By Saskia Monshouwer
On a rainy Monday morning in the Pijp in Amsterdam I met up with Christian Pazzaglia, artistic director of Cracking the Frame Presents (CTFP). Pazzaglia expresses how happy he is with the 2016 program; his platform not only presents critically acclaimed art documentaries, but also films that are unfamiliar to the general audience. Pazzaglia proudly mentions the Salamander Complex (2015) by Stephane Manchematin & Serge Steyer, revolving around artist Patrick Neu who is still relatively unknown in the Netherlands, and talks about how happy he was to find the gallery that represents him to introduce this film. With equal enthusiasm he talks about selecting the award-winning documentary Hand Gestures (2015) by Francesco Clerici, a silent observation of the artisans at the artistic foundry in Milan.
Pazzaglia’s artistic choices might differ from mine as an art critic, but that is exactly what triggers me to visit the upcoming festival. It might even be the reason of CTFP’s success. Starting out as a film specialist, a programmer for SMART Project Space, Pazzaglia noticed that art documentaries and films directed by artists made up a special category of films. Inspired by his extensive collaborations with several visual artists, he was eager to provide these outstanding films with a platform. In 2011 this led to the start of a monthly program in Rialto that investigates the shifting domains of documentary film and visual arts — an instant success.
To celebrate its five-year anniversary, the monthly program is expanded into a month-long program throughout May, and complemented by an art program. Art program director Heidi Vogels complemented Pazzaglia’s film program with productions of visual artist and interesting talks and meetings at several Amsterdam based art institutions, including Rialto, Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam, W139, M4gastatelier, LIMA, puntWG, and LAB111. Vogels also organizes the seminar ‘Rupture of Representation’ with art curator Leire Vergara, and artists Rana Hamadeh and Wineke Gartz.
The collaboration between Pazzaglia and Vogels results in a captivating program that serves as a pilot for a new multidisciplinary platform dedicated to documentary film and visual arts. Cracking the Frame Presents kicks off tonight at Rialto with the opening film A Space Program (2015): An intimate registration of Tom Sachs’ famous simulated space mission to Mars, vivid and magical as life itself.