Norbert Goes to Cannes

By Mona Malacane

It’s a pretty common scene in the Telecom building and around campus – a group of people waiting for something (classroom, bus, etc).  Perhaps that was also true a century ago.  What is different in our times is that instead of talking to one another, people are texting, Facebooking, Snapchatting, Instagramming, or another ____-ing on [insert any mobile device here].

Humanexus, product of a collaboration between Norbert Herber, Ying-Fang Shen, and Katy Börner, is a thought-provoking documentary on evolution of human communication, all the way to the above-mentioned mobile devices and beyond. “The film starts in prehistoric times and goes up until the 20th century and brings us to where we are now,” Norbert explained. “Then it shows three possible futures and allows the audience to glimpse things that are similar to what they see now, or ideas of things that have been presented in movies and science fiction – the future speculations of writers, film makers, artists, and authors … and each [future] ends with a pause and the question, ‘is this what we want, what do we want?’”

A big part of Norbert’s work for the project was recording voices asking, “Is this what we want? What do we want?” The question is asked in a variety of languages by people of different ages, adding an additional layer of depth to the film. “I got as many languages I possibly could in the small window of time I had to do this … and I recorded them all in different ways,” he explained. “There was an old recording microphone; I had my father-in-law and Betsi call and leave a message on my answering machine; some people called in over Skype and I recorded that; some people came to the studio and recorded clean. The idea was that I didn’t want it to be all a clean, voice-over narration style. It needed to represent everyone in a realistic way. So having it broken up by the phone, and the internet, and by the other mediating technologies gave it a texture.”

Norbert and Katy accepting their award at the AVIFF- Cannes Art Film Festival.

Norbert and Katy accepting their award at the AVIFF- Cannes Art Film Festival.

Since it was completed in 2012, the film has achieved official selection in 81 different film festivals around the world, most recently the San Pedro Film Festival (CA) and Bolgatty International Film Festival (India), collecting quite a few awards along the way. This summer the film was accepted and screened at the AVIFF-Cannes Art Film Festival where it won third place in one of the short film documentary categories. It was subsequently selected for an additional screening at the Cannes Film Festival. Yes, the Cannes Film Festival that internationally famous celebrities and renowned directors, producers, and filmmakers attend in Cannes, France. The three collaborators traveled to France for the famous festival and got to witness the “circus” of events that take place over 12 days, as well as network with other filmmakers and see some of the other films being screened.

Norbert on the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival

Norbert on the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival.

The award-winning film is being screened tonight (Monday, September 8) at 7 pm in the IU Cinema and will be followed by a talk from the three collaborators. If you’d like more information on the screen, please click here. The screening is free but you must get tickets (either at the door or before) to enter!

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