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.

The opening of Ya-Ting Hsu and Geoffrey Hughes’ The River, their 16 minute examination of the repeated traumas of Hsu’s pregnancy, shows both the sound and image of cascading water. The sound is soon blended with the ethereal arpeggios of Shih-Yang Lee’s music. We see the sonograms of the fetus in utero, including the heartbeat. Her body, in the fetal position, floats in water, as she imagines being her baby. In these beautifully lit underwater shots, she performs a water ballet, evocative of the fetus’ world.

Shots of doctors’ charts and sonograms are projected directly onto Hsu’s pregnant belly. We are privy to her morning sickness, as well as her amniocentesis test. It feels as if her belly is poked, prodded and tested by every piece of high tech medical equipment in Taiwan.

Finally we arrive at the drama, the pain and the screams of labor. (Hughes, the father, was probably lucky to be preoccupied with filming the birth, since it partly distracted him from worrying.) We see the hard work of both mother and doctor to help the baby come out, in images complexly layered with the underwater images.

TheRiverSideThe photography so far has been exclusively black and white, and it is only now, after the birth scene, when we see multiple images of Hsu underwater, tinged delicately in blue, set to spacious piano arpeggios. Her floating weightlessness contrasts with the confusion, pain and life of both mother and baby during the birth.

It seems natural for a woman to compare her body to a river in pregnancy, especially in the labor.

Hsu’s use of her own belly as a projection surface for scenes of her pregnancy emphasizes the creative aspect of motherhood. She uses a palette of poetic, metaphorical images to express body states and emotional states that resist verbal description. In The River, Hsu and Hughes use direct self-documentation and a poetic combination of imagery and music to give us a complex portrait of pregnancy and impending parenthood, complete with the pain, discomfort, fear, joy, and hope.

David Finkelstein is a filmmaker, musician, and critic. For more information on Film Scratches, or to submit an experimental film for review, contact

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