To find yourself at the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival is indeed a bodily experience.
Every day you watch 7-10 documentaries mainly dealing with the sadness and misfortunes of this world. You feel a physical exhaustion in your body. You become dizzy, confused, even worried. But it is more than that. Some of the films are actually embodied experiences in themselves. Film is moving pictures. Moving because the technology itself is a series of still images moving next to each other. But film is also “moving” in a different meaning of the word. The pictures move us. But what kind of movement takes place?
Think of touching a stranger’s hand in a bar late at night. Then think of the memory of this. Where do you sense the memory? In you mind, in your heart or perhaps most of all in your hand.
The place where the action was embedded. I believe the same happens when we see a film. Films are said to be an escape from reality. Even documentaries have been accused of this. To me this is a problematic statement. Film might be an escape from reality but it is never an escape from your body. You carry your body with you and it is through the body that you become immersed in the film. At the Thessaloniki Documentary Festival I saw a number of films which in different ways both dealt with the body thematically and also had a bodily effect on me which I will now try to explain.


The first film I would like to mention is Kinbaku– Art of Bondage (Kinbaku – Sielun solmuja) by the Finnish director Jouni Hokkanen. The film is a highly stylistic and impressively made study of the Japanese bondage tradition known as kinbaku. Hokkanen’s method is by no means a journalistic examination of the tradition attempting to uncover the hows and whats of this fascinating erotic practice.

The film is rather a sensitive and seductive exploration with an open mind and body. We are treated with gorgeous scenes in golden colours depicting a man tying up a young Japanese woman. Elaborate details are revealed and yet much is hidden from our eyes. We are in forbidden territory and much is left to the imagination of the viewer and his or her own method of immersion. Much of the film deals with skin and texture. The rope against the skin. The tightening of the rope and the effect this tightening has on the skin. The pressure and the release. The pain and the joy. The marks left on the skin and the changing facial expressions on the girl as the rope is tied in ever more complex ways around her naked body. The film does have some controversial statements about the nature of the Japanese woman’s desire to be tied – and this desire’s connection with the lack of attention and tenderness in Japanese society.


But the images in the film showing the art of bondage make it clear that there is a mutual respect and understanding between the tier and the tied. This is not sadomasochism but rather an enthralling erotic form of communication. Watching these images of skin and texture made me feel the film on my own skin.

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