By Valmir Mehmetaj/ Kosovo 2.0
Each year DokuFest chooses a special theme to run through the festival by means of a special program of talks, discussions, films and other events. Usually it is a social topic that is relevant to current world events; last year, for example, the theme was ‘migration.’
This year the organizers have said that as one of the biggest cultural events in Kosovo, and as an organization that functions throughout the year, they felt compelled to address an issue that is becoming “a cancer which is threatening the very future of Kosovo’s citizens”: corruption.
At the beginning of each DokuFest film screening plays a piece of video art. “Florid Decline” begins with a rose breathing before expanding to a wider view showing many roses breathing and forming the word ‘Corruption.’ In the background there is tense music, which, combined with the respiration of the roses, creates a sense of suffocation and alarm. The video is the emblem of this year’s DokuFest, and was created by a team of volunteers led by Daniel Mulloy.
Mulloy is a British artist and filmmaker, whose work on short films, including “Antonio’s Breakfast,” “Dad,” and “Baby,” has won him over 100 international festival awards including BAFTAs, a British Independent Film Award and a European Film Academy Award nomination.
The latter was for his latest film “Home,” a 20-minute short that reverses the current refugee crisis by placing a British family in the situation of needing to flee from war. A DokuFest 2016 highlight, visitors can see “Home” tonight (Thursday, August 11) at the Dream Cinema in Marashi Park from 22:00.
This is the fourth year that Mulloy has collaborated with DokuFest to make their thematic video. K2.0 caught up with him via email and asked him more about the process of making “Florid Decline” and the inspiration behind it.
Kosovo 2.0: Could you explain a little bit about the process of making the video?
Daniel Mulloy: I was honored to collaborate closely with a talented and dedicated graphic artist on the project named Hana Arapi. We worked through several different ideas and concepts. In the end we went with corruption as a form of suffocation. We shot the video over 36 continuous hours in a deserted warehouse outside Prizren. The warehouse used to be part of a huge clothes factory that has closed and now lays empty, distant corners housing a couple of small businesses. It is now inhabited by a pack of wise looking feral dogs that sat outside through the night while we worked and kept us company.
Technically we did everything in a single shot, with the camera locked in one position. We needed to go from the close up of an abstracted mass of pixels to a shape that would be revealed as a breathing rose and then be further revealed as one among many roses on a funeral wreath.
We had to make sure nothing moved so the roses wilting could then be sped up, reversed and then looped. Our roses, beautiful, brave and elegant, bearing their petals to the world, would then be animated to look as if they were struggling to breathe. The idea was to begin framing a single rose and as we zoom out many roses are revealed to be struggling to breathe, almost like an isolated community struggling to survive in what appears to be a toxic environment.
The rot of corruption seems to often come from a self imposed core, or head, so it seemed apt that when we came to make the video and we needed to accelerate the roses’ ageing process; the best technique was to squirt chemicals into the roses’ core. This made them wilt prematurely.
We had carefully chosen the most beautiful flowers, deciding on the exact shades and delicately created this funeral wreath. It was strange; but it felt like to then purposefully kill these beautiful roses by spraying petrol and bleach into them was wrong. They were surprisingly resilient though, and in fact their beauty did not diminish, it changed.
We effectively forced the roses into closing their petals and wilting, just as a culture of corruption utilizes fear and intimidation to close off and silence its citizens. Like the roses though we humans are resilient and our beauty and power will not be diminished.
How do you perceive the phenomena of corruption and what did you want to convey to the audience?
I wanted to create something abstract that would represent the suffocation felt by a population blighted by corruption. Corruption often goes unseen, can be intimidating and lonely for those trapped by it, and it often rots from the core outward, or the head down.
All societies and countries are susceptible to corruption. But for those countries that are healing after war or extreme regimes, whose populations have recently been under terrible duress, for those citizens to feel the burn of corruption is, perhaps, the most painful and disheartening.
The music in “Florid Decline” really complements the visuals to create the overal effect of suffocation. Could you tell us a little about it.
We spoke with Zgjim Elshani about creating a track especially for the piece and he agreed. I was thrilled with what he delivered. It needed to be ominous, tense and create a bed for the breathing — the mix is for cinema where the throbbing bass really comes through.
The roses and the respiration: what do they symbolize, and why did you use them in your ‘video art work’?
Prishtina as a city was an influence, its population like the rose is beautiful, outgoing and young. They can flourish and achieve the greatest of things humanly possible. For many though their experience of life is stifled, by lack of access to higher education facilities and jobs. They walk around a city polluted by Obilic power station that allegedly spews out I think more than 100 times the EU’s recommended maximum of toxic particles. This means that as these young people search for work, they, along with everyone else in the city, are being poisoned.
Our rose, beautiful, brave and elegant, bears its petals to the world as it struggles to draw its last breaths. As we zoom out from the rose we see that it is surrounded by many other roses that are all struggling to breath, struggling to survive. As many of the most talented, bright and beautiful stream into their capital city, brimming with life, love and passion, like the roses many of them soon begin to gasp for air, wilting under the oppressive weight of corruption in its multiple guises [including] bribery, nepotism and [money] laundering.
This young population’s power though will grow fast and the fear will not be inherited as the new generation cut through corruption and begin to bloom.
Kosovo 2.0 is DokuFest’s official media partner. This article is part of a series of pieces written during DokuFest 2016. Kosovo 2.0 is a print and online magazine bringing you voices unfettered and unafraid.