In 2020, the Monstronale Festival will once again explore a theme within the cinematic narrative. The theme for next year will be “The Unknown”. It will be presented in two feature film programmes and a curated short film programme and thus offers the space to question the filmmakers’ intention and perspective.
But what is the “foreign” the “unknown” and where do we find it? By definition, it is something that lies more or less far outside the habitat experienced as “own” or familiar, with which the vagueness of the term is already largely outlined. If we take this definition as a basis, the unknown can be found everywhere: Things that look strange up to strange beings that cannot be assessed ad hoc. An ideal topic to deal with strange things within the Monstronale.
First of all, it is worth taking a look at the European view of the distant, the unknown. This perspective has been shaped by various aspects over the centuries with regard to the perception of other cultures. With the age of great discoveries, pure discovery was the first priority. This resulted, among other things, in a curiosity for the foreign, which ultimately led to the beginning of extensive collections of fauna, flora and cultural assets. But especially in the field of culture, a mostly missionary or colonial view quickly became the norm. The first cultural contact was primarily shaped by the assimilation of foreign cultures, the missionary work towards a European image of man and culture. Especially the indigenous peoples became experimental arrangements of cultural transformations, up to the deportation of whole tribes.
It was not until the Age of Enlightenment that research into the culture of foreign cultures shifted towards scientific debate. The cultural assets accumulated up to this time of upheaval then allowed at least a glimpse into the life and everyday life of the “gathered” peoples.
With the development of the moving image, it became easier for researchers to capture certain cultural processes, rituals and the social structure of the objects under investigation in a snapshot. Jean Rouch, as a representative of ethnological film, was one of the first to take a largely unadulterated look at rituals and the role of myth in societies. Nowadays, these documents have again become part of corresponding collections and thus a cinematic artefact of the view of a foreign culture.
The exciting question about the topic “The unknown” is therefore not only: “What does the unknown actually look like”, but also with which view it is presented. Is it in principle a view of the unknown from above in the cinematic discussion, or is there also the unknown at eye level of the viewer/filmmaker and the portrayed?