Film Scratches focuses on the world of experimental and avant-garde film, especially as practiced by individual artists. It features a mixture of reviews, interviews, and essays.
A Review by David Finkelstein.
In .TV, a 22 minute experimental video by Austrian-born, New York based artist G. Anthony Svatek, he uses highly imaginative narrative strategies to illuminate the familiar story of the global warming crisis from a new perspective, at once comic, poetic, and alarming. The film is a portrait of Tuvalu, the tiny South Pacific island nation of 11,000, described by the media as likely to be the first country to disappear because of climate change and the rising sea level. While the rapid loss of arable land and fishable waters and the dangers of erratic storms have made it increasingly difficult to live on the islands, the government has been sustaining itself due to an unexpected boon: Tuvalu’s official internet domain “.tv” is popular worldwide for streaming video sites, and they are able to make some money by licensing the domain.
Svatek casts his film in the form of a story told by a Tuvaluan man in the future, who finally is forced to flee his vanished country by escaping “into cyberspace.” We hear this story as a series of voice mail messages spoken in Tuvaluan, with English subtitles. All of the footage in the film derives from Tuvaluan scenes which are available on streaming sites, with beautiful beaches, eroding shores, and cute kids playing in a graveyard. This footage is interrupted occasionally by short videos grabbed from .tv sites, offering advice on beauty products, spiritual guidance, or porn. We see these clips play on mobile devices, situated as in life in a home or an office.
This narrative structure abounds in ironies. The film itself is constructed from streaming video, the revenue source which is now the shaky, unstable source of sustenance for the Tuvaluans. The excessive use of energy, for activities such as internet video, is itself the cause of Tuvalu’s impending demise. And Svatek cleverly, but indirectly highlights the escapist nature of internet browsing, in which even sites which purport to educate us about global issues are in reality serving to distance us from them by turning them into disposable entertainment. The obliviousness engendered by online behavior reaches a climax in the last clip, which shows a stereotypical “trailer trash” couple who broadcast their entire lives on their own channel. The couple constantly talk over each other, oblivious to each other, while also oblivious to everything going on around them and in the lives of their (probably imaginary) fans. If our world is going to be swamped with couples like this, I’d like to escape into another realm, too.