The Lab 20th Anniversary
“You don’t have to be a scientist to do experiments” stated Jeffrey Lewis as far back as 2003, before, as so often, returning to matters of the heart. In any case, the first decades of the new millennium have presided over the abolition of borders between genres and art forms, as a grand finale to the artistic avant-gardes of the 19th and 20th centuries. And with short films in the fertile terrain of every genuine cinematic flight, the Clermont-Ferrand Festival quite naturally opens up a space to such new creative adventures. For twenty years this window onto liveliness and creativity has had a name, dictated by its very nature: the Lab Competition.
It is a kind of radar detection, a natural spur to genre-defying investigations, but ones that also defy schools of thought and nationalities. Reality leaning over a dissection table, as close to us as possible through the vast world… Transcontinental Edison. From one edition of the Festival to the next, a path takes shape, widening intensely, regenerating, re-electrifying itself under the impulse of free electrons who, with their rich inheritance, transcend and reinvent the competition, pushing back all limits and impossibilities. We need only think of Pang-Chuan Huang and Ismaël Joffroy Chandoutis, both double award winners in 2018 and 2019.
On the one hand it is clearly impossible to mention every film treasure here, and every talent that was discovered or reaffirmed at the Lab; yet on the other, the eclecticism of those who eagerly agree to compare their vision and inspiration with this spirit, who are ready to be shaken by it in their role as jury-members, reveals its identity. Inimitable filmmakers such as Claire Denis, Kleber Mendonça Filho and Wang Bing, magicians of the moving image like Bill Morrison, Ange Leccia and Jenn Nkiru, the rock comic book author Nine Antico, the master chef Michel Bras, the photographers Christophe Agou, Richard Dumas and Julien Mignot, musicians such as Kurt Wagner, Fredo Viola, Stuart Staples… The prolific list goes on, always pluralist and elusive and yet also always unique…
These examples of commitment and excellence easily mark the contours of the Lab: a fertile ground for art-house experimentation, an immediateness drawn to an alchemist’s search, into image and sound, from unbridled animation to gut-wrenching documentary, from a maelstrom to an unstable precipitate leaning towards revealing the world, into its re-enchantment as well as its suffering, taking its pulse as it were with eyes wide open… Grabbing of the truth, sometimes by the most glittering lie. So, “you don’t have to be a scientist to do experiments… on your own heart”.