Fabulous Festival of Fringe Film 2008 Fear Remembered

Schedule 2008Tickets and DirectionsFabulous Festival of Fringe Film HomeOpening ReceptionA Pathless LandFn FsFear RememberedPeople's ChoiceHandmade Film WorkshopHarvesting the YukonExperiments With TruthTrue Meaning of PicturesTrip-Hop MetropolisAndrew Lampert: Projection Performance



Friday, July 31, 8:30pm, Symphony Barn, (104 min.)

by Phil Hoffman

Fig Tree by John Grreyson

Adapted from a series of seven immersive video installations, originally exhibited at Oakville Galleries in 2003, filmmaker John Greyson and singer-composer David Wall brings us Fig Trees. The ‘video-doc-opera’ chronicles and envisions the struggles of AIDS activists Tim McCaskell of Toronto and Zackie Achmat of Cape Town, as they fight for access to treatment drugs. In the film, the dynamic of the narrative is embellished by Greyson’s careful oscillations between documentary and fictional form. The factual history of the struggle, and the men’s personal, political story is punctuated with fictional and operatic reverie, including a re-visioning of Gertrude Stein, and Virgil Thomson’s 1934 Dadaist opera, Four Saints in Three Acts, as well as an irreverent ‘top 100’ countdown of AIDS songs – which includes a campy ‘homage’ to the two Bill’s: Clinton and Gates.

Of the many interconnected narrative threads which Greyson skillfully and poignantly juggles, there are none more moving than the story of Zackie Achmat’s ‘treatment strike’, against the South African government and the pharmaceutical industry. Achmat refused, for many months, to take anti-retroviral medications because their high cost—around $500 per month—put them out of reach for most HIV-positive South Africans.

The music for the video is sumptuously composed by David Wall, who worked closely with Greyson in what can be seen as a kind of anti-opera. The duo have used opera to conduct a kind of absolute negation of opera. During a recent public screening, Wall has pointed out that classical opera is steeped in martyrdom, individualism, melancholia, fatalism and death, a high bourgeois form that could only lead to political passivity. In the video Fig Trees, Greyson and Wall have created by contrast, a vision of politics that understands ‘the collective’ as the agent of history.