ON (experimental) FILM


Here's a list of films-not-to-be-missed at this year's Festival of Festivals, Toronto September 7- 17:  BLACK CAT WHITE CAT...by David Rimmer, BRAND by Mike Hoolboom, ELEGY by Gary Popovich, 14 WIRES by Domenic Menegon, FRAGMENTS by Paula Fairfield, JACKASS JOHNNY by Alex Busby and David Coole, READING BETWEEN THE LINES by Martha Davis, RIVER by Philip Hoffman, SPEAKING PARTS by Atom Egoyan, TENDING TOWARDS THE HORIZONTAL by Barbara Sternberg, THE TOP OF HIS HEAD by Peter Mettler, THE WIDTH OF A ROOM by David Tuff, YOU TAKE CARE NOW by Ann Marie Fleming. All these are to be found in the Perspectives Canada programming. In a special festival programme, Surfacing: CanadianWomen's Retrospective selected by Kay Armatage, the experimental shorts run as follows: NOTES IN ORIGIN by Ellie Epp, SIFTED EVIDENCE and THE CENTRAL CHARACTER by Patricia Gruben, OUR MARILYN by Brenda Longfellow, LAS ARADAS by Janis Lundman, TRANSITIONS by Barbara Sternberg, WATERSARK and RAT LIFE AND DIET IN NORTH AMERICA by Joyce Wieland. Keep it up F of F!!



FILM AND VIDEO FROM THE HEART OF THE HEART OF THE REGION, an exhibition that has been researched, curated and brought into being by Calgarians Leila Sujir and Vern Hume and which includes experimental, documentary and dramatic works (72 works in all) will be presented at the Glenbow Museum Theatre on four consecutive weekends, September16 - October 8. This exhibition (screenings plus panel discussions) explores the relationship between place and the development of film and video in Canada while emphasizing difference in terms of content, approach, genre and choice of medium. From their extensive research and open call for submissions, Leila and Vern identified a number of "looks" which indicate diverse concerns of film and video artists over the last twenty years and organized these under eight thematic programmes: Fables from the Real World, Looking Out/Beyond the Borders, Signs of the Local, Split Subject/ Portraits, Canadian Gothic, Parallel Worlds: Film and Video Cross-Talk, Catalytic Converters: Media for Social Change, Appropriation/Looking for a Public. The series is sponsored by Interdisciplinary Artists' Promotion and Production Society in conjunction with EM Media and The Glenbow Museum, Canada Council, Alberta Culture and MultiCulturism, N.F.B., and CBC Calgary (TV promos - watch for them!). The exhibition will be touring, If you are interested in this, contact The Heart of the Heart at (403) 240-5925.


Philip Hoffman is heading West this fall -late October, early November_ screening his own films plus packages of experimental films he has selected from Canadian Filmmakers' Distribution Centre. The films chosen under headings such as "autobiography", "kaleidescope ", "re/viewing the apparatus" will show quite a wide variety of filmmakers—Al Razutis, Isabelle Rousset, Carl Brown, Lisa Miles, Stan Brakhage, Mike Hoolboom and more, as Philip's approach is  pluralist. He feels it's time not to narrow definitions, but to open up. So far, confirmed venues are FAVA, Edmonton; Saskatchewan Filmpool, Regina; Calgary Society of Independent Filmmakers; and he will be at Cineworks in Vancouver for a workshop in filmmaking. Do you want Phil to show and tell at your place (are you somewhere between Toronto and Vancouver)? Call CFMDC (416)593-1808.


A new group has emerged in Toronto for the exhibition of experimental film, PLEASURE DOME. Screenings will take place Fridays, more or less monthly, at the relatively new Euclid theatre. These screenings will augment, enhance, balance or unbalance the regular X-film offerings which Innis Film Society continues this Fall every Thursday night. YAY MORE.



Speaking of more... what was much in evidence this past spring at the International Experimental Film Congress was lots and lots of film work. Most of what has been written thus far on the Congress has concentrated on the event itself, or rather, on what the Congress wasn't. What has been overlooked in the various critiques of the organization, choices and omissions has been any discussion of the films themselves. So, I want to mention, in the first place, simply the overwhelming number of filmmakers who did attend the Congress with films in hand . The Open Screen event was unable, in the 25 hours scheduled, to handle all the work(which by no means exhausts the field of experimental filmmakers - some notables were notably absent besides the many yet unknowns but deserving who couldn't or wouldn't attend). Many very strong films were shown, many,too, I noticed, with decidedly political subject matter or social commentary. From amongst those I saw, I single out a few here:  Valerie Tereszko's HUMAN ON MY FAITHLESS ARM concerning the"authority of language"- how language influences people like landscape" via the struggles of a deaf woman; Oliver Hockenhull's DETERMINATIONS, moments in one's life now, a journey in living now, how to live now  knowing all we know is all around us; Barbara Hammer's new film ENDAGERED as in film is an endangered species amongst other things; HALF SISTER by Abraham Ravett which used some interview footage with a woman who had been in a concentration camp and footage identified in the film as taken by the Nazi machine- for me, this film got at living memory, memory in the present tense; LIVED IN QUOTES by Laurie Dunphy which not only told of the denial of native language to Africans because of white people's inabilities to pronounce certain sounds, but, in the course of the film, due to the witholding of the completion and attendant satisfaction in completion of a song begun over and over and allowed to get so far and then cut off, makes the audience desire the African person to be able to speak in her own tongue! Also, in the open screen, I was happy to have seen IMAGINARY I &II by Moira Sweeney, films I felt very akin too in their use of Super 8 texture and in the feeling through the motion of camera and cut. These are but a very few of the 73 films scheduled in the open screen - not to mention the alternate screenings filmmakers arranged for themselves with the kind assistance of Martin Heath! So, as I say, there was a lot of work- a lot of life in the ol' genre!!!   

Two films in the curated programmes also particularly impressed me and gave me hope. Amongst Steve Anker's beautifully programmed selections was a film by Mike Wallin, DECODINGS and in the West German Programme of Alf Bold, a film by Stefan Sachs, PARAMOUNT which gave me hope in that both these films by men seemed to not only question men's position and power in society as one can do still from a relatively safe footing but to unsettle them, to move into an area of unknowing. From such an unsteady position, it seems to me, movement can occur, change, learning. Women can't change society alone. And although Rose Lowder's program, despite some stunning films, appeared quite homogenous in its narrowing of focus, I must say that her own unedited, just out of the camera as they were shot rolls, proved what a master (there must be a better word) she is at the single frame technique. The audience reaction was, I think, unanimous that the footage was finished perfectly as it was, though Rose seemed intent on making editing decisions herself.


The other thing that I feel did happen at the Congress was a realization that took time to form as the participants, despite complaints and disappointments, continued to listen, watch, talk, take part in a week of being together as experimental film people. There were connections made or re-established, networks made for screenings, plans for the next events - one in Europe so that there will be more British and European presence, another in San Francisco which will have greater participation by the 'younger generation' , and generally the realization and feeling established itself amongst us that experimental film is being made and there is an interest in it; that there is an us .


As much as I hate it end with an omission myself, I will add one to those  critics have already noted in assessing the Congress; namely, the absence of those filmmakers and theoreticians who chose not to attend because of the perceived shortcomings of the event-  wouldn't it be far better to engage in dialogue with the formers of and those included in "the canon," than to keep apart from them?


This article originally appeared in Cinema Canada, September 1989.