Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Bomarzo, Monster Park II: Kodak Ektachrome

"Rah! I'm a monstah!"

Last month I went off to Bomarzo in Italy to see the Parco dei Mostri, an attractive park dotted with monstrous stone sculptures created in the late 1500s. I took along my Fujica Half half-frame camera and some Kodak Pro Image film, and also some Kodak Ektachrome that expired a long time ago.

Bomarzo is an awkward day trip from Rome but entirely doable by public transport. I have done it myself, and now I can look myself in the mirror and say "I know de way", like Ugandan Knuckles. Do you remember Ugandan Knuckles? All the way back in January 2018 it became fashionable amongst young people to gatecrash a set of virtual communities with an avatar that resembled Sega's popular Knuckles character, but deformed, while delivering quotations from Who Killed Captain Alex?, a low-budget Ugandan action film. Thus Ugandan Knuckles. The fad flourished briefly in the first month of 2018. Two months later I almost feel nostalgic for it.

Uganda has a surprisingly productive albeit underfunded film industry, which seems to have embraced the audience participation elements of Rocky Horror and DJ toasting etcetera. Ugandan film-makers don't have access to much money, so inevitably they major in exploitation films, violent action and horror, and what's wrong with that? I grew up watching violent action and horror films on videotape, especially if they had nudity, such as for example The Howling or Lifeforce, and there's nothing wrong with me.

The mouth has a surprisingly big table inside. I changed film on the table.

Sadly the Ugandan government isn't keen on the other thing and has funded an anti-pornography committee to the tune of half a million dollars, which is probably more money than the total budget of all Ugandan films made in any given year. I learn that the Ugandan government has spent almost ninety thousand dollars importing a pornography detection machine from South Korea, which is ridiculous given that teenage boys will eagerly do the job for free.

As a consequence of this Uganda is badly underrepresented on Pornhub, indeed half of Pornhub's returns for "uganda" are actually Ugandan Knuckles uploads, which aren't even porn. I maintain that it's not government initiatives that bring people of different creeds, colours, and religions together, it is instead pornography and drugs and rock and roll and Counter-Strike and so forth. "We are two of soul".

The mainstream media was convinced that Ugandan Knuckles was bad because it was racist, and so if I do decide to look myself in the mirror and say "I know de way" I will make sure that no-one is watching me. History will look back at a time when Western society decided to ban a cartoon frog and wonder what went wrong.

After visiting Bomarzo, which I have described already and I'm not going to do it again, I returned to Rome, but the light was fading. There are continual rumours that what remains of Kodak is going to reintroduce Ektachrome - the company discontinued its entire slide film range several years ago, leaving Fuji as the world's sole remaining manufacturer of slide film - but I'll believe it when I see it and I won't rejoice all that much. Ektachrome itself was okay, essentially a budget alternative to Kodachrome that was easier to develop. When it was a thing it was often criticised for being a bit flat and pale, and when Fuji inroduced the dense, hypersaturated Velvia in 1990 landscape and advertising photographers switched to that instead. Kodak attempted to compete with "high saturation" versions of Ektachrome but it was too little, too late, and of course it was ultimately for nothing because the problem facing Kodak wasn't weak slide film, the end