Omer Fast From video installation to thriller

“Remainder” by Omer Fast
“Remainder” by Omer Fast | © Berlinale

Berlin-based Israeli video artist Omer Fast presents no fewer than two exciting films at the Berlinale.

Omer Fast is not exactly a well-kept secret. Having moved to Berlin in 2001 after completing his studies in New York, the native Israeli has been one of the world’s most sought-after video artists for years. Omer Fast is interested in the blurred boundaries between memory and fiction, reality and staged production. His video installations reflect the interpretative processes of collective visual memory, while a quasi self-reproducing re-enactment of television news and interviews is his central method. His protagonists have included extras on the set of Schindler’s List, drone fighters on a test simulator and porn models. The Berlinale programme features two of his films.

Deconstructing the German TV film

Continuity was already shown in 2012 at the Documenta 13 in Kassel as a 40-minute short film. The Forum Expanded has now screened a feature film – or is it just a compilation of short films after all? A German couple is over the moon to welcome home their son who has returned from the war in Afghanistan. When the situation is repeated with a second son, it becomes clear that they are in fact rent boys. If anything, sporadic flashbacks make it even less clear what the couple’s aim in all this is. In this montage, which is by no means continuous but is nonetheless extremely exciting, Fast deconstructs – as he puts it – the mechanisms of the German television film and contrasts them with the diffuse German notions of the military engagement in Afghanistan. Some of the images, for example one showing an Afghan family suddenly gathered around the Christmas tree at home, definitely are more reminiscent of an art installation.

Reconstructing memory

By contrast, Remainder, which is showing in the Panorama section, is considered to be Fast’s first real feature film. Re-enactment is the buzzword here, too: an accident out of the blue leaves the young Londoner Tom without any memories and with an 8.5 million pound compensation payment. He uses the money to reconstruct his old life from scraps of memories. This film is also interwoven with artistic elements and the memory loops typical of Fast, yet incidentally it also conceals a pretty clever commentary on gentrification. However, this thriller, which is based on a book by the British author Tom McCarthy, also makes it clear how close Fast’s artistic devices and mainstream cinema have come to one another these days. In other words, if he is not careful he will find that he is the new Christopher Nolan – although a blockbuster director today, he also started out with his highly experimental 1999 thriller Following.