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Beth Block: A Few Things To Share Before I Hit the Road

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Filmforum welcomes back the filmmaker (and former board president) Beth Block for one more grand screening before she relocates to the grand state of Hawaii.  Starting with her optical printer masterpiece Film Achers, and including her digital masterpiece Successive Approximations to the Goal we’ll also have a chance to see other recent digital work that has not yet graced our screen, and get a sneak preview of a work-in-progress. Hawaii’s gain will be our Los Angeles’s loss, but join us as we celebrate her ongoing inspiration and relentless innovation.

Programme:
- Film Achers (1976, 16mm, color, sound, 7 min.)
An optical printer film about film anxiety, cut to the song from Peter Pan, “I Won’t Grow Up”.   Shot on a bolex on high contrast black and white print stock (RIP), then optically printed with various gels, this film was a reaction to the overwhelmingly male presence of the Cal Arts film school in the seventies and my combination of elation and horror at being a part of it. 

- Massage (2010, 1080p digital, color, sound, 27 min.)
A visual documentary that examines the human body as landscape.  When we are left without the visual reference points that make us comfortable knowing “this is an arm” and “this is a knee” what do we see and how do our perceptions change as the body is manipulated.  Also in this film I was interested in learning whether viewers might experience virtual relaxation as a result of what they are seeing on the screen.   A little chill out would probably do us all some good right about now. 

- Successive Approximations to the Goal  (2015, 1080p digital, color, sound, 14 min.)
“Pretty much a masterpiece”  -- Adam Hyman, Michael Scroggins
Successive Approximations to the Goal is a term that is used in applied behavior analysis.   It refers to the series of slight behavioral changes that are reinforced because they are increasingly more similar to the ultimate objective.  I decided to film active human activity in a confined space over time to see what patterns emerged from the motion of humans and objects and how those patterns depended on but differed from each other.  As the different pieces emerged, I was struck by the inevitability and futility of what I was seeing, which triggered in me thoughts of rats in cages, endlessly pushing rocks up mountains, video games that you always ultimately lose and the paradox of the movement of electrons.   The sound interprets, in many different ways, the possible explanations for such strange human behavior. 

- Leaky Mountain (2010, 1080p digital, color, sound, 10 min.)
This film began as a visual documentary about a burned and vandalized hilltop when human insult is added to natural injury.  I was interested in using the zoom lens to isolate and reveal objects in their surroundings and to examine how the context changes our assumptions about the events.  What happens in the film was completely unexpected; one of those very rare, “Oh my goodness this is really happening and I have my camera with me!” moments.   I must confess that I checked to make sure the footage was usable before I alerted the authorities about what was happening. 

- Untitled work in progress (2015-  1080p digital, color and b&w, silent, 15 min.)
I’ve NEVER shown work in progress.  Never even considered it.  I’m only showing this tonight because I’m leaving LA and it’s going to take a few more years to finish.   Consider it a preview of coming attractions.  In this film, I am continuing my experiments in capturing movement over time (and trying to exorcise it for good) by examining people, animals, plants, mechanical objects and natural phenomena.  It’s a backward way of working, very time consuming and tedious.  Most always, we shoot and then edit and then do effects.  But until I actually see how the filmed subject moves over time, I can’t begin to know how to edit it.   What you will see tonight are individual shots that will ultimately reveal each other on and off, offering visual comparisons and contrasts to the way people and objects move.  How is a flower blowing in the wind like a jelly fish?

Beth Block was born in Buffalo, New York, and has lived and worked in Los Angeles since 1975.  She received her BFA from Kent State University, initially studying painting, but under the mentorship of filmmaker Richard Myers, she changed her major to experimental film. In 1975 she enrolled in the MFA program at Cal Arts where she produced FILM ACHERS (1976), a widely-screened optically printed film that has been purchased by the Library of Congress and The Canadian Filmmakers Archives, and TWELVE, (1977), her master’s thesis film, which was included as part of the Ann Arbor Film Festival national tour.

After graduating from Cal Arts in 1977, Block began a prominent career working in the film industry creating visual effects for major Hollywood films including TERMINATOR 2, ALTERED STATES, and JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH.  Throughout the 1980s, Block continued to make her own experimental and documentary films, including VITAL INTERESTS (1982), which won the Director’s Choice Award at the Sinking Creek Film Festival.

During the 1990s, Block was among the first generation of artists to transition to using computers to create visual effects, and she anxiously awaited the day when this technology would become affordable for her own personal use. In 2009, she made her first high definition digital film, THE BATHTUB SHOT (2009), quickly followed by 57 JOBLESS (2009).  Her recent work, including THE 108 MOVEMENTS (2013) and SUCCESSIVE APPROXIMATIONS TO THE GOAL (2015) exploit the ability of digital technology to be re-photographed multiple times without generational loss, enabling her to more fully explore her fascination with capturing motion depicted over time. ?

Block was a founding member and former board president of the NewTown Pasadena Foundation, where she is still an active member, and from 1985-1995 was a Los Angeles Filmforum board member and past president.  Her films are distributed by Canyon Cinema.

This program is supported by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles County Arts Commission; the Department of Cultural Affairs, City of Los Angeles; and Bloomberg Philanthropies. We also depend on our members, ticket buyers, and individual donors.

Tickets: $10 general admission; $6 students (with ID)/seniors; free for Filmforum members.
Tickets available at http://bethblock.bpt.me or at the door
For more event information: www.lafilmforum.org, or 323-377-7238

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