Today in Italy, events dedicated entirely to experimental cinema are rare. Over the last few years some festivals have integrated sections where experimental films and videos as well as time based art pieces are programmed, but the opportunity to have a whole festival devoted to the exploration of past and present-day practices in experimental cinema is quite unique.
Considering the fact that Naples has a long tradition in the arts and that it accounts for some of the most interesting avant-garde movements which have occurred in Italy in the past, maybe it is not just a coincidence that the Independent Film Show is held here.
This year the Independent Film Show is taking place over more days than before, and the program has been enriched with more screenings. Hopefully it will continue to grow, year after year, filling the gap left by others.
More than a festival - considering the acceptance of what festivals have nowadays become - the Independent Film Show should maybe be seen as a rare occasion to discover experimental films in a convivial and informal context. Because here, in the same tradition as the literary or cultural salotti which used to exist in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries in Italy as well as in other European countries, the discovery of experimental cinema springs from a passion for the subject and the pleasure of sharing knowledge.
With more and more artists using film or video, and technological changes occurring in a vertiginous way, it has become primordial to view present creative practices in the domain of film and video not only in the context of contemporary issues but also from the perspective of how they relate to processes developed over time. Experimental cinema today would certainly not be the same without the contribution of those filmmakers who, over the past century, have explored and investigated the inherent qualities of film and video pushing the boundaries of their expressive possibilities.
The three programs proposed at the Independent Film Show all testify to the importance of this legacy.
The first program, curated by Karen Mirza and Brad Butler, will offer a rare chance to discover an unknown side of Indian Cinema. Few know that in India there is not just Bollywood but also a scene for experimental cinema. It may be a limited and fragmented one, as it lacks fundings and is mainly concentrated in the major cities, but at least it is revealing of an attempt to create a network to support alternative approaches to film and video making. Stretching from 1913 to 2006, this program gives first an interesting historical insight into what might be considered the foundations of auteur Indian cinema before moving to the contemporary film and video platform. Surprisingly enough, one will discover that all through the decades many film makers have shared a similar concern for tackling subjects as Indian mythology and cultural identity. In the age of globalization and blockbuster films, where the visual language for exploring and depicting the world seems to become more and more standardized, a film-program like the one that Karen Mirza and Brad Butler have researched for is of key importance. Not only because it reveals different formal and aesthetic approaches in cinema, but also because it shifts our view as a spectator away from our western-centered angle of vision.
The second program, curated by Bady Minck, will invite us to reconsider the many potential uses of sound with film. The profusion of commercial pop videos and adverts we are faced with does not necessarily mean that the visual and sound syntax has much progressed from those experiments which some artists have carried out in the past. In fact, pop videos and adverts have dipped into experimental cinema a lot, causing quite often a blur between the two.
This program will draw our attention to some films which could be viewed as quintessential in the history of experimental cinema in terms of how they explore possible relationships between sound and image. It will also be the occasion to discover some contemporary pieces, some probably never shown in Italy before, dealing with the same subject. Through the choice of these films one important thought Bady Minck wants to suggest is the fact that the interaction between sound and film should not be seen as a linear process. The phenomena of sight and sound can be extremely straightforward when experienced on a pure sensory level. But when sound and visuals are confronted with their respective inherent qualities as languages, the result can be a lot more complex.
The third and last program, brought by Joost Rekveld, will be a surprising insight into abstract cinema from the perspective of kinetics and the interconnection between art and technological discoveries. Whenever cinema has joined science in the attempt to unveil the phenomena of nature unperceived by the human eye, it has always given rise to some striking film experiences which have lasted over time. One might think of E.J. Marey or J. Painlevé, for example, who made films at the beginning of last century. Their images have certainly marked the imagination far beyond a simple circle of connaisseurs. The interesting point Joost Rekveld raises through his program is the fact that abstract cinema, apart from drawing on aesthetic and/or scientific sources, may also have a philosophical or spiritual dimension. This stems from the fact that abstract cinema can be related to movements either in modern/ contemporary arts and philosophy. Reality is a subject which can be challenged in many different ways, and the drift towards abstraction can sometimes simply reveal an attempt to look at reality beyond preconceived ideas.
All the three programs this year carry a strong commitment to dealing, each one in its own way, with issues extremely present in the contexts of experimental cinema and the visual arts. The three programs bring a point of view in terms of how to see contemporary practices in a new light by placing them in the perspective of past experiences revisited. Also what is tackled all through the program, in this edition of the Independent Film Show, is the question of What is/can be really new in film experimentation? Do we experiment just for the sake of trying out new technological devices? Are we aware of an heritage which is already there? Do we know how to relate to it? And how can we enlarge the vision of experimentation in the context of the global changes we all experience?
Cinema has never been confronted with such technological changes and new modes of distribution as now, and therefore it is the whole experience of cinema which has changed. In terms of experimental cinema, over the last few decades we have witnessed a shift from cinemas to galleries and museums where experimental films are now curated.
By moving towards new venues, experimental cinema is somehow in the process of reshaping itself also in terms of how a whole language is being put into question.
Since last year, the Independent Film Show has integrated the experience of opening the space also to installations and performances. This year, two site-specific installations, Keynote by the FordBrothers and Island Playback by Katarina Matiasek, and a performance by Karel Doing & Pierre Bastien, have been programmed in relation to the film programs.
Finally, as a counterpoint to the whole program, you will have the opportunity to view some rare films by the composer Mauricio Kagel.
There are some striking links among all the films programmed in this edition of the Independent Film Show. This is particularly unexpected as all the curators had carte blanche for proposing independently of each other their program.
Give yourself a treat: join us to see the films and take part in the discussion which will follow the screenings!