Middle of the Moment

a cinepoem

35mm / 1:1.66 / black&white / Dolby SR / 80 min.
produced 1990-95
released 1995

Produced by
CineNomad, Germany
Balzli & Fahrer, Switzerland

Written and directed by
Nicolas Humbert & Werner Penzel


The essence of any experience, any moment, is to be found where people are in most intense contact with the place they occupy. And paradoxically, it is through a nomadic existence that one occupies a space the most intensely. Whether the nature of this nomadism is largely physical, as for the wandering tribes that travel the South Sahara and Cirque O - or rather abstract, as for the American philosopher and poet Robert Lax, is not so important. What the people portrayed in this documentary share is that their nomadic disposition, which strips life down to its bare essentials, makes them into complete centered human beings. They are not stuck in life's cycles but are co-existing with them, partaking in them with a freedom that is unknown to most of us.
Film makers Nicolas Humbert and Werner Penzel traveled through Europe and Africa with these very different nomads for around three years. Resisting the lure of nostalgia of any kind they have created a film form, a cinepoem as they call it, in which the freedom of the nomadic life resonates from each individual shot as well as from the film as a whole. Far from being a simple comparative study of nomadic lifestyles, middle of the moment is a nomadic adventure itself. It is lyrical in mood but goes beyond the merely admirable in its associations. It is not afraid to stay in one place, but also knows how to travel on to the next. The film makers have used their equipment and findings as imaginatively as the nomads they met use theirs, in their daily lives.
Middle of the moment becomes a journey into the most elementary cycles of life though it never pretends to witness their closure. Its framing rules out any generalization; what we see is appreciation of personality and detail. Fred Frith's music for the film wonderfully translates this sense of the constant movement of things. Far removed though we may be from an itinerant way of life, which forms a cycle in itself, we are still sensitive to the images that depict life in terms of its archetypal circles: sitting around the fire, life in a community, the sharing of food from one cup, the meeting of old acquaintances, the arena of the circus, the beginning of a life and the approaching end, which only reveals itself at a moment where one cannot speak about it anymore.
It would seem that the more sensitive we are, the further we can travel in middle of the moment.

Distributed by:

Worldwide: Cine Nomad
e-mail: cinenomad@aol.com
website: www.cinenomad.de

USA, Canada: DAME
e-mail: info@actuellecd.com
website: www.actuellecd.com

VHS-NTSC video and CD soundtrack distribution

USA, Canada: Canyon Cinema
e-mail: films@canyoncinema.com
website: www.canyoncinema.com

cinema distribution, 35 mm

France: K-Films
e-mail: k-films@wanadoo.fr
website: www.k-films.com

video & cinema distribution, 35 mm

Germany: Cine Nomad
e-mail: cinenomad@aol.com
website: www.cinenomad.de

video & cinema distribution, 16 mm & 35 mm

Germany: 235 Media
e-mail: mail@235media.com
website: www.235media.com

VHS video distribution

Germany: Efa Medien
website: www.efa-medien.de

soundtrack CD

Switzerland: Look Now!
e-mail: Looknow@kino.ch

video & cinema distribution, 16 mm & 35 mm

Switzerland: Rec Rec Medien
e-mail: vertrieb@recrec.ch
website: www.recrec.ch

CD soundtrack distribution

Austria: Filmladen
website: www.filmladen.at

cinema distribution, 35 mm

Japan: Image Forum
website: www.imageforum.co.jp

cinema distribution (35mm) & video (VHS-NTSC)

Shot in

Monthelon, Paris, Bordeaux (France)
Arhus, Kopenhagen (Denmark)
Pacejov, Bohemia (Czech Republik)
Wolfsgrub, Bermuda (Germany)
Patmos, (Greece)
Anou Araren, Tiriken, Timia (Niger)


Robert Lax
Aghali ag Rhissa
Johann le Guilherm
Sandra M'Bow
Mutu walat Rhabidine
and many others


Cinematography - Chilinski
Original Sound Recording .- Jean Vapeur
Camera-Assistance & Lighting - Dieter Fahrer
Location Manager (Niger) - Georg Klute
Film editing - Gisela Castronari, Nicolas Humbert, Werner Penzel,
Film editing assistance - Bettina Rademacher
Sound editing - Vera Burnus
Music - Fred Frith
Studio Recording - Peter Hart
Mixing - Max Rammler



Prix La Sarraz for innovative cinema, Switzerland 95
Prime de Qualité, Switzerland 95
Prädikat besonders wertvoll, Germany 95
Diploma of Merit, Filmfestival Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic 95
Prix du Public, Filmfestival Marseille, France 95
Grand Prix - Best Documentary, Filmfestival Florence, Italy 95
Hessischer Filmpreis - Best Documentary, Germany 95
Best Cinematography, Filmfestival Mediawave Györ, Hungary 95


Solothurn, Berlin, Budapest, Sydney, Karlovy Vary, Marseille, München,
Uherské Hradisté, Nyon, Bratislava, London, Thessaloniki, Bruxelles,
Warsaw, Salzburg, Florence, Paris, Györ, San Francisco, Rotterdam, Riga


Life in mid-moment/ A poetic voyage on film

Film is a medium you can either watch or see. The difference is one of passive reception or active participation and, ultimately, between entertainment and art. 'Middle of the Moment' is an 80-minute argument for the power of participatory film. Made by filmmakers Nicolas Humbert and Werner Penzel, 'Middle of the Moment' offers no narrative and consequently no plot summary to detail here. From its first abstract moments of snow falling in headlightsneatly making a transition to sparks rising from a fire, the film is a meditation on relativity - of time, place and culture.
Humbert and Penzel have aspired to what they call a 'cinepoem' by following three kinds of nomads: a south Saharan tribe, the French troupe Cirque O and the American language poet Robert Lax. Cutting back and forth freely between these three subjects with no narration other than little snippets of conversation from the subjects, they weave a black-and-white world of acute observation.
This is a film seen from the inside out, jumping from such images as a circus performer spinning on a wire-framed disc to a family dismantling their yurt's wooden frame to Lax playfully singing the phrase, 'How will be will be'.

Randy Gragg, 'The Oregonian', 1996