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Steffanie Ling
Blake Williams at the Vancouver International Film Festival
October 04, 2017

I was among friends and about to launch into a diatribe against a film, when I quickly corrected myself: “I can’t even call it a film. It’s a movie.” Couldn’t it just be a bad film? No, I was adamant that it was a movie. At this point, the conversation shifted into whether there is an official distinction between what qualifies as a movie or a film, which then evolved into the question of whether there is a difference between going to the movies and attending the cinema. We reached a consensus that we don’t “attend” a “3D film” at the cinema; instead, we “go see” a “3D movie.”

Blake Williams, Prototype, 2017

Described in the Vancouver International Film Festival’s program as “an ambitious experimental 3D sci-fi film,” Blake Williams' Prototype depicts a reimagined aftermath of the 1900 Galveston Hurricane. The futuristic retelling of a natural disaster that occurred at the beginning of the 20th Century presents us with a highly truncated history of technological evolution. In this sense, portraying these circumstances in 3D is apt.

Photographs of domestic objects and spaces (presumably destroyed in the storm) given stereoscopic depth produce a visual impression akin to the mystification of really looking at a Vermeer for the first time. However, rather than looking at a surface, we are physically subscribed to the space of the cinema as well as the interface of the glasses and the technology that supplies the experience. The more visually cryptic parts of the film are also quite physically demanding of the audience’s vision. Following a succession of said cryptic visuals, a rock formation on the seaside appears with immense clarity on the screen. It was then that I realized I did not have a permanent smudge on my glasses that obstructed my perception, but that Williams was pointedly obscuring my view.

3D movies are generally associated with entertainment more so than experimental filmmaking. Williams salvages the format for the purposes of attending to the space of the cinema and embodied viewing. Prototype indicates a critical demonstration in how 3D filmmaking can transcend its mantle as merely visual surplus in Hollywood blockbusters.

The festival continues until October 13.
2017 Vancouver International Film Festival:
Contact venues to confirm accessibility.

Steffanie Ling's essays, criticism, and art writing have been published alongside exhibitions, in print, and online in Canada, the United States, and Europe. She is an editor of Charcuterie and co-curator at VIVO Media Arts Centre. Her books are Nascar (Blank Cheque, 2016) and Cuts of Thin Meat (Spare Room, 2015). She is Akimblog’s Vancouver correspondent and can be followed on Twitter and Instagram @steffbao.



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