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Deadline Monday 31 December 2018
Email to with the subject line: Idiocinema.

Marplot’s Guide to Film
In the fall of 1995, a man with a briefcase suffered a fatal seizure in a dépanneur in Montreal, after an agitated and confused exchange with the proprietor. Apart from his name –Walter Marplot– authorities could not determine anything else about the man: no one seemed to know him and the few identification documents matched no known official offices or protocols. Stranger still were the contents of his briefcase: a manuscript for an encyclopedia of films, along with several still photographs identified in cramped handwriting as still shots from some of the films discussed in the manuscript. However, none of the hundreds of films described therein were recognized even by experts, yet they seem to cumulatively depict some alternative history not just of cinema, but of the world.

That’s the jumping-off place for a multi-artist project called Idiocinema, which will culminate in the publication of a book with that title by the Niagara Artists Centre. The text of the book is being written by Tim Conley. The book is to include images that suggest an entire film that will be used in conjunction with Tim’s synopses.

Idiocinema publication will consist of capsule, alphabetized descriptions of over 100 films, with lines of connection between them by which readers can follow particular storylines, such as that of a given actor’s career or of a particular trend in film in this alternative history (for example, the vogue for Swedish films about “legal technicalities” in the 1970s, or the British Mr. Whiffle comedies of roughly the same period). However, much of the book remains to be written, and the writing will be informed and inspired by the images chosen for inclusion.

NAC member artists are encouraged to lend their creativity to creating ‘film still’ images in a variety of styles, eras, genres, locations, and techniques. A black and white close-up of a nostril might be as powerful and suggestive as a full colour rooftop shot of a falling watermelon. We want images that hint at a scene, of the moments before and after the still image that’s submitted.

There’s only one absolute constraint: in Marplot’s world, there is no such place as Canada (it disappeared when cinema began), so images cannot include recognizable Canadian locations, landmarks, or symbols. In fact, the guide is to international film, so shots taken of/in the markets of Cairo, the clubs of Hong Kong, or the swamps of Louisiana are at least as welcome as those in an uncertain setting. Likewise, people may or may not be in the shot. Photos selected will be assigned a caption and presented as a scene, or still, from a particular film.

We plan to include 50 photographs in the published book. Artists may submit up to ten images for consideration. Modest remuneration of $50 will be paid for each photograph selected. Artists will receive printed credit and a copy of the book. They will retain copyright of the image and the right to sell the original and/or reproductions of their image(s). If there is sufficient interest, at a launch party for the book, an exhibit will be organized where the images can be presented and sold.

Submission criteria
a) Film stills may imply the different styles of filmmaking: Film Noir, the Musical, Italian Neorealism, Arthouse, and Sci-fi, for example. They may also imply the historic eras and shifting technologies of filmmaking: the silent era, animation, New Hollywood, etc.

b) Film stills should be formatted to reflect popular cinema and video aspect ratios: 1.85:1, 2.39:1, 4:3, and 16:9

c) Images should have a minimum resolution of 300 dpi.

d) Submission should be attached or file shared by email to with the subject line: Idiocinema. Please include your name, address, and phone contact in the body of your message. The deadline for submissions is 31 December.

Sample film descriptions from Idiocinema
American. Dir. Dalton Webby. Colour, 85 minutes.

A holiday cruise ship loses its way and runs ashore an uncharted island inhabited by savage cannibals whose one weakness is their inability to resist a good dance tune. The failed ironies of the film include the strange casting (the cannibals are all played by white actors, the tourists by blacks) and the double-entendres in the dialogue of the original script (written by Webby), which mocked specific racist views espoused by the then-governor of California, were lost in the rigorous editing that the studio enforced.
Trudy Trust is vaguely amusing as a fainting-prone socialite on the make for a husband, but the drinking may not be all acting. In her tell-all memoir, What Didn’t I Do (1984), she succinctly said of this film, “the lighting people seemed to know what was going on.”

American. Dir. Fintan Hold. Colour, 121 minutes.

The first of Hold’s films of people strangling each other, this one is the only one to include dialogue, and critics are divided as to whether it is thus an entirely extraneous feature or very meaningful precisely because it is so rare. The most shocking strangulation takes place in the library, a scene that takes only 12 minutes in the film but which took three whole days to shoot to Hold’s satisfaction. Fans will want to see this, but novices might better start with the later chapters in the cycle, such as Innocence to the Innocent (1992) and Gruzz Geduzz Alack (1994).

Swedish. Dir. Birgitta Lifsovgrass. Colour, 90 minutes.

A smuggling ring is cracked using a little-known regulation about noise levels in airports. Claes Kladdig plays the lead detective with unparalleled detachment, while Jannike Oregelbunden (better known for her later career in music) plays the nameless girl with acute hearing (and, in the dream sequence, the figure of Death). Keeping It Down initiated a surprising revolution in Swedish cinema and is recognized as the first
of a series of “legal technicalities” films, including director Lifsovgrass’s own Uncle’s Income (1975) and The Sorry Barber (1976).

Czech. Dir. Andìl Všední. B & W, 88 minutes.

“I wanted to make a film so joyless,” the director Andìl Všední later acknowledged, “so utterly without hope, that an audience might feel that their own lives were not so miserable and wretched as all that.” The narrator recalls his family’s vain efforts to convince the by turns morose and truculent Miroslav to give up his dream of finding a cache of diamonds allegedly stolen decades before by his grandfather but never found. Všední exclusively used uncredited amateur actors, whom he found in hospitals and paid with watered down alcohol, and it may thus be unsurprising that the dialogue is often hard to make out.