Filmmakers have long sought to rewire the grammar and symbolism of classical cinema, interrogated the material of the film strip, and entered and dismantled the mechanisms of the apparatus itself.
For the last decade, the Museum of Modern Art has presented an annual sampling of international non-fiction films and media works that probe the interstices of cinema and contemporary art. Continuing in this mode, this years Documentary Fortnight presents a selection of entries from 14 different countries, with an emphasis on Latin America and China.
In 2007 Ed Halter and Thomas Beard began presenting film and electronic art under the name Light Industry, first in a raw space in a dim corner of Industry City, Brooklyn, and later in a downtown storefront on Livingston Street.
Surrounded by mountains and cozily situated in a picturesque northern cove at the Swiss end of Lake Maggiore, the small Italianate resort-town of Locarno would seem like the ideal haven from urban unrest, protests against various forms of injustice, and similar pressing social and political issues.
By Leo Goldsmith
Archival Appropriation in Arab Experimental Film and Video at MoMAs Mapping Subjectivity
Co-curated by ArteEasts Rasha Salti and MoMAs Jytte Jensen, the series comprises three parts to be screened over three years. This second installment places particular emphasis on archival documentary: work that engages with and appropriates the documents found in institutional or personal archives in order to disrupt received historical narratives and reimagine new ones.
The French filmmaker Chris Marker died only a couple of days before the start of the Festival del Film Locarno, Southern Switzerlands annual sampling of international cinema, festival ephemera, and European premieres of Hollywood films (including Soderberghs Magic Mike), but his ghost seemed to loom large over the programmers selections.
This fall has seen two New York premieres of recent works by experimental filmmaker Phil Solomon. EMPIRE, which screened at this years Views from the Avant-Garde, wittily recreates Andy Warhols film of the same name.
Hollis Framptons career as a filmmaker was somewhat brief: His earliest works were made in 1966, and he continued making films consistently until his untimely death from lung cancer in 1984, when he was only 48. Nonetheless, few figures loom as large in the history of American avant-garde cinema, proliferating ideas about and through the cinema that continue to reverberate among todays practitioners.
Only in its second year, the Museum of the Moving Images First Look has staked its claim in that undiscovered country of films that have traveled the international festival circuit, but havent yet found a venue in New York.
In what would have been his 90th year, the Italian poet, filmmaker, linguist, polemicist, and journalist Pier Paolo Pasolini has been honored with a number of events in New York City.
In recent years, the Festival del film Locarno has distinguished itself among the more prominent international fests by packing its slate with daring work from under-sung filmmakers, spotlighting debut directors, and premiering some of the most strange and interesting work from established ones.
Produced under the auspices of Harvard Universitys Sensory Ethnography Lab, Manakamana follows a set of assorted Nepalese pilgrims and sightseerscouples, kids, a metal band, a tribe of goatson their journeys via cable car to and from the titular mountaintop temple.
Experimental film seems to occupy an increasingly marginal place in contemporary cinema. Even as microcinemas and local scenes and collaboratives continue to proliferate, what should be cinemas most vital form remains, for most, the sideshow attraction to commercial cinemas decaying mainstage.
Peggy Ahwesh has been a film and videomaker since the 1970s, working across genres, styles, and approaches throughout. More recently, she has been making work during her stays in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, filming and teaching at Al-Quds Bard College.
When Manohla Dargis, writing in the New York Times, disparaged Miguel Gomes’s Arabian Nights as “a six-hour-plus, three-part indulgence,” it was hard not to perceive a little irony.
The title of Ojibway filmmakers Adam and Zack Khalil’s debut feature is INAATE/SE/ [it shines a certain way. to a certain place./it flies. falls./]which is a pretty good up-front indicator that this is going to be something other than a straightforward educational documentary.
The Image You Missed positions itself as a film betweenbetween its maker, the filmmaker Donal Foreman, and his late, estranged father, Arthur MacCaig, who was himself a filmmaker.
Curiously, one of the most precise analyses of the films that Josef von Sternberg and Marlene Dietrich made together comes from a single page of an essay that reads more like a takedown.
Filmed in more than a dozen countries, Jodie Mack’s maximalist sixty-minute opus The Grand Bizarre (The Pleasure of the Textile) comprises tens of thousands of individually shot frames of psychedelic textiles, maps, alphabets, shipping containers, and electronics. As in her meticulously hand-animated short films, each frame becomes part of a vast and wildly frenetic whole, which, in this film, forms a global symphony of strange codes and hidden patterns. Set to a similarly manic ersatz global pop bricolage on the soundtrack, Mack’s film is both hyper-specific and breathlessly sweeping in scope. We video-conferenced after the film’s world premiere at the 2018 Locarno Film Festival to talk about weaving, kimchi tacos, “tramp stamps,” and alternate knowledge systems.
Despite the rise of “creative nonfiction” across documentary production and exhibition over the last decade—at a glance, the “sensory turn” associated with Harvard’s Sensory Ethnography Lab, the recent vogue for hybrid films, growing interest in (largely non-narrative) VR docs, the proliferation of documentary forms in the gallery, and the prominence of a number of adventuresome film festivals such as FIDMarseille, Cinéma du Réel, Doclisboa, and the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Art of the Real—the narrative, character-driven documentary remains the most salable, at least in the North American market.
ONE IMAGE DOESNT TAKE THE PLACE OF THE PREVIOUS ONE
By Leo Goldsmith and Rachael Rakes
Harun Farockis Images of War (at a Distance) at MoMA
The centerpiece of Harun Farockis Images of War (at a Distance), on view at the Museum of Modern Art through January 2, 2012, is a four-screen installation entitled Serious Games I-IV (2009-10) that documents the use of video game technology in the imaging and imagining of war.
How, though, can we still talk of art, if the world itself is turning cinematic, becoming just an act directly controlled and immediately processed by a television that excludes any supplementary function?
Those who still think of documentary films primarily as infotainment, vessels of variously banal or galling factoids that might once have lived on public television when such a thing existed, would do well to look to Doclisboa, a festival that seeks to challenge rather than reinforce cinematic non-fictions formal and thematic boundaries.
Working alternately with appropriated images, artifacts, interfaces, and observational visual ethnography, the films of Louis Henderson examine linkages between media technologies and modes of political resistance, the conjoined histories of capitalism and colonialism, and temporality and landscape.
All four of the films Matías Piñeiro has made over the last six yearstwo feature-length works (2007s El hombre robado [The Stolen Man] and 2009s Todos mienten [They All Lie]), and two short features (2010s Rosalinda and 2012s Viola)carve out a series of small spaces in which characters circulate and intersect with one another:
Much of this year's 25th anniversary edition of FID Marseille took place at the city's new MuCEM, the Museum for European and Mediterranean Cultures, situated right on the sea itselfsuch that filmgoers jumped from dark theater to theater, with bouts of blinding sunlight and beautiful breezes in between.
The title of Ojibway filmmakers Adam and Zack Khalil’s début feature is INAATE/SE/ [it shines a certain way. to a certain place./it flies. falls./]and if that’s not a hint that this is something other than a straightforward educational documentary, I don’t know what is.
Every February, the Museum of Modern Arts Documentary Fortnight presents a program of new work that reveals non-fiction medias often tenuous foothold between the film and art worlds.