Everywhere around the world 100th anniversary we are celebrating the end of the Great War. Ravenna Nightmare Film Fest - in collaboration with Comitato Centenario Grande Guerra and Lions Club International, that are in turn organising a series of iniatives such as art exhibitions, meetings and screenings - dedicates a special event to this recurrence with The Great War day, that on 4th November will be ending the Festival.
First preview on the event's programme does not get unnoticed with the announced screening of documentary Beyond Zero: 1912-1918 by award-winning filmmaker Bill Morrison, with music by Aleksandra Vrebalov, directed by Kronos Quartet.
Morrison's films often unite rare archive material with contemporary music, and have been screened in cinemas, festivals, museums and galleries all over the world. Beyond Zero: 1914-1918 draws from 35mm nitrate original archive material shot during the First World War and it's a glimpse of a war fought in fields, in trenches, and in the air. Most of the footage shows some emulsion deterioration – the by-product of a history stored on an unstable base for 100 years. Through a veil of physical degradation and original film dyes, we see training exercises, parades, and troop movement. Some of the battle footage was re-enacted for the camera, and some depicts actual live rounds. All of it was shot on film at the time of the conflict.
We see a record of a war as a series of documents passed along to us like a message in a bottle. None is more powerful than the record of the film itself, made visible by its own deterioration. We are constantly reminded of its materiality: this film was out on these same fields with these soldiers 100 years ago, a collaborator, and a survivor. It is being seen now as a digital image for the first time.
If these are images that we, as viewers, were once intended to see, to convince us of the necessity and valor of war, they now read as images that have fought to remain on the screen. They are threatened on all sides by the unstable nitrate base they were recorded on, and the prism of nearly one hundred uninterrupted years of war, through which we now view them.