London Film Festival 2003

Date: 26 October 2003 | Season: London Film Festival 2003 | Tags:

22 October – 6 November 2003
London National Film Theatre

This year, the majority of the avant-garde programmes will be focused around the weekend of 1 & 2 November. The Experimenta “Avant-Garde Weekend” is a unique opportunity to survey some of the most vital films and videos made around the world in recent years, and our only annual chance to do so on such a scale in England. All the mixed programmes plus selected features will be shown over the two-day period, and several of the filmmakers will be present to discuss their work. This concentrated period of screenings will hopefully encourage the film/video community to gather together.

Three mixed programmes of new international short films feature works by Louise Bourque, Nathaniel Dorsky, Lewis Klahr, Guy Sherwin and Phil Solomon, “Video Visions” showcases recent tapes by artists including George Kuchar, Jeroen Offerman and Michaela Schwentner, and a new video by John Smith plays with two stunning collage works by Michele Smith (no relation), who is showing in the UK for the first time (as are many others). There are also documentaries on Jonas Mekas and Amos Vogel, two pioneering promoters of artists’ filmmaking.

The weekend before that, on Sunday 26 October legendary New York filmmaker Ken Jacobs returns to the LFF with his recently completed 6-hour video “Star Spangled To Death”, which has been a work-in-progress since 1957. Distinguished Professor Jacobs will also present a lecture on “failure” the day after the screening. The Experimenta section of the festival also includes new feature length works by Mike Hoolboom, Guy Maddin, Pat O’Neill, Wang Bing and much more.

Star Spangled to Death

Date: 26 October 2003 | Season: London Film Festival 2003 | Tags:

Sunday 26 October 2003, at 2pm
London National Film Theatre NFT3

‘Despair is collaboration with the enemy.’ (Ken Jacobs)

Ken Jacobs, Star Spangled To Death, USA, 1957-2003, 375 min`

The Spirit Not Of Life But Of Living (Jack Smith) floats and stumbles through the world, delighting in action for its own sake. Suffering (Jerry Sims) upsets the cosmic balance by finding happiness in the consolation of his dolls. To restore order, the dolls are seized by The Two Evils, only to be returned by Misplaced Charity, plunging screen and viewers into Limbo.

The realisation of Star Spangled To Death as a 6-hour long video concludes a work begun by filmmaker Ken Jacobs almost a half century ago. In this final version, which closely follows the original plans, long passages from public information films, cartoons, documentaries and musicals (often shown in their entirety) are interspersed by (and in tension with) Jacobs’ own footage, which was shot mostly in late-50s New York and testifies to the birth of a new cinema: liberated and spontaneous, absurd yet real, with zest and meaning. Those were different times and the participants then young and innocent (many have since died). But change a few names and faces, and the subject matter becomes remarkably Present. Touching upon politics, war, race, religion and science, it is not a curio or period piece, but an ongoing commentary on the country that made it possible. An indictment, or at the least a parable, of the USA in the modern world: a juggernaut careening to certain destruction.

Richard Nixon’s incredible 1952 tv disclosure butts up against a documentary on the emotional responses of mother-deprived lab monkeys, song and dance routines and ‘educational’ dramas for young black adults. Star Spangled To Death is a Saturday morning picture show of a movie, its length ‘a perverse reach for the intolerable’. It will make you laugh, it will make you cry. ‘Are ya havin’ any fun?’ —Mark Webber

Star Spangled to Death will be shown in two parts with 60-minute intermission.

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Ken Jacobs Masterclass

Date: 27 October 2003 | Season: London Film Festival 2003 | Tags:

Monday 27 October 2003, at 6:30pm
London National Film Theatre NFT3


Ken Jacobs has been one of the key figures of artist filmmaking of the past five decades. As a contemporary of Kenneth Anger, Stan Brakhage and Jonas Mekas, he was at the forefront of the New America Cinema movement that defined ‘avant-garde film’ in the 50s and 60s. Jacobs taught as Professor of Cinema at SUNY Binghampton for over 30 years, where his last course before retirement was on the subject of ‘Stupidity’. At the LFF in, 2000, he presented two sold out ‘Nervous System’ projection performances and this year he returns to London with his 6-hour video Star Spangled To Death.

In this masterclass on ‘failure’ he will argue that in achieving socially set objectives, we rule out the possibility of unimaginable discoveries. Much of what passes for success can lead to predictability, conceit and the curse of celebrity, while there can be many triumphs as a result of ineptitude and confusion. Incredible things can happen by following the ‘wrong turn into adventure’. The illustrated talk will include screenings and references to the work of filmmakers including Erich von Stroheim, Charlie Chaplin and Oscar Micheaux.

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The Decay of Fiction

Date: 31 October 2003 | Season: London Film Festival 2003 | Tags:

Friday 31 October 2003, at 11:30pm
London National Film Theatre NFT1

Pat O’Neill, The Decay of Fiction, USA, 2002, 74 min
Pat O’Neill describes The Decay of Fiction as an intersection of fact and hallucination in an abandoned luxury hotel. The hotel in question is The Ambassador in Hollywood, once the grand playground of politicians and movie stars, now shabby and awaiting demolition. Against this decaying glamour, O’Neill reconstructs and reconfigures a noir-tinged narrative, in which stories slip between fact and fiction, memory and urban myth. A tall, elegant blonde stands on the terrace of her bungalow, smoking and watching the sunrise. A group of sinister men arrive and ask for Jack. Guests come and go, and so do the cops… Renowned for his brilliant and unique compositional processes using optical printing to articulate different layers in the film frame, O’Neill draws on over three decades of experimentation to compose this sensuous exploration of the boundaries of believability. (Sandra Hebron)

Screening with

Janie Geiser, Ultima Thule, USA, 2002, 10 min
An animated journey into uncharted territory. ‘A small silver plane navigates an ultramarine storm, flying over cloud-covered hills; an unlikely ferry to Ultima Thule: the farthest point, the limit of any journey.’


Video Visions

Date: 1 November 2003 | Season: London Film Festival 2003 | Tags:

Saturday 1 November 2003, at 2pm
London National Film Theatre NFT3

Ezra Eeman, Look at me standing here, Belgium, 2001, 8 min
An apparently mundane view of a pedestrian area … what is happening? Image seamlessly sticks and cuts, sound drifts from super-realism to atmospheric score. Time suspends as the sense of alienation and displacement distends. The centre of the city is a lonely place.

Pierre-Yves Cruaud, Le Silence est en Marche, France, 2001, 4 min
A horizontal arrangement of bands of light slowly gives way to emerging human forms, seen from above, passing through the frame. Though digital manipulation, a situation is suggested, but never seen. Sound is a sonic crackle and pulse.

Michaela Schwentner, Jet, Austria, 2003, 6 min
Dynamic recycling of treated and degraded video, structured to a track by electronic sound artists Radian.

Keiichi Tanaami, WHY Re-Mix, 2002, Japan, 2002, 10 min
Footage of a boxing match is reduced to printed still images and its constituent dots are enlarged and contrasted into an optical moiré. Assault not insult. A blitz of sound and image by Japanese animator, graphic designer Tanaami, based on his 1975 film Why.

Steve Reinke, Anal Masturbation & Object Loss, USA, 2002, 6 min
Reinke protests the ubiquity of theory and conjecture, while proposing a new art school where nothing is produced except discourse. To protect the students from undue influence, the pages of the library books must be glued together.

George Kuchar, Forbidden Fruits, USA, 2002, 15 min
George’s video diaries continue, slipping between reverie and reality, with a visit to the SF Art Institute, dinner in Chinatown and a lush daydream of sprouting seduction. Sap rises and spring swings when a tour of a friend’s garden detours into flights of floral fantasy.

Peter Rose, The Geosophist’s Tears, USA, 2002, 8 min
Travelling shots from a cross-country road trip are tiled and matted to propose impossible vistas.

Gerhard Geiger, Franz und Klara, Germany, 2003, 4 min
Geiger seeks an equivalent, format-specific editing style for digital video, to those techniques he has used for concentrated 16mm filmmaking.

Wago Kreider, Marvelous Creatures, USA, 2003, 3 min
Gaudily lit waxworks of Hollywood icons and the animals of a diorama, rapidly intercut with their subjects’ natural environments – classic movies and the zoo.

Jeroen Offerman, The Stairway at St. Paul’s, Netherlands-UK, 2002, 9 min
Inspired by rumours of satanic messages hidden in rock records, Offerman memorised and performed the vocal track of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway to Heaven’ in its entirety, backwards. A continuous shot taped outside St. Paul’s Cathedral and then reversed to present the classic song in a skewed, but legitimate, new way. Sincere, admirable, and very, very funny.

Tony Cokes & Scott Pagano, 5%, USA, 2001, 10 min
Critical commentary on the business practices of the music industry, ripping apart the illusory promises made to the consumer.

Benny Nemerofsky Ramsay, I Am A Boyband, Canada, 2002, 6 min
A music video for a group of cloned pop stars. Nemerofsky Ramsay splits his own personality to create the perfect boy band of four distinct and desirable youngsters. All the ingredients are there; and it makes so much sense on a commercial level. Their song of heartbreak is an Elizabethan madrigal, ‘Come Again, Sweet Love’ by composer John Dowland (1563-1626).


Light Traces

Date: 1 November 2003 | Season: London Film Festival 2003 | Tags:

Saturday 1 November 2003, at 4pm
London National Film Theatre NFT3

Julie Murray, Untitled (Light), USA, 2002, 5 min
A night-time memorial to the World Trade Centre site and its ‘towers of light’.

Guy Sherwin, Animal Studies, UK, 1998-2003, 25 min
A series of meditations on nature and the animal kingdom, comprising both physical and metaphysical reflection. Each has the subtle, granular pulsing that makes it seem as though these could be the first rolls of film ever wrenched through a camera.

Karl Kels, Prince Hotel, Germany, 1987-2003, 8 min
A portrait of New York’s Bowery and its time-warn occupants. Though no longer solely a refuge for alcoholics and the lost, some of those characters remain, and their world is revered by Kels’ camera, displaying humour and a deep sense of camaraderie.

Jimmy Robert, Embers, UK, 2003, 7 min
Using the modest Super-8 gauge to film his immediate personal surroundings, Jimmy Robert has developed a profound personal style. Fleeting moments are combined in editing, evoking moods through the juxtaposition of images.

Nathaniel Dorsky, The Visitation, USA, 2002, 18 min
The Visitation is a gradual unfolding, an arrival so to speak. I felt the necessity to describe an occurrence, not one specifically of time and place, but one of revelation in one’s own psyche. The place of articulation is not so much in the realm of images as information, but in the response of the heart to the poignancy of the cuts.’



Date: 1 November 2003 | Season: London Film Festival 2003 | Tags:

Saturday 1 November 2003, at 7pm
London National Film Theatre NFT3

Rebecca Meyers, Glow in the Dark (January-June), USA, 2002, 6 min
A somnambulant chronicle of night-time luminosity, and the sounds that keep us awake in the lonely twilight.

Goh Harada, Lampenschwarz, Japan-Germany, 2001, 12 min
Tactile, imageless film created using clear film and black pigment, which has been manually rubbed into a layer of transparent silicone. In projection, it becomes a rapid and infinitely complex hypnagogic vision.

Fred Worden, If Only, USA, 2003, 7 min
Points of light burst through the darkness in a surge of abstract motion. Luminous stimulation for the subconscious.

Ichiro Sueoka, I am Lost to the World, Japan, 2003, 7 min
Re-appropriation of anonymous footage shot in Kyoto 1934; its fractured images ravaged by chemical and physical decay. ‘Film is not an immortal document; it is a vanishing existence.’

Thomas Draschan, Encounter in Space, Austria-Germany, 2003, 7 min
Science, the space race and more earthy pursuits: formal and narrative strategies applied to found footage to create a supernatural adventure.

James Otis, Common Knowledge, USA, 2002, 2 min
‘Upbeat, fast-paced, crowd-pleasing investigation of marketing and the original sin, based on a South African apple juice commercial. The sound track is an obsessively synchronised, mad marimba version of the old mission hymn, ‘From Greenland’s Icy Mountains’.’

Sandra Gibson, Outline, USA, 2003, 6 min
Direct cinema barrage of light and colour, in cinemascopic glory.

Louise Bourque, Jours en Fleurs, Canada, 2003, 5 min
A symphony of nature told in a shower of golden colours that reveal a microcosm of cellular structures. Film emulsion transfigured by incubation in menstrual blood.

Trish Van Huesen, Resurrection, USA, 2002, 3 min
The emergence of consciousness as beatific reawakening. A whiff of the ‘The Passion of Carl Th. Dreyer’ somehow embodied within a hand processed, scratched, painted and bleached Super-8 blow-up. Music by cyclic Icelandic wonderkind Eyvind Kang.

Lewis Klahr, Daylight Moon, USA, 2002, 14 min
Using collage animation, Klahr conjures up an evocative, hermetic world. The sense of quiet melancholy suggests a loss of innocence, both personal and collective, which is pictorially represented by the 1950s consumer boom.


Imitations of Life

Date: 1 November 2003 | Season: London Film Festival 2003 | Tags:

Saturday 1 November 2003, at 9pm
London National Film Theatre NFT3

Mike Hoolboom, Imitations of Life, Canada, 2003, 75 min
A series of topical news headlines sound like it might as well be the end of the world, but this is 1993, the year the filmmakers’ nephew was born. It’s an event that leads him to contemplate the ceaseless urge to photograph and be photographed. For Hoolboom, this compulsion indicates our discontentment with the world, which is compensated by reproducing it as ‘experience in a crisis-proof form’. Imitations of Life is a 10-part suite of dreams and memories that integrates original footage with instantly recognisable images from commercials, cinema classics and recent blockbusters. In Jack’s early years, the filmmaker sees (and shows us) the world through a child’s eyes. Later, this sense of open wonder is retained, though tempered in the knowledge that modern life doesn’t permit us such indulgence. We are ‘the children of Fritz Lang and Microsoft’, striving to give our lives shape and meaning through photographs, tv and movies. Through a vast wealth of adopted images, this video questions the values of lives lived through the lens. If movies carry our collective baggage and teach us about the world around us, do they hold us back from inventing the future?

Also Screening: Saturday 25 October 2003, at 8:30pm, London ICA2


Jonas at the Ocean

Date: 2 November 2003 | Season: London Film Festival 2003 | Tags:

Sunday 2 November 2003, at 2pm
London National Film Theatre NFT3

‘Jonas Mekas and his friends of free film, art and music.
A documentarypsychomusicfilm by Peter Sempel’

Peter Sempel, Jonas at the Ocean, Germany, 2002, 93 min
Together with his brother Adolphas, Jonas Mekas left Lithuania during World War II and eventually travelled to America as a ‘displaced person’. After settling in New York, he soon purchased a movie camera and began documenting the lives of Lithuanian immigrants. Within a few years, he was to become a central figure in the movement toward the recognition of film as art.  The brothers’ arrival in New York (1949) is the film’s point of departure, and readings from ‘I Had Nowhere to Go’, Jonas’ autobiography of the period, appear throughout. Sempel loosely traces Mekas’ post-war life, as told through his interactions with other members of the arts community. There are visits with Robert Frank, Merce Cunningham and Nam June Paik, and with La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela in their ‘Dream House’. Allen Ginsberg tells the story of Pull My Daisy and the birth of beat cinema, while Phillip Glass speaks of Jonas’ independent sprit and the beginnings of the downtown arts scene in the 60s. Sempel borrows liberally from Mekas’ own films, while offering us glimpses of a life which we are more often used to seeing from his own point of view looking out.


The Illusion of Movement

Date: 2 November 2003 | Season: London Film Festival 2003 | Tags:

Sunday 2 November 2003, at 4pm
London National Film Theatre NFT3

John Smith, Worst Case Scenario, UK, 2003, 18 min
This new work by John Smith looks down onto a busy Viennese intersection and a corner bakery. Constructed from hundreds of still images, it presents situations in a stilted motion, often with sinister undertones. Through this technique we’re made aware of our intrinsic capacity for creating continuity, and fragments of narrative, from potentially (no doubt actually) unconnected events.

Michele Smith, Like All Bad Men He Looks Attractive, USA, 2003, 23 min
Michele Smith, They Say, USA, 2003, 49 min
Michele Smith creates intense, hand-made collage films from a diverse assortment of film materials, mixing formats and contents with spontaneous regularity. Using a heavily re-edited 16 or 35mm film as a base, she manually weaves in other film footage, plastic shopping bags, translucent products, slides and other materials to create a master reel that is impossible to duplicate. Being too unwieldy to pass through a laboratory printer, the work must ultimately be shown on video, with the transfer done intuitively by hand, shooting frame-by-frame with a digital camera. Unlike, 2002’s Regarding Penelope’s Wake, these two new interchangeable pieces also contain digitally interwoven found video footage. They are truly amorphous time-based sculptures whose barrage of visual stimulus leave themselves wide open to personal interpretation. This is original and challenging work, demanding of its audience, and rewarding in its illumination.
‘I want my films to be open. The viewer creates the version of the film they will see by the way in which they view it. This is on a narrative, symbolic, metaphorical level as well as on a visual and structural level. The rapid intercutting and weaving of strands of different footage and elements creates a time space where one must mix what they are seeing for themselves. There is no way to perceive the links of still images into an illusion of movement. One can, with a readjusting of their viewing, change their experience of the work throughout.’ (Michele Smith)