There are signals in the forest


In this year of misplaced Olympics, we —the Curtocircuíto team— have discovered ARDF, a minority sport that has blown our minds. ARDF brings together many of the values and ideas that shape our program year after year, namely the will to explore unknown territories as well as our interest in science, sound art and analogue technology.

ARDF is the acronym for Amateur Radio Direction Finding, a recreational sport that is mainly practised in the Nordic countries, Eastern Europe, Russia, and China. It is a timed race in which individual participants use a topographical map, a magnetic compass, and direction-finding devices to navigate through wooded terrain while searching for radio transmitters that function as moving targets. By using antennas, the runners receive radio signals that carry sounds and secret messages which allow them to find the hidden beacon transmitters while covering the entire course in the shortest possible time. There is no racetrack, only a territory that each participant must move across, using their technical knowledge and, above all, their sense of orientation. Although the athletes compete against each other, the main struggle is with themselves, as they seek out those invisible signs, alone in the middle of the wilderness.

I suppose that if we have developed a fascination with ARDF it is because, in some way, it reminds us of a mix between a summer-camp scavenger hunt and a mountain pilgrimage, with a slight dash of the Olympic spirit. And in all of this, beyond the kitsch image, there is a sense of community that today, after confinements and restrictions, we recognise as fundamental to our emotional wellbeing.

I have always found great similarities between cinema and sport. Although both have become objects of desire representative of the most atrocious capitalism —which dehumanises and banalizes them—, they are, or were originally, practices that aspired to promote ethics and community organisation regardless of age, sex, or physical, social, and cultural conditions. Whether individually or in teams, the sporting experience facilitates interpersonal relations, channels the need for confrontation and stimulates sensitivity and creativity, much like artistic practice. Moreover, popular sports prioritise solidarity and cooperative values, they do not understand competition as a confrontation between rivals, but between equals. They do not pursue economic profitability and they do not despise the participation of people with lesser skills, but rather encourage it, thus generating spaces for collective respect and coexistence. In short, there is dignity in sport and cinema, just like there is in labour. Plus, they invigorate the soul! Luckily, we still have wonders like ARDF that the system has not yet co-opted and monetised.

I think that, in a way, all this has a lot to do with the kind of cinema that survives on the fringes, far away from timeworn formulas, supplying festivals and theatres with the most personal and innovative proposals each and every year. Theatres that, thankfully, we can once again visit together.

Ready, set, go!

Here begins #Curtocircuíto2021!

Pela del Álamo

Artistic Director

*All the images used in this campaign are hosted in open access at ardf2019.hamradio.si/gallery