The theme of MFJ No. 66 is the increasing interest in the long format among moving image artists. The issue also includes interviews, artists pages and frame enlargements, along with reviews of three 2017 film festivals, Ann Arbor Film Festival, Oberhausen Short Film Days, and Beirut Film Days. For this screening we have chosen short works from these festivals, with films made in the United States, the Middle East, the Philippines and Taiwan. We looked for as expansive a range of approaches, styles and subjects as possible, to suggest some of the breadth and divergencies in contemporary experimental film and video.
All the works in the program are reviewed in the printed version or the on-line supplement of the current Millennium Film Journal. Except where indicated, texts below are excerpted from Grahame Weinbren’s “Two Old Festivals: Oberhausen and Ann Arbor 2017.”
• Khavn Can & Slippers (2’29 Philippines 2005)
Rugby Boyz (7′ Philippines 2006)
Children are the stars of these two films, making the best of it in the rough world of the Manila slums. Khavn is a 40-ish Filipino artist who has already directed over 100 feature films and dozens of shorter films. He appeared at the Oberhausen festival in brightly colored print jackets, hair dyed green, resplendent jewelry and sunglasses, a phenomenon in himself, hardly reflecting what one imagines of the land of Duterte with its rash of street killings implicitly encouraged by the tough guy president.
• Tom Schroeder The Sparrow’s Flight (14′ USA 2016)
The Sparrow’s Flight is a memorial for Schroeder’s collaborator Dave Herr who died of a brain tumor in 2009. Tom and Dave began making super-8 films together at in early age in Dave’s father’s barn. The Sparrow’s Flight, constructed largely from files left in Herr’s hard drive, documents the development of the collaborators’ increasingly sophisticated techniques, starting with stop frame animation of performances by the two friends and continuing through elaborate scenes produced during Herr’s illness and up to his demise.
• Nina Yuen White Blindness ( 6′ USA 2010)
Switch (3′ USA 2016)
Many of Yuen’s films are built on pre-existing texts from a variety of sources. Her technique is analogous to the re-contextualizing of archival footage to reveal new meanings, but taking writing instead of images as source. In reading the texts and performing the indecipherable, absurdist, or ritualistic actions they inspire in her, Yuen assumes a character with unstable, inconsistent, multiple identities. Since she speaks in an nontheatrical, confessional style, we take her on-screen persona to represent aspects of the artist herself. However, she plays a troupe of invented characters with unworldly habits and forms of behavior, as if beset with symptoms of yet-to-be-classified neurological aberrations.
Idle by the Sea (2019) [is] a poetic tour de force exploring how life and death meet in the folded depths of the waters. It moves across eerie landscapes from the silent Mediterranean, where Egyptair MS804 disappeared in 2016 with all its passengers, to the interiors of the filmmaker’s own body and her childbirth.
Laura Marks, “Experiments at Beirut Film Days”
• Yuan Goang-Ming The 561st Hour of Occupation (6′ Taiwan 2014)
Dwelling (5′ Taiwan 2014)
Yuan Guang Ming’s films are ingenious combinations of engineering, set design, and production/post-production technologies.Yuan constructs elaborate crane mounts and zip-lines so his cameras can travel along narrow passageways, over wide open land- and sea-scapes, and through impossible openings. In several of his single channel and multi-channel projections, the camera’s motion through space is so effortless that the viewer has the vertiginous feeling that the laws of physics, of gravity, friction and momentum have been suspended.
• Blair McClendon America for Americans (30′ USA 2017)
America for Americans by Blair McClendon is centered around a re-viewing of the tragic images that have become unsettlingly familiar, of young black men being shot or strangled or beaten or sprayed with poison by policemen. These scenes are intermixed with non-violent and joyful aspects of African-American culture. McClendon’s film refreshes these images by the use of techniques borrowed from the avant-garde cinema, such as repetition, looping, multiple windows, superimpositions, and the strobe. By incorporating the experimental film techniques, McClendon succeeds in conveying the rage a young Black American feels at coming of age in a society that still fosters institutionalized regressive policies to demean and ghettoize his culture and race. If often painful to watch, the film is stimulating in its brilliant re-appropriation of tropes developed during the last 50 years in the world of experimental cinema.
Total Running time: 93′