International Film Festival Rotterdam, 2016 (Chums from Across the Void)
Chums from Across the Void, the third video in the Inner Trotsky Child series premiered at the New York Film Festival's Projections program and then Rotterdam. I presented the series along with most of my movies at the Watch Docs film festival in Warsaw in December. It was great to see them screen at the old communist cinematheques.
Genevieve Yu in Film Comment wrote: "Jim Finnís Encounters with Your Inner Trotsky Child also riffs on the self-help genre by reading the persecution of the Russian Marxist of the title as an allegory for finding inner peace. Mimicking the wobbly appearance of Eighties video graphics, the film employs New Age-y visualization techniques (one section is entitled ďArrogant Breath of the Puffed-Up Bourgeoisie: A Guided MeditationĒ) and quasi-spiritual affirmation exercises conducted by a German-speaking aerobics instructor. The better life promised by such instructions, of course, was not something that Trotsky, murdered in Mexico by Stalinís agents, was able to achieve. Instead, the videoís narrator (Lois Severin) offers a counter history in which Trotsky evades Stalinís reach by building an underground bunker and triumphs over his enemies. Though Encounters elicited laughter with its hyperbolic Communist rhetoric and lo-fi video effects, it also prompts a serious engagement with its central premise: that to imagine a better life for ourselves means, in part, imagining a different history.
Encounters also got an amazing blurb for Poland's Nowe Horyzonty Festival: "Jim Finn, a master of confabulation and subversion, is back, this time in science fiction. Imagine an alternative version of history. The Cold War may be over, and an era of raging neoliberalism may have been ushered in, but the Trotskyists are still fighting for the soul of the American government. One of their methods is "strengthening one’s inner Trotsky child" – a slogan that, not accidentally, brings to mind New Age guides for spiritual development. Encounters with Your Inner Trotsky Child is an instruction video for home use. Just as Jane Fonda’s aerobics videos were meant to improve the bodies of American women, this video is meant to strengthen the morale of the militants of the revolution. The message of personal development is transferred to political agitation while maintaining the visual look of VHS cassettes from the early 1980s. Throw in a few exercises for affirmation, a strategy for conscious breathing, and your inner Trotsky child will be ready to do battle with the fat offspring of fascism."