TIFF 2020: Still Processing (Sophy Romvari, Canada)

By Adam Nayman

“A moment stopped would burn like a frame of film, blocked before the furnace of the projector,” intones Alexandra Stewart in Chris Marker’s Sans Soleil (1983), testifying to the essential fluidity of time versus the fixity of photography. Marker’s point seems to be that to disproportionately privilege still images, in cinema as in memory, is less an act of illumination than potential incineration. The old family photos unboxed by Sophy Romvari at the beginning of Still Procesing are ordinary, imperfect shots, but context makes them hot to the touch: they’re icons of the filmmaker’s deceased siblings David and Jonathan, and we watch as the director looks at them for the first time, simultaneously mapping out an artistic plan of attack—the film is a document of the photographs’ digitization for posterity—and confronting a grief that’s irreducible to aesthetics. Romvari’s instinct (and ability) to compose beautiful frames as containers around her ideas is of a piece with her previous work, but in Still Processing,the recessive, strategically mediated melancholy of the earlier shorts has been replaced with (or perhaps given way to) a more untrammelled emotional affect. It’s a hopeful development.