Twenty thousand pounds is not a bad haul if you’re making an art film. That’s the amount the two winners of the 2016 Jerwood/FVU (Film and Video Umbrella) Awards each received to create moving-image works on the theme of ‘Borrowed Time’. In the case of New York-born Karen Kramer’s ‘The Eye That Articulates Belongs on Land’, you get a sense of where the money went. Shot in Shiretoko National Park in the far north of Japan, and around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor (the 2011 site of the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl, triggered by a tsunami that was in turn triggered by the Tōhoku earthquake) the photography is stunning. Moving from a bleak seafront littered with concrete tetrapods used to create a seawall, to lush hilly landscapes, to bleak street scenes of abandoned shops, the mood is contemplative, the camera lingering to capture compelling details. Our protagonist is a little fox, first seen on the shore, then as a taxidermy victim, and finally – and this is where the film goes nutsobananas – as a CGI’ed skin-and-bones body floating through space listening to a… well, you really have to see it.
Coincidentally, both winning films are about power stations. UK-born Alice May Williams’s ‘Dream City – More, Better, Sooner’ tackles the prescient topic of London’s rampant development, taking the Battersea Power Station – which is being transformed into a mixed-use ‘international consortium’ – as her point of focus. This film is less impressive than Kramer’s meditation on time and decay. A promising start that takes in the history of urban development in London (with some great archive footage) descends into the standard reading of new property as a menace – with the voiceover doing little to provide nuance, and lapsing into sentimentality about the past. Still, the films work as a pair, and who doesn’t love a power station?