The collaborative short “Mountain Plain Mountain” by Araki Yu and Daniel Jacoby is an extraordinary film about an extraordinary sport. Thematizing Ban’ei – a rare form of horse racing with a special parcourse and heavy sleds – the two filmmakers set out for the city of Obihiro to document the happenings of such a race. In a behind the scenes setting, we get to see everything, except the race itself. Bookies, jockeys, annotators, spectators, the technical apparatuses. All the ingredients for the race are shown, but something is missing.

Mountain Plain Mountain” is screening at Sheffield Doc/Fest

By using an observational style, nothing is explained or commented. But the images turn from almost two-dimensional delineations to heavily edited and alienated sequences. “Mountain Plain Mountain” abandons the logical, realistic representation of the events repeatedly and enters a world of poetry and wild connotation. Reality becomes mysterious and unintelligible.

In one of my favorite scenes, we hear the gibberish of one of the commentators. He talks about the race and his words are transcripted on the screen. He talks very fast and indistinct as he falls in a kind of frenzy trying to keep up with the course of the race. The true meaning of his words get lost and the film reinterprets them in a funny way. Together with a clever editing and the enormous speed of his voice, the viewer falls back into an absurd state of mind. In these sequences the focus shifts from a typical documentary to a poetic simulation of reality

In 2018, “Mountain Plain Mountain” won the Ammodo Tiger Short Award at the International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR). I strongly agree with their decision, because Araki Yu and Daniel Jacoby pick up the inherently strange aesthetics of the race course and combine it with an unworldly reception of our world that reveals a mysterious dimension, which is set between our world and the cinematic world.


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