I want to share a video I just saw from two incredibly talented people, video by Isabel Pérez del Pulgar and music by Sofia Koubli:
Ok, so somehow this blew right by me but here is recent article in the NYT regarding some experimental film series that are going on currently.
It’s possible to follow one thread in the off-Hollywood story, its histories, productions and personalities in Alternative Projections: Experimental Film in Los Angeles 1945-1980, a six-month series coordinated by Filmforum, the longest-running avant-garde film organization in Los Angeles, and one of several moving-image programs in Pacific Standard Time. (Another, “L.A. Rebellion: Creating a New Black Cinema,” was coordinated by the UCLA Film & Television Archive, where it runs until Dec. 17.) An initiative of the Getty Institute, Pacific Standard Time is a sprawling collaboration of more than 60 Southern California cultural institutions that aims, as a Getty news release puts it, “to tell the birth of the Los Angeles art scene and how it became a major new force in the art world.”
The video is well-made. Perhaps a bit too much emphasis on the music, pushing it slightly close to a music video for my tastes. I tend to shy away from music video/performance style pieces in my practice. Not saying it’s right or wrong, just how I tend to lean.
I read about this LA experimental film retrospective. It seems great. If someone goes, please do come back with some opinions.
^ If I get a chance, I will…
One of my very favorite contemporary filmmakers, period – Rouzbeh Rashidi.
And crossing into the Remodernism thread, he did an absolutely breathtaking segment for the feature film In Passing.
Feel free to visit my profile to read the program notes for Alternative Film/Video Belgrade 2011. This year’s festival was excellent and next year we celebrate the 30th anniversary!
Congrats on your film festival, Greg!
I’m going to post a link here to The Experimental Film Society page on Garage. It has many excellent films. Check it out!
Thank you. I watched a few of the films in the link. Didn’t find anything so interesting but if you have suggestions I’d love to hear and/or discuss them.
Now I want YOU to suggest some contemporary experimental films you like a lot, curious to know your taste. :)
If they are available to watch on vimeo or youtube, all the better. :D
In the meanwhile, a link from another Garage project that holds a lot of experimental films, The Laboratory.
Post #1 on some thoughts from the Alternative Film and Video Festival in Belgrade
Yay! I’ll read when I get home, can’t get there from here at the moment.
The Laboratory has some good stuff. I enjoyed “P4”, “Human Fountain”, and “SDLL”. I’d be interested to hear more about your curatorial and commissioning practices.
Greg — contact Luis Alguera, he is the director for Garage and will be able tell you more about The Laboratory.
So, I am going to post the whole of DiB’s article right here. I can’t wait to read his next post.
I attended the 2011 Alternative Film and Video Festival in Belgrade upon an invitation from one of the festival selectors, Greg DeCuir. Interestingly enough, he found me via a forum post on Mubi started by user Odilonvert, which began with a link to my last post on the Subvex blog, which called out my opinion on what I see to be a steep learning curve in experimental cinema. These connections are important because one of the biggest currents of thought running through the festival was the issue of quality in “alternative film” (to be discussed below) even though the festival does not feature awards so much as “selections” (to be discussed in a second post). Specifically, two events held on consecutive nights during the festival recalled to my mind this idea of discerning quality values in experimental cinema, and some of the cultural and historical issues behind it.
On Thursday the 12th of December in the “Small Hall” was held a lecture on “History and Some Specifics of Avant-Garde Film in Socialist Republic of Slovenian” hosted by Jurij Meden. Jurij’s lecture had a strong emphasis on the forgotten quality of Slovenian avant-garde both because Slovenia seems to have had less known avant-garde filmmakers than the other ex-Yugoslavian states, as well as possibly outright had fewer of them. The text that Meden had published on this issue had 9 filmmakers listed and most were connected via a general historical word-of-mouth–they would tell others about each other, and most lived in poverty with their films in canisters under their beds. This is even in direct comparison to filmmakers from Croatia, Serbia, and Montenegro which apparently had stronger film clubs structured to give people a place with which to watch and study and generally support and make films. The film club structure was a very important element of discourse throughout the Alternative Film and Video Festival, which I will discuss in my next post.
The next night, however, contained a presentation with a very different story: Gerald Weber from Six Pack Films presented “Austrian Film Avant-Garde”, and opened in direct counterpoint to Jurij’s previous theme: “Basically from World War II Austrians wanted to paint themselves as the first victims of Hitler, and one of the ways they attempted to do this was with a strong canon of avant-garde film.”
Now this idea hit a high note for me because as a regular user of the Mubi forums, I often read or am involved in an ongoing debate about canon vs. non-canon filmographies, and here that debate played out in real-time: the under-seen under-represented Slovenian avant-garde presented almost a folk or oral history (“I knew a guy and he lead me to, and then he told me about”) versus an institutionalized and widely recognized (for the already marginalized world of avant-garde film) Austrian canon; or, a juxtapositional discourse between Slobodan Valentich and Vinko Rozman to Peter Kubelka and Kurt Kren (to see what I mean, Google those four names and see which ones create hits). Indeed I had already seen a couple and heard of the rest of the films shown during the Austrian presentation but had neither seen the four shown during the Slovenian one, nor heard of the rest mentioned.
However, both Jurij Meden and Gerald Weber were presenting toward the same purpose, which is part of the underlying point and history of the Alternative Film and Video Festival itself: to educate the audience (pretty much consisting entirely of people deeply immersed in the culture of alternative/avant-garde/experimental/avant-garde/personal/non-narrative/whatever film) on what has been done before, to firmly place these works within a history and a relationship to other works, in order to understand them better. This dichotomy was not a Slovenia = non-canon, Austria = canon struggle, but rather Slovenia in search of a canon, to be understood alongside Austrian, American, and other national “canons.” To create a dichotomy between them is to vastly under-represent what a canon in terms of an already marginalized genre of art such as alternative film has been expressively working for: recognition.
And recognition in this case is more important than just having credit or getting attention, but is specifically related to the work of presenting to communicate what has been done, what can be done, what should be done, and displaying what it is all for. In other words, communication and education. Which brings me right back to the post that started these interconnected ramblings, about the quality curve of experimental film.
Meden told a story about a filmmaker who believed he was the first to scratch directly onto celluloid, and thus tended to make “bad films,” as part of his larger theme of “alternative filmmakers” remaking the wheel without awareness of the progress made before. This theme returned again and again throughout the festival, especially in a round-table discussion featuring the selection committee and the judges as everyone politely agreed that “the quality of these films has gone down” (a book on the previous year’s selection contained an unauthorized transcript of a similar round-table discussion where the same thing was said. Personally, being young and having recently sat through many student experimental courses and festivals, the selections were mostly qualitative to me. Also, a part of me bemusedly wonders if the same thing isn’t said in various guises EVERY year. Finally, Alternative Film and Video aside, many of the participants of this festival have a clear academic foundation in experimental film which largely has been falling into further obscurity as new experimenters go past video and right into digital cinema, new media, interactive features, and so on. In the same round-table discussion, for instance, the “video game look” was used as a pejorative, when most of my own contemporaries playing around and creating experimental works are doing so in After Effects and 3D programs, which many consider anathema to the form or idea of “alternative cinema” itself. However, without a long first-hand experience of the type of filmmaking that the festival presented in its three decades previous, and without having seen an experimental festival yet where almost all of the new selections were something to write home about, I cannot say for sure if this year was statistically better or worse than any other year. I will say that the festival itself was better than most experimental festivals I have seen, and that when you see historical “canon” experimental film against new stuff that has not yet found its place in history [or been discarded], you can see the clear quality difference. But again, part of that is the quality curve inherent, in my opinion, in the form, and another part of that is that much must be shot and then discarded, even in ostensibly “finished” form, before the clear historical “canon” takes its place). The reason, mainly, is that a lot of the work being made today, like from Meden’s filmmaker story, is being made without a solid knowledge of alternative film and video, or with such a superficial knowledge as to degenerate into cliche (“found footage film” “surgery procedure” “scratched celluloid” etc.).
Some semantics, at this point, are required. They are sort of inescapable in this subculture, really. So it’s called the “Alternative Film and Video” Festival, which of course can make it sound like they are asking for indie film submissions as well as “experimental” “avant-garde” and so on and so forth. This is also a part of their round table discussion this year and last and will be fleshed out in detail in my next post. But the reason I bring up semantics right now is because Meden’s filmmaker actually represents thematically a perspective that also survives in the alt/avant-garde film history of the willful rule-breaker, the filmmaker who makes without regard for the rules and in fact maintains purposeful ignorance of what the rules are supposed to be in order to not have them effect their filmmaking in the opposite direction (for instance, think about the rigorous Dogme 95 filmmaking codes in comparison to what is considered “correct” procedural filmmaking in Hollywood, and you get two systems of the same “creative within the rules” ethos). Because the avant-garde attracts those with no interest in making traditional narrative films, the avant-garde is host to what is known as the “amateur filmmaker”; however, that quotation requires a follow-up semantic argument that points out that “amateur” does not strictly mean “unprofessional”, or it does mean “non-professional” if and only if “professional” is to semantically mean “commercial” or “traditional narrative” filmmaker.
If that hurts your head get used to it, because this is the way the culture is. What contains this world of non-commercial non-narrative (or broken narrative, or anti-narrative, or minimalist narrative) abstract (or broken concrete) frame-bending/breaking generally speaking NOT feature-length-with-stories filmmaking when their individual movements (Dadaist, Surrealist, structuralist, remodernist, etc.) have their own historical/political/manifested proceedings (“Soviet” montage, Deren’s “Films as cheap as the cost of lipstick on a Hollywood production”, Anger’s Satanic and homosexual “other cinema”) if not outright called-for “pure cinema” or “personal cinema” all of which we can agree is Not Hollywood, but none of which we can really agree fits specified codes or rules because that’s exactly contrary to the point? Words become important, so semantics get debated, and then manifestos are written (though perhaps not in that order).
I want to cling specifically to the word “amateur cinema”, by pointing toward the root of the word, “amor”, which makes it “lover cinema” or “cinema for the love of it”. Certainly personal, loving works are made in the traditional mode of filmmaking, so the next point may be moot, but I insist that there is such thing as a “professional amateur”, and that the world of experimental cinema is largely inhabited by amateur filmmakers because the world is not commercial. So there are commercial and non-commercial filmmakers, both which contain professionals and non-professionals, and both which contain amateurs, but whatever commercial interests a person may have entering the world of “alternative” cinema will be and probably should be entirely vanquished early on (the commercially invested “experimental” filmmaker to leave that world in a disappointed huff or converted quite quickly so as not to waste anybody’s time, including his or her own). The problem is, “amateur” cinema professional (does it regularly, presents it, regularly seeks to be a part of the world of filmmaking) and non-professional (own-time, hobbyist, no necessary drive to showcase or share but to select, close audiences) can also be “good” or “bad”. There is a tendency in alt-circles to be very supportive of anything deemed non-mainstream because so many need so much support, so overall the tendency is to latch on to the idea of “personal” works being a boon in and of themselves. Well maybe not. I give praise to any film that is completed whatsoever regardless of outcome, but the outcome may still be “bad.”
So here’s another word, one that I believe came up in various contexts during the Alternative Film and Video Festival in Belgrade (I think Jurij may have used it himself): “mature” filmmaking. Filmmaking in recognition toward certain qualities and properties of the form so as to use it for its best level of results. Most often, mature filmmaking would come from educated filmmaking, an awareness of what has come before, a knowledge of whether a concept has been done before, how, how it works, and so on. Essentially not “rules” of filmmaking, but along the same lines as a classical narrative film teacher will speak of “knowing the rules to break the rules”. However, occasionally you get the mature filmmaker who still creates qualitative results without a prior knowledge of film (I am going to go mainstream and cite Peter Weir, whose movies reminded other people so much of other movies, that Weir then watched them afterward and went, “Huh, good thing I didn’t see these before I started, or else I wouldn’t have started” (quotation inexact from memory: source ). Maturity can come from a freshness of perspective or innovation deriving from other modes or disciplines other than a strong academic or historical knowledge of filmmaking. However, for the larger part of the population of filmmakers, including anyone who has read this long post all the way through to this point, a history of filmmaking is a continual instructional dialog of the past toward the future, to make sure that filmmakers are making something good whether it be avant-garde, commercial, professional, alternative, personal, amateur, etc. and so on and on and on.
So lying at the foundation of the discourse of Alternative Film and Video 2011, the Mubi forum debates over canon and the under-represented, and my previous post on the poetic quality-curve of experimental filmmaking, is one larger shared mission: to create the mature amateur, who can also be a professional or non-professional, commercial or independent, narrative or experimental, personal or targeted filmmaker. For what it’s worth, in the alt film world, the mature amateur is inevitably the one who sticks out.
Also, this would be my semantics of choice because it is a pun, which puts some humor into all the elaboration of above.
Anyway, next post, as promised, will be about the structure of festivals and issues of festival identity.
This is the description of the film on Garage by its creators (note that it is in The Laboratory project):
DARK STAR is a Mylicon/En project dedicated to the directorial debut of John Carpenter.
Dark Star is a very low budget and “hand made” response to Kubrick’s “2001 A Space Odyssey”.
One single location, crazy special effect and 4 actors for a peculiar travel into deep space and a reflection on the relation between man and technologies.
Mylicon/en likes to play on the same coordinates: deep space and concrete landscape depicted by “hand made” effects.
Dark Star has been created during a live performance through the dialogue between the digital sounds, captured and realaborated live by laptop and sampler, and the live video created with no video mixer, no laptop, no digital filter.
I got a Lomokino, here’s to playing with analog! YAY!
Uh oh, world watch out…
Odi’s got a new toy…
Yeah, baby! lol
Just started watching some of the early films of Kurt Kren. Any thoughts or suggestions on later works to watch?
Greg, I found this list here on Mubi, check it out.
Greg I was in the Tate Modern Museum in London in 2009 and saw some works by Kurt Kren which were much more sadomasochistic in nature than the already body-abject stuff presented to us at the festival. I do not know what those films were called or if they came earlier or later, but if you’re ready for a queasy experience (something equivalent of watching one of the self-destructive protagonists of a Tool video but in real life, not stop-motion animation), it’s highly recommended. As far as abject art goes it was some of the best work I’ve seen.
Maybe I’ll do some research later and see if I cannot figure out precisely what was projected there…
Here’s a brief article I found about Kurt Kren.
And here are a few of his films on ubuweb.
Here’s a great recap of the year in experimental film:
I’ll make it a working link for you and thanks, going to take a look!
A film by Spanish filmmaker Jesús Olmo.
Not bad. I liked how the beach seamlessly morphed into an image of the universe.