mathematician, as seen in the mesmerizing Escher: Journey Into Infinity.

      Screening October 7 and 9, the film has Stephen Fry reading the widely traveled puzzle-maker’s words about his own work, which is then expanded through location photos, sketches, and animated versions of (mostly) black-and-white work that itself rarely stops morphing between foreground and background.

      The interplay between 3D and flat surfaces also enlivens Edo: Avant Garde (October 3 and 5), a more pedestrian undertaking that nonetheless captures the mysterious majesty of sometimes huge Japanese painted screens that played with dimension, light, and colour in living situations that made viewers reevaluate what they were seeing according to time of day and season. And many of them do that, with comparable humour and provocation, in some cases 400 or so years before Escher ever lifted a pen.

      Creative types in the French-made System K (October 6 and 10) do see themselves as artists—painters, sculptors, dancers, and musicians—but they very much want to see their work integrated with the busy, dirty, and infinitely noisy lives of people in the poorer parts of Kinshasa, in the Republic of Congo. The title refers to the description by one clever fellow, who makes kinetic sculptures out of wide varieties of flotsam.

      “First all our resources are stolen,” he says of the whole colonial enterprise. “They come back as trash. And then we turn them into art."