All entries for LFF 2011

Experimenta Weekend 2011

The Experimenta Weekend is the BFI London Film Festival‘s annual survey of artist’s film and video. Over three days, from 21-23 October 2011, a unique sequence of programmes will offer a curated selection of outstanding work made around the world. This new independent website contains full details of the screenings and will be regularly updated with articles and additional information.

Phil Solomon, renowned for his exquisite 16mm films, will make his first appearance in the UK to introduce the epic American Falls. In a triptych of images, waves of chemically treated celluloid reflect the aspirations and tragedies of the American dream.

Two festival regulars return with debut features: Lewis Klahr’s elliptical narrative The Pettifogger further develops his distinctive cut-out animation techniques; Ben Rivers’ Two Years at Sea mixes fact and fantasy in an extended study of a marginal outsider. Observational filmmaker Robert Fenz and Portuguese artist Gabriel Abrantes are featured in solo screenings.

Contemporary moving image owes much to the pioneering generation of avant-garde filmmakers that appear in Pip Chodorov’s documentary Free Radicals. Jonas Mekas, a central figure in that movement’s history, will present two new works of his own: Sleepless Night Stories and Correspondence (in collaboration with José Luis Guerin). The visionary films of West Coast pioneer Chick Strand, which combine experimental, collage and ethnographic styles, can be rediscovered in newly preserved prints.

The Experimenta Weekend is curated by Mark Webber, with assistance from Adam Pugh and Marina Ribera.


Most of the Experimenta Weekend screenings are now repeated on subsequent weekdays. Outside the weekend programme, the festival also includes James Benning’s Twenty Cigarettes, plus new preservations of Roberto Rossellini’s The Machine That Kills Bad People and Nicholas Ray’s experimental project We Can’t Go Home Again.

Free Radicals

Friday 21 October 2011, at 6:30pm, NFT3

Free Radicals: A History of Experimental Cinema
Pip Chodorov | France 2010 | 82 min
Free Radicals scratches the surface of the history of avant-garde cinema in Europe and the USA, from early post-war pioneers through to the founding of New York’s Anthology Film Archives, a museum whose screen is the exhibition space. Director Pip Chodorov is well-placed to chronicle the movement – he established the Re:Voir label to distribute tapes and DVDs of artists’ films, and counts many key exponents amongst his friends. In this personal journey through experimental movies, he surveys a generation of artists who pushed the boundaries of the medium. Working without compromise, and without financial rewards, they were forced to create their own support structures in an expression of solidarity. Whilst not claiming to be a definitive documentary, Free Radicals is a discerning introduction to the field, and its informal nature provides a privileged glimpse at the personalities involved. Archival footage of Hans Richter, Nam June Paik and Stan Vanderbeek (drawn from TV programmes made by the filmmaker’s father) supplements new interviews with Chodorov’s distinguished acquaintances (Jonas Mekas, Peter Kubelka, Ken Jacobs, Robert Breer) and generous excerpts from the films themselves.

Mark Webber

Also screening:
Monday 24 October 2011, 4:15pm, NFT3
Monday 24 October 2011, 7pm, STUDIO

More Free Radicals images, and the trailer for the film, here

Two Years at Sea

Friday 21 October 2011, at 9pm, NFT1

Two Years at Sea
Ben Rivers | UK 2011 | 88 min
Using old 16mm cameras, artist Ben Rivers, who has been nominated for the Jarman Prize and has won a Tiger Award at Rotterdam, creates work from stories of real people, often those who have disconnected from the normal world and taken themselves into wilderness territories. His new long-form work extends his relationship with Jake, a man first encountered in his short film This Is My Land. The title refers to the work Jake did in order to finance his chosen state of existence. He lives alone in a ramshackle house, in the middle of the forest. It’s full of curiosities from a bygone age, including a beloved old gramophone. We see his daily life across the seasons, as he occupies himself going for walks in all weathers, and taking naps in the misty fields and woods. Endlessly resourceful, he builds a raft to fish in a loch. Jake has a tremendous sense of purpose, however eccentric his behaviour seems to us. The presence of the camera is irrelevant to him; he has no desire for human contact, and is completely at home in his environment, the nature around him and his constructed abode. Rivers’ gracefully-constructed film creates an intimate connection with an individual who would otherwise be a complete outsider to us.

Helen de Witt

Also screening:
Monday 24 October 2011, at 1:30pm, NFT1

See Two Years at Sea production stills here

Altered States

Saturday 22 October 2011, at 2pm, NFT3

Trypps #7 (Badlands)
Ben Russell | USA 2010 | 10 min
The mirror crack’d: As a young woman, high on LSD, looks toward the camera, the doors of perception swing open for both viewer and subject.

While You Were Sleeping
Mary Helena Clark | USA 2010 | 9 min
‘This is your life. It rides like a dream.’ (MHC)

Sans Titre
Neil Beloufa | France 2010 | 15 min
In a reconstruction of a villa occupied by terrorists during the Algerian War, onlookers speculate on the activities that took place.

The Pips
Emily Wardill | UK 2011 | 4 min
A gymnast performs, and everything begins to fall away …

… These Blazeing Starrs!
Deborah Stratman | USA 2011 | 14 min
Watch the skies! Throughout history, comets have heralded events of grave significance and change; today it is thought that they can reveal facts about the formation of the universe.

These Hammers Don’t Hurt Us
Michael Robinson | USA 2010 | 13 min
‘Tired of underworld and overworld alike, Isis escorts her favourite son on their final curtain call down the Nile, leaving a neon wake of shattered tombs and sparkling sarcophagi.’ (MR)

Mark Webber

Also screening:
Thursday 27 October 2011, 3:45pm, NFT3

Nathaniel Dorsky / Ben Rivers

Saturday 22 October 2011, at 4pm, NFT3

Nathaniel Dorsky | USA 2010 | 17 min
‘A pastourelle and an aubade are two different forms of courtship songs from the troubadour tradition. In this case, the film Pastourelle, a sister film to Aubade, is in the more tumultuous key of spring.’ (ND)

The Return
Nathaniel Dorsky | USA 2011 | 27 min
‘Like a memory already gone, this place of life.’ Dorsky has created a poetic form of cinema in which the screen becomes a site for reverie or transfiguration. In his most recent film, he seems to move towards a more abstract representation of light and being.

Sack Barrow
Ben Rivers | UK 2011 | 21 min
The march of time claims another casualty. Sack Barrow documents (and laments) the out-dated, but functioning, technology of a family owned electroplating factory in the weeks around its closure – its old ways now unsustainable in the modern world.

Mark Webber

Also screening:
Tuesday 25 October 2011, at 8:45pm, NFT2

Gabriel Abrantes

Saturday 22 October 2011, at 7pm NFT3

Gabriel Abrantes, Benjamin Crotty | Portugal-Angola 2011 | 16 min
sketches episodes in the relationship between a domineering Chinese immigrant and her Angolan boyfriend with lavishly cinematic panache. Travelling through spectacular locations in and around Luanda, they navigate the complications of their burgeoning identities and the different cultures they represent.

Palacios de Pena (Palaces of Pity)
Gabriel Abrantes, Daniel Schmidt | Portugal 2011 | 56 min
Gabriel Abrantes and his collaborators use the tropes of mainstream cinema to make works that are by turns comical, thought-provoking and transgressive. In a parable on guilt and oppression, which alludes to aspects of Portuguese colonial history, two cousins are potential heirs to their grandmother’s fortune. A new generation may be oblivious to the past, but inherits it nonetheless.

Olympia I & II
Gabriel Abrantes, Katie Widloski | Portugal-USA 2008 | 7 min
Mimicking the composition of Manet’s notorious painting, the artists play out two possible scenarios: between a prostitute and her gay brother, and between a wealthy transsexual and his devoted maid.

Mark Webber

Also screening:
Tuesday 25 October 2011, at 1:15pm NFT2

Sleepless Nights Stories

Saturday 22 October 2011, at 9pm, NFT3

Sleepless Nights Stories
Jonas Mekas | USA 2011 | 114 min
Jonas Mekas’ opening confession that he suffers from insomnia will come as no surprise to anyone aware of his singular contribution to cinema. Over 50 years he has established and promoted a viable culture for truly independent and avant-garde filmmaking, and his recent acceptance by the art world has brought a long overdue wave of attention and success. Sleepless Nights Stories is the latest in the series of long-form diary films that Mekas has been making since his arrival in the USA in 1949. Eating, drinking, singing and dancing with friends, the tireless octogenarian is full of life and wonder, casually weaving together contemporary folk tales collected during travels across the globe. Marina Abramovic fantasizes about domesticity, Lee Stringer recounts an episode from his crack-addicted past, and the protagonist toasts the ‘working class voice’ of Amy Winehouse. Marina Abramovic, Björk, Harmony Korine and Patti Smith also appear. Treating significant and inconsequential moments with equal import, Mekas’ modern day saga presents the first episodes from his ambitious ‘1001 Nights’ project.

Mark Webber

Also screening on:`
Tuesday 18 October 2011, at 9pm, VUE3
Thursday 20 October 2011, at 7pm, STUDIO

Intimate Vision: Films by Chick Strand

Sunday 23 October 2011, at 2pm, NFT3

As one of the instigators of Canyon Cinema, Chick Strand (1931-2009) was at the heart of 1960s West Coast avant-garde. Her film work, comprising of found footage and personally photographed material, has been rarely seen in the UK and is presented now in newly preserved prints. Strand’s camera is almost continually in motion, catching details in kinetic close-up to convey celebrations of intimacy and the joys of living.

‘For most of her filmmaking career, the integrity of Strand’s vision lay aslant of prevailing fashions, so that only belatedly did the full significance of her radically pioneering work in ethnographic, documentary, feminist, and compilation filmmaking – and above all, in the innovation of a unique film language created across these modes – become clear.’ (David James, The Most Typical Avant-Garde)

Cartoon le Mousse
Chick Strand | USA 1979 | 15 min
In her collage films, Strand uses the magic of editing to conjure surreal humour from the connections between disparate fragments.

Mosori Monika
Chick Strand | USA 1970 | 20 min
The impact of American missionaries on the Warao Indians in Venezuela is considered from the viewpoints of women from each side.

Angel Blue Sweet Wings
Chick Strand | USA 1966 | 3 min
A multi-layered cine-poem apropos life and vision.

Loose Ends
Chick Strand | USA 1979 | 25 min
Found footage is used to convey the effect of information overload, finding wit and pathos in the complicated synthesis of personal experience and media assault.

Artificial Paradise
Chick Strand | USA 1986 | 13 min
‘The anthropologist’s most human desire: the ultimate contact with the informant. The denial of intellectualism and the acceptance of the romantic heart, and a soul without innocence.’ (CS)

Chick Strand | USA 1979 | 7 min
‘Dedicated to the memory of Anne Frank, and the tenacity of the human spirit.’ (CS)

Mark Webber

‘Loose Ends’ was preserved by Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley. All other films preserved by Pacific Film Archive and Academy Film Archive, Los Angeles, with support from the National Film Preservation Foundation.

Also screening:
Thursday 27 October 2011, 9pm, NFT3

Read an interview with Chick Strand discussing the making of Mosori Monika here

Phil Solomon’s American Falls

Sunday 23 October 2011, at 4pm, NFT3

‘Should anyone imagine that the art of alchemy died with the Middle Ages, Phil Solomon’s American Falls testifies to the contrary: both to the possibilities of photographic and digital transformation and to the magical emanations of their fusion.’ (Tony Pipolo, Artforum)

American Falls
Phil Solomon | USA 2010 | 60 min
In his sublime 16mm films, Phil Solomon chemically alters photographic imagery to create a thick celluloid impasto that infuses footage with profound emotional resonance. For American Falls, Solomon rifles through a collective memory fashioned from both fact and fiction, mixing elements from newsreels, actualities and narrative films in a monumental retelling of American history which draws parallels with and reflects upon the current state of the nation. Houdini, Harold Lloyd, Keaton and King Kong commingle with presidents, gold-diggers, railroad barons and the civil rights movement. ‘My project is ultimately one of great hope, stemming from a life-long love for this American experiment of ours … but it is also necessitated by my deepest concern for its present and future directions.’ Originally conceived as a 360-degree installation around the walls of the Corcoran Gallery of Art’s rotunda, the work has been reconfigured for the cinema as a panoramic view in triptych, with surround sound mix by composer Wrick Wolff.

What’s Out Tonight Is Lost
Phil Solomon | USA 1983 | 8min
‘The film began in response to an evaporating relationship, but gradually seeped outward to anticipate other imminent disappearing acts: youth, family, friends, time … I wanted the tonal shifts of the film’s surface to act as a barometer of the changes in the emotional weather.’ (PS)
Preserved by the Academy Film Archive, Los Angeles.

Mark Webber

Also screening:
Tuesday 25 October 2011, at 4pm, NFT3

Phil Solomon will present screenings of his earlier films at Tate Modern on 24 & 27 October.

The Pettifogger

Sunday 23 October 2011, at 7pm, NFT3

The Pettifogger
Lewis Klahr | USA 2011 | 65 min
The first feature-length work by Lewis Klahr takes a unique approach to a familiar genre. Ostensibly a thriller that traces events in the life of an American gambler and con man circa 1963, The Pettifogger is described by the filmmaker as ‘an abstract crime film and, like many other crime films involving larceny, a sensorial exploration of the virulence of unfettered capitalism.’ Characters lifted from comic books move through an impressionistic landscape of textures, photographs and drawings, populating a story whose narrative is suggested but not strongly defined. Employing a range of iconography and appropriated audio to expand his signature style of collage animation, Klahr recycles symbols of popular culture to address themes of the loss of innocence and the irresistible allure of wealth.

April Snow
Lewis Klahr | USA 2010 | 10min
A love story about cars and girls, carried away by songs from the Shangri-La’s and The Boss.

Mark Webber

Also screening:
Tuesday 25 October 2011, at 7pm, STUDIO

On the Road with Robert Fenz

Sunday 23 October 2011, at 9pm, NFT3

Robert Fenz’s films explore cultural diversity and the human condition with a keen eye reminiscent of his tutors Peter Hutton and James Benning. Mixing improvisation with luminous photography, he offers a poetic but political worldview. An associate of Robert Gardner’s Studio7Arts, Fenz has collaborated with musician Wadada Leo Smith and worked as cinematographer for Chantal Akerman.

The Sole of the Foot
Robert Fenz | USA 2011 | 34 min
Filmed in France, Israel and Cuba. ‘Borders (and all the politics attending the drawing of borders) exist to keep some people in (citizenship) and others out. This film is an attempt to capture the presence of people otherwise denied the political right to be at home in some place that is their home, where they have their roots, where they have their being.’ (RF)

Robert Fenz | USA 2011 | 30 min
For Correspondence, Fenz travelled to places where the pioneering ethnographic filmmaker Robert Gardner shot three of his best-known films – West Papua (Dead Birds), Ethiopia (Rivers of Sand) and India (Forest of Bliss). While documenting present conditions in these locations, Fenz also constructs an elegy for a form of image-making that is now in decline.

Mark Webber

Also screening:
Monday 24 October 2011, at 2pm, NFT3

Read Bruce Jenkins on The Sole of the Foot here

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