The Mobile Wave

Par Max Schleser - 11/09/2010 - 15:37 [English] [PDF] 

In June 2010 the Pocket Film Festival in its sixth edition took place in Paris. Once again mobile video took centre stage and the spotlight was on mobile filmmaking during one of the most prominent mobile film festivals. The festival’s focus on mobile video includes the adaptation of the new film format in various media forms and formats, ranging from mobile content to cinema screenings and from VJ performances to installations. Various categories and facets of mobile media now exist for what the French Festival defines as Pocket Films.

The Pocket Film Festival is working on various levels with the public including children in school and students at Universities and also commissions filmmakers to realise short and feature length Pocket Films. This initiative enriches the festival and provides a fertile ground for experimentation. Moreover, the Pocket Film Festival included panel discussions and filmmakers presenting their short and feature projects. Theses new cultural formations of Pocket Films and mobile-mentaries (mobile documentaries) engage in a debate about cinema with the public and contribute to the shaping of contemporary French cinema.

The Forum Des Images provided a great venue for the festival including three cinemas and a number of viewing lounges. On pink leather sofas one can access the database of Pocket Films. Most films that were screened in the three-day program are found in this database, which also features interviews with the mobile filmmakers. Located in the heart of Paris in Les Halles, the Forum des Images brings a film library, cinema and in general a forum for discussion of film and its art forms to the Parisians.

The festival’s program includes mobile content for mobile viewing on mobile devices. Mobile video content is characterised by its short duration that can be viewed out and about. The idea is not to repackage TV or cinema content, but to explore the small screen dimensions and its specific dynamics. Some of these projects are produced in a self-made DIY (do it yourself) like stop-frame animation technique, while others are filmed on HD featuring professional ballet dancers. Next to the viewing experience on mobile devices, mobile media installations incorporate locative media through SEMA (or QR) codes creating site-specific Pocket Films. The DCODD project produced Pocket Films that relate to specific locations, which are thus viewed out and about in public places.

In addition the Pocket Films screened at the Festival also included feature length films for cinematic projection by Jean-Claude Taki, Lionel Soukaz, Alain Fleischer, Rachid Djaïdani and Max Schleser. The filmmaker’s own backgrounds influenced their mobile feature film productions that transcend the domain of experimental and documentary filmmaking. The Pocket Films can be situated in these categories while simultaneously expanding the boundaries of contemporary cinema.

Some of the mobile feature film’s characteristics by the French filmmaker can be linked to the tradition of French La Nouvelle Vague (French New Wave). In 1948 Alexandre Astruc wrote the article “The birth of a new avant-garde: La Camera Stylo”. In L’Ecran Français he describes that filmmkers will be able to write with their cameras. He predicted:

“a form in which and by which an artist can express his thoughts, however abstract they may be, or translate his obsessions exactly as he does in the contemporary essay or novel. That is why I would like to call this new age of cinema the age of camera-stylo (camera-pen).” (Astruc 1948 in Corrigan 1999, p.158)

The idea to express the filmmakers thoughts in new forms is present in the Pocket Films of Alain Fischer, Jean-Claude Taki or Rachid Djaïdani. In La Ligne Brune the latter is portraying the pregnancy of his wife coupled with a commentary on his perception of contemporary social issues in France through a critical, but smart lens. Jaen-Claude Taki’s Scotchi 255 explores the mobile aesthetics and notions of memory in poetic and essayistic form. Memory provides a key to read the film Sotchi 255, while his short films are colourful fusions of light, flowers and the female body. The Pocket Film Le Monde vu par mes jouets by Alain Fleischer illustrates a miniature aesthetic using the latest camera phones. Alan Fisher’s previous Pocket Films are flâneur like, an exploration of cityscapes through the lens of the mobile camera phone in almost one continues take.

When writing about the Pocket Film Festival as a key contribution to contemporary French cinema one can point at another example to underline the innovative position France takes in mobile filmmaking. Godard’s latest project Film Socialism incorporates mobile phone video. This is not surprising as Godard, as a video pioneer, commenced working with video technology in 1968 for TV productions in the projects 6 fois 2 and France tour deux enfants. The latest mobile devices (iphone 4 and Nokia N8) video and the sound quality is now more advanced than early video formats. The contemporary figure in French Pocket Cinema is one of the Pocket Film Festival organisers, Benoît Labourdette. He has produced a number of Pocket Film projects since 2005 and recently completed a series of short Pocket Films entitled Films d’étude and Imaginons un Instant .

With the development to mpeg4 mobile video as a standard feature in mobile devices, the attributes for mobile filmmaking are developing into new realms in 2010. The expansion from what Max Schleser termed “Keitai Aesthetic”, which characterises the mobile videos in the years 2005-2008, could be seen in this years Pocket Film Festival. A comparison of mobile phone cameras in the years 2005 and 2010 can illustrate the different possibilities available. While in 2005 mobile camera phones were not even recognised by the mobile phone manufacturers as filmmaking devices, they are now being shipped with mini-Jack connectors, so one can record digetic sound and interviews with microphones straight to the mobile camera phones. Some mobile phones allow to manually adjust the focus and now-a-days not only in Japan various filters and small add-on lenses for mobile camera phones are widely available.

Despite these increasing technical developments in terms of image quality some characteristics from the Keitai Aesthetic, the intimate and immediate forms of media production, remain present in mobile filmmaking and seem now to shift in the foreground. Moreover as a portable and personal medium that one has always in reach every day and night, the notion of the everyday remains prominent. In this context one can point at the winner of the audience award in the International Competition at the 2010 Pocket Films Festival. This year the audience awarded the video 18 heures 12 by Julien Hérisson , which made use of the stop motion technique portraying him in an autobiographical fashion over the time span of a year. The Pocket Film Festival jury awarded the third place to the Pocket Film Roku Jo No Kotoba (Radical Haîku) . The Japanese Pockets filmmaker is revealing the fun and fresh approach found in mobile filmmaking, while Naruna Kaplan de Macedo is making a political statement with the second price Isratine Palestël . The winning video, Fear Thy Not, not only reveals what in new media theory is referred to as the haptic or tactile media1 , but the idea of mediating an experience about a certain location. In a 2007 article on the subject of mobile aesthetics I quote Hansen’s argument from a shift a ocularcentric aesthetic to a haptic aesthetic rooted in embodied affectivity (Hansen in Schleser 2008, p.103). The mobile phone images allow the audience or viewer to identify with the location and the experience of being in a certain location. The images become so close to use through the limitations of the camera that the images are taken within a space that one could touch. The winning video transmits an experience and lets us identify with the filmmakers perception about the space.

“This aesthetic [the Keitai Aesthetic] emphasises the importance of location…  Mobile devices make the mudane interesting, the everyday confronted, providing a new lens for viewing the world through a new camera vision.  … The sense of intimate connectedness to the message, its subject and the author, has emotional implications in everyday art experience, making one feel special, important and inspired.” (Schleser et al. 2008)

The mobile phone as a video mobile communication device enables one to transmit experiences. The Pocket Film Fear Thy Not by Sophie Sherman reveals her personal experience of an everyday situation . The mobile video, which is influenced by the work of Benoît Labourdette, reveals this personal experience of an everyday situation of a young girl walking through a dark tunnel. Her hand is leading her walk through the tunnel while we hear her singing a song to comfort her during this stressing situation. Some parallels to the 2007 Pocket Film Festival winner Porte de Choisy , which reveals the experience of an intimate everyday situation of a French couple in their bedroom, can be flagged up. In an analysis of this Pocket Film, Gaby David concludes in Clarifying the Mysteries of an Exposed Intimacy that: “we are familiar with the situation. We are familiar with this type of imaging. We all recognize it. This is also the intriguing part of the camera-phone: because contradictorily it shows us how familiarity does not cease to amaze us.”(David, 2009, p. 86)

Mobile video allows one to enter into private zones and highlights the notion and recognition of a particular kind of spectacle. One can note here in relation to the notion of spectacle that the users create the formation of spectacle according to their terms and conditions. A mobile spectacle, which is immediate and intimate in character.

Despite the fact that the visual distinction between mobile video and digital video as featured on-line, on the desktop and/or on the cinema screen might increasingly blur in the near [HD] future, the mobile video will remain unique in several respects. The mobile aesthetics are going through a phase that is developing from short to feature, from pre-dominantly pixel to personal and autobiographical statements. With the second generation of mobile devices in our pockets and an ever increasing sound and video quality, new dimensions for a mobile wave open up. For example collaborative mobile filmmaking projects such as:

as much the experimentation with motion graphics as revealed in Max Schleser’s:

and Benoît Labourdette latest work (see link above) now sets a new platform for the development of the aesthetics into a domain that is changing cinema.

It is with great pleasure that this blog hosts this article by our friend and colleague Max Schleser. Max is a London-based mobile filmmaker, currently in the final stages completing a PhD in the CREAM Research Centre at the University of Westminster. His portfolio includes numerous documentary projects, which have been screened at various film and new media festivals in the UK and internationally (including events in Berlin, Paris, New York, San Paulo and Tokyo). Max teaches Media Production at the Limkokwing University of Creative Technology in London and Kuala Lumpur. During the last years he spoke at a number of international conferences and lectured in London, Gaborone and Kuala Lumpur on the subject of mobile media.
His recent publications include the Journal of Media Practice and VJ theory.
Max organises the FILMOBILE network, which showcases innovation in mobile creativity.

Max Schleser –

Bibliography / Filmography

Corrigan, T. (1999) Film and literature: an introduction and reader. Prentice Hall: New Jersey.

David, G. (2009) “Clarifying the Mysteries of an Exposed Intimacy. Another Intimate Representation Mise-en-scène”. In Nyíri (ed.) Engagement and Exposure. Mobile Communication and the Ethics of Social Networking. Passagen Verlag: Berlin.


Djaïdani, Rachid (2010) La Ligne Brune. France.

Fleischer, Alain (2010) Le Monde vu par mes jouets. France.

Godard, J. (1976) Six Times Two, Six Fois Deux. France

Schleser, M., Baker, C., Kasia, M. Aesthetics of Mobile Media Art” Journal of Media Practice - special issue (2009) A Decade of Media Practice: Changes, Challenges and Choices – Volume 10 Issue 2 & 3 (2009).

Schleser, Max (2008) Max with a Keitai. Japan.

Soukaz, Lionel (2010) Journal á deux mains. France.

Taki, Jean-Claude (2010) Sotchi 255. France.

Pavlik, J. (2008) Media in the digital age. Columbia University Press: New York.

  1. According to Pavlik haptic or tactile media are touch sensitive computer devices or three dimensional printers [Pavlik 2008]).

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