who takes a poetry film as a sheer translation from the written into the audio-visual form of a film will not be glad with the results – a poem is not to be misunderstood as a script for a short film.
Nevertheless, the genre has much to offer, and more and more people seem to become aware of this fact. Within a decade an international audience formed, which is watching and discussing poetry films on various festivals and platforms. In Germany, ZEBRA is the world’s biggest Poetry Film Festival, taking place every two years in Berlin, last October 2014 for the 7th time. What is fascinating people about this category of short film?
The Poetryfilmchannel considers poetry films as ›risky experiments‹. They are not being realised at the cost of the text they refer to. Rather, the poetry film interprets and transfers the poem into an audio-visual media (the film), adding new aspects to the text as well as inviting the viewer to read the poem itself again, anew. By now poems are being written in order to take the shape of a film, which takes them close to the music video – with the difference that poetry films are not being produced for a commercial reason or context but generally emerge from an independent art scene.
Recently, this kind of short film became more and more popular in the educational context of school and college. Poems offer an open, multi-layered space for visual interpretation. Contemporary as the genre appears, the poetry film still has to assert itself: the realisation of a convincing poetry film is not an easy task but a time consuming undertaking – and a challenge in many ways. Considering the multifaceted meanings and relations of words and expressions that are characteristic for a poem, the visual transformation from word to image (be it a live action film or an animation) as well as the design of the sound/the voice-over bear a high risk for failure.
This is why the title’s question mark seems crucial to us. When asking a contemporary poet about the poetry film, many seem to have a bearish attitude towards the genre. Although feeling flattered when one of their works gets the attention of being translated into the film form, many poets show a critical attitude, dissatisfaction, lack of understanding or a general reservation. Only a few take the chance to interact with the filmmakers in order to influence or even contribute to the outcome. Here, the Poetryfilmchannel wants to initiate and open the discussion (and possibly even collaboration) forum from which both sides – writers as well as filmmakers – ideally will be able to benefit.
Call for Essays
We decided to open the blog’s discussion on a very general level in order to prepare the ground for more specific investigations in future editions. What makes an engaging poetry film? By which characteristics a poetry film is able to develop a certain fascination? Is there any general answer or do we have to look more precisely into the categories of live action and animation film? Are there certain sorts of poems which are particularly suitable for a translation into the audio-visual media? In which way do sound and voice-over determine the outcome? How come so many poetry films appear to only scratch the surface and fail to take us deeper into the meaning of the poem?
The discussion will consist of short blogs in an open form, about 3000–4000 signs in length. We will invite practitioners in the field to contribute their texts but encourage and welcome anyone interested to submit their own statement or opinion. By the end of this year, we aim at publishing the first edition of the Poetry Film Magazine from the texts and statements received.
We are looking forward to an engaging and lively discussion!
All the Best,
Aline Helmcke, Guido Naschert