For the past 13 years, the Stan Brakhage Center at CU Boulder has hosted free screenings of experimental films. Each year, the directors of the center honor Boulder’s late Brakhage and the work of contemporary artists who embody his movie-making philosophy. Dr. Suranjan Ganguly, the center’s director, spoke briefly this year about his desire to present a “multicultural” view of experimental cinema at the 2017 symposium. That resulted as a weekend event organized around Massachusetts-based filmmaker Mark LaPore’s short films and India’s experimental films.
LaPore’s films lie at the intersection of the documentary and the avant-garde. Most of the work shown at the symposium was filmed during LaPore’s travels in India. His journey took decades and varied from Calcutta to Sri Lanka. Some parts of the films focused on the exotic spectacles of a foreign culture like street circuses and religious ceremonies. The films equally included scenes of daily life and images of the city at its most unromantic.
Lapore, who died in 2005, made work that can be described as sensory experiences. They use chaotic soundtracks, unexpected edits, long, static shots of images and offer the viewer no information about what they’re looking at. LaPore did not intend his films to be ciphers. Rather, the films are whirlpools of cross-cultural confusion which have the viewer reflecting more on themselves than on the other.
On Saturday, the symposium presented three programs of LaPore films, each interwoven with works by particular contemporary artists. Peggy Ahwesh, a New York-based experimental filmmaker, showed two of her recent short works: The Blackest Sea, a nine-minute montage of downloaded 3D-animated Taiwanese newsreel footage, and Alluvium, a documentary made inside the occupied West Bank, Palestine, in tandem with “Kissing Point,” a multimedia artwork installed over the weekend in CU’s ATLAS Center Black Box Theater.
On Sunday, filmmaker Shai Heredia presented two Indian experimental films. The program demonstrated a bewildering variety of film techniques and approaches, ranging from documentary reality to surrealism. Among the films were Jan Villa by Natasha Mendonca, a breathtaking, poetic collection of images from Mumbai during the 2005 monsoon season, and Sakhisona, a black and white story about shamans in the dense Indian rainforest.
Heredia spoke about how the programs showed that “there is no one ‘India,’” much less one single Indian style, or narrative. The symposium not only demonstrated the range of creative filmmaking but also shined a light on Boulder’s own tight-knit film community.
Contact CU Independent News Reporter Joshua Spielman at Joshua.email@example.com.