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NSCAD student screens their film at Rencontres Internationales Traverse in France

NSCAD film student Kate Solar’s travelogue footage is an ode to her time in Greece

Stills from Kate Solar’s short film, Somewhere Real. Solar uses footage from her time in Greece that is superimposed with poetic narration that moves across the screen. Courtesy: Kate Solar

Animated text, poetic narration, and manipulated footage of the Aegean Sea comprise Kate Solar’s Somewhere Real, a five-minute short film that takes her to Toulouse, France, this week. The experimental travelogue is screening in the Recontres Internationales Traverse, which has been celebrating and showcasing experimental cinema and video art for more than two decades.

Solar, who graduates from NSCAD’s Film program in May, spent three weeks last summer on the Isle of Hydra in Greece as part of a NSCAD cohort at Hydrama Theatre.

“It was an opportunity to make work in response to this place”,” says Solar, who brought along a mirrorless digital camera, to record her time there. “It was very difficult to find a way to document or reflect upon the experience. It’s so straightforwardly beautiful there — almost like a desktop wallpaper. It’s hard to be faced with so much pure beauty when you’re trying to make something from it.”

Somewhere Real does incorporate some of that footage — transferred to 16mm film with an Oxberry animation camera, which distorts the ocean handsomely — but in making the film, Solar found herself leaning on writing instead of visuals.

“I was consistently keeping a journal while I was there,” she says. “I was thinking about some of the images and experiences that stuck out to me and could not be captured by a camera — going to the beach and swimming in the ocean at night would be unfilmable.

“The kind of surrealness of travel in general and being somewhere for a brief period of time and trying to capture that feeling. I decided I wasn’t going to make something driven by footage. But I had this text,” she continues.

Solar’s poetic narration about an evening at the beach and the thoughts it sparked, drives the short as select pieces of Courier text fall in and out of view, moving across the frame in waves of disordered, flipped-around letters, animated with the Oxberry.

“My initial plan was to do direct animation, scratching/painting on the film strip, to accompany the whole text,” says Solar. “Sol Nagler, my faculty advisor, suggested I pay attention to the resonance of the text itself, and the interaction between text and landscape. I printed all my text onto transparency and did stop-motion with the letters and words.” 

Somewhere Real screens on March 14 at Traverse in a program featuring filmmakers from Argentina, Italy, and Belgium. Though just five days long, it packs in installations, screenings, and performances from all over the world.

“I feel like I’ve not been so immersed in or seen as much experimental film as I will see there,” says Solar. “I’m excited.”