Los Angeles Filmforum launches Ism, Ism, Ism: Experimental Cinema in Latin America (Ismo, Ismo, Ismo: Cine Experimental en América Latina) this weekend, Sept 22-24, at REDCAT! Ism, Ism, Ism is an unprecedented, five-month film series —the first in the U.S.—that surveys Latin America’s vibrant experimental production from the 1930s through today. Revisiting classic titles and introducing recent works by key figures and emerging artists, Ism, Ism, Ism takes viewers on a journey through a wealth of materials culled from unexpected corners of Latin American film archives. This marathon opening weekend includes a panel with curators and scholars and six film programs: Latin American surrealist shorts; films made in Southern California by Latinas and Latin American women; a solo presentation by veteran Chicano filmmaker Willie Varela; “camera-less” films by artists from several countries; documents of diverse countercultural movements; and revelatory shorts regarding revolutionary icon Che Guevara. The panel is free.
Ism, Ism, Ism is accompanied by a bilingual publication (Ism, Ism, Ism / Ismo, Ismo, Ismo: Experimental Cinema in Latin America, University of California Press, 2017) placing Latino and Latin American experimental cinema within a broader dialogue that explores different periods, cultural contexts, image-making models, and considerations of these filmmakers within international cinema. Ism, Ism, Ism is part of Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, a far-reaching and ambitious exploration of Latin American and Latino art in dialogue with Los Angeles. The film series will continue through January 2017 at multiple venues, organized by Filmforum. Explore more at www.ismismism.org, lafilmforum.org, and www.pacificstandardtime.org/.
Major support for Ism Ism Ism is provided through grants from the Getty Foundation. Significant additional support comes from the Andy Warhol Foundation for Visual Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts, with support for visiting artists from the Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts.
Pacific Standard Time is an initiative of the Getty. The presenting sponsor is Bank of America.
Friday, September 22
7:00pm - Dreams of Suitcases and a Blue Lobster
In Person: Colombian curator Marta Lucía Vélez
Historical short films influenced by surrealism, including Álvaro Cepeda Zamudio’s and Gabriel García Márquez’s renowned La langosta azul (The Blue Lobster, 1954, 29’), Raúl Ruiz’s previously lost La maleta (The Suitcase, 1963, 20’), and Argentinian photographer Horacio Coppola’s landmark Traum (Sueño, 1933, 2’).
“Lost, and only found and re-edited towards the end of Ruiz’s career, La maleta contains a unique surreal and symbolic idea. A man packs his things into a suitcase, but it seems his possessions possess him as they take on a life of their own and turn into a human being.” – thelastexit.net
“Considered a key film of Latin American experimental cinema, The Blue Lobster is the cinematographic testimony of an unfulfilled filmmaker called to become a giant of literature.” – Faena Aleph
“In Traum, Coppola constructs his own experience of passage from the avant-gardes to high modernism.” – David Oubiña
9:00pm – Crossing Paths: Latina and Latin American Women Filmmakers in Los Angeles
Multiple guest filmmakers!
In bringing together Latina, Chicana and Latin American women filmmakers working on both sides of the border, this program considers gender, race, queerness and ethnicity as vintage points to approach displacement, exile and ways of inhabiting/appropriating the space of immigration. Covering a large gamut from meditative landscape films to magic realism, animation and various forms of experimentation, these films express original, singular voices embodying a creative approach to story telling and a bold (re)definition of the visual field. They explore strategies of desire, patterns of longing/nostalgia/memory, the impact of trauma, the clash/coexistence of cultures and the fleeting boundaries of real or imagined spaces. The program includes El dedal de rosas: The Magic of the Smoked Mirror (1998, 13’) by Mariana Botey, Mujer (2012, 9’56”) by Sofia Canales, Blua (2017, 22’) by Carolina Charry Quintero, La Mujer y el Pescado (2014, 1’35”) by Ilana Coleman, From Brooklyn Ave to South Broadway, (2017, 7’16”), by Brenda Contreras, Piensa en Mí (2009, 15’30”) by Alexandra Cuesta, Dejar (2015, 5’42”) by Caitlin Diaz, Notes On Connection I, (2016, 6’) by Andrea Franco, an Untitled experimental piece (2014, 5:30) by Regina Gonzalez Arroyo, Candide (2009, 10’) by Patricia Montoya, New Sun Breathing In (2017, 5’30”) by Chloe Reyes and Síndrome Línea Blanca (2005, 8’20") by Lourdes Villagómez. Program curated by Bérénice Reynaud, with Jesse Lerner and Luciano Piazza. TRT 111’
Saturday, September 23
3:00pm – Panel: Latin American Experimental Film
Colombian scholar Marta Lucía Vélez, Cuban film scholar and curator Luisa Marisy, researcher and filmmaker Antoni Pinent, Jesse Lerner, Luciano Piazza and others will discuss the research which led to the Ismo, Ismo, Ismo publication (University of California Press).
7:00pm - “Camera-Less”: Direct Animation in South America
In Person: Curator Antoni Pinent
Surveying an extraordinary body of works produced since the 1950s, this program maps South American “camera-less” or “direct” filmmaking.” In "direct animation” or “camera-less” filmmaking, figures are painted, scratched, or inked directly onto film leader. Highly tactile, textured and abstract, these films dramatize the essential properties of the medium of film itself. It's also a technique favored by many key figures of the avant-garde, from the Scottish-Canadian Norman McLaren to New Zealand's Len Lye and the legendary New Yorker Harry Smith. Less well known is the extensive filmography of the numerous Latin American practitioners. Based on extensive interviews, travels, and archival research by curator Antoni Pinent, this program introduces a handful of these shorts, from Argentine, Uruguayan, Brazilian, Peruvian, Colombian, Venezuelan, Mexican, and Chicana filmmakers who have chosen this most rudimentary (yet powerful) of film techniques. TRT: 90 min
The program will comprise 22 short films, including Abecedario / B, by Colectivo Los Ingrávidos (2013. México. 4’55”), Prueba, by Rosario Sotelo (2014. México. 1’), Breathe, by Leonardo Zito (2014. Argentina. 7’), Begin by Sameer Makarius (1953. Argentina. 1’), O Átomo Brincalhão, by Roberto Miller (1981. Brasil. 4’), Cocktail de rayas, by Eduardo Darino (1964. Uruguay. 1’41”), TM, by Pablo Marín (2008. Argentina. 2’10”), Abismo by Sebastian Wiedemann (2012. Argentina–Colombia. 3’35”), Ideítas, by Víctor Iturralde Rúa (1952. Argentina. 1’05”), Kimono, by José Castillo (1992. Venezuela. 3’56”), Al trance, by Guillermo Zabaleta (2013. Uruguay. 1’30”), Tourist Hitchcock by Marco Pando (2003. Países Bajos–Perú. 4’39”), On the Road by Jack Kerouac by Jorge Lorenzo (2013. México–Colombia. 14’), etc…
“In Ideítas Víctor Aytor Iturralde Rúa applies a divided flow of abstract paintings in colors directly to 16mm stock, which is transformed into a kind of fragmented canvas and articulates a minimal style of animation in which film and projector seem to combine forces to compose images that until then were virtual, mental phenomena." – Pablo Marín
"In Jose Castillo’s work we find beautiful declarations in favor of peace, against the violation of men and women’s human rights, in defense of the oppressed, of the exploited, of the world’s downtrodden. Castillo’s cinema is a cinema in search of something, a cinema that negates stereotypes and we therefore find, in the intersection between his work’s major themes and the artist himself, a revolutionary who creates works that revolutionize art" – Fundación Cinemateca Nacional de Venezuela
9:00pm – A Cinema of Passion: Films and Videos by Willie Varela
In Person: Willie Varela
Having completed over 100 films and videos made since the early 1970s, El Paso-based, Chicano media artist Willie Varela is one of independent cinema’s most passionate and unbridled social critics. A still-to-be-discovered gem of Chicano cinema, Varela’s visceral, layered work, produced in semi-isolation in the Texas border town, constitutes personal responses to events in his domestic life, local rituals, political issues and the ongoing flow of popular culture. This long-overdue overview ranges from Varela’s early Super 8 visual pieces to a more recent, more pungently political body of work. Included are: Becky's Eye (1977, 3’21’), March 1979 (1979, 3’30”), The Last Look (1981, 1’53”), Recuerdos De Flores Muertas (1982, 6’58”), In Progress (1985, 12’30”), His Hidden Presence (1998, 10’10”), The Extraordinary Day (2003, 16’21”) and This Burning World (two-screen projection)(2002, 31’57”).
"Varela juxtaposes images of the personal and the political; the beautiful and the brutal; the sacred and the destitute, in a mediated conversion of vernacular, traditionally 'low' mass-culture artifacts into something to be appreciated as 'art.'” – Quarterly Review of Film and Video
Sunday, September 24
6:00pm – Countercultures and Undergrounds
In Person: Curator Luisa Marisy, director and performance artist Rolando Peña
Experimental film is often intimately connected with a variety of countercultural movements, some global in reach, others very specifically local. Some of these filmmakers explicitly embrace these movements’ radical political goals, and at other times their ideological concerns are simply implicit, but all of these films are unified by their allegiance to a range of underground, youth or countercultural phenomena. Several of these films document performances, ephemeral actions, or interventions into public space. Marabunta, for example, a 1967 film and performance directed by Narcisa Hirsch, with the collaboration of Marie Louise Alemann, and Walther Mejía, involves the interaction of an audience--coming out of a theater where they had seen the Buenos Aires premiere of Antonioni's Blow Up-- with fruit, live pigeons, and a giant plaster skeleton, documented in 16mm by radical filmmaker Raymundo Gleyzer. Enrique Pineda Barnet’s extraordinary Juventud rebeldía revolución offers documentation of a performance by an international collective lead by Cuba’s Grupo de Teatro Experimental. In the spirit of Situationist détournement and punk pranks, Manuel Delanda’s Ismism captures the filmmaker’s own interventions on Manhattan billboards, rendered across the city with an X-Acto knife. In Esplendor do Martírio, Sérgio Péo rehearses his theory of Super 8 as a vehicle of language - which would later be materialized in his poem/manifesto "Super 8 as an Instrument of Language." Esplendor do Martírio visualizes a group of intellectuals occupying and disrupting the urban space, later to be removed by the Brazilian military. Rolando Peña, iconic figure of Venezuela’s avant-garde, produces an impossible dialogue that takes place within the noisy scene of a construction site of the Caracas Metro, echoing the complex relationship between intellectual debates and the noise of "progress."Alfredo Gurrola’s super-8 trip, based on a poem by exiled Spanish writer Tomás Segovia, points to some of the preoccupations of a counterhegemonic radical alternative culture.
“The screenwriter of the landmark Soy Cuba (1964), and the director of eight features and a number of shorts, Enrique Pineda Barnet is more than an eminent film director who also writes prose and poetry: he is someone who day after day thinks of himself as a beginner in every activity he undertakes.” – lahabana.com
“Since the late 60s, Narcisa Hirsch has been building a body of work that has an aesthetic, conceptual and cinematic range that few filmmakers have been able to achieve.” – The Viennale
“Manuel DeLanda’s deviant art meets The New York Dolls: Ismism captures his truly inspired collage mutations of New York City subway ads during the mid-to-late 70s. Slicing and dicing the perfect faces of models into deviant ghouls, it turns the homogenate into the ripening rot of nightmares.” – dangerousminds.net
8:30pm - Dialogues with Che: Appropriations of a Revolutionary Figure
In Person: Venezuelan Actor Rolando Peña
Images of Ernesto "Che" Guevara are the most contested and reproduced in Latin America, and this program explores ways this iconic figure has been represented. Diálogo con el Che (Dialogue with Che, 1968, newly restored, 53’), is a legendary film by queer Nuyorican artist José Rodriguez Soltero that parodies Hollywood portrayals of the revolutionary hero. Una foto recorre el mundo (A Photograph Travels the World [1981, 13’]) by Pedro Chaskel (also know at the editor of The Battle of Chile, 1975) analyzes the iconic photograph of el Che taken by Alberto Korda at a political rally in 1960, and the unending international (and commercial) appropriations of this image. Leandro Katz’ El día que me quieras (1997, 30’) retraces the story behind the last photographs Freddy Alborta took of Che Guevara as he lay dead, surrounded by his captors, in 1967.
“Rodriguez-Soltero’s most effective film was Dialogue with Che, starring Taylor Mead and Rolando Peña… Presented at the Cannes and Berlin Film Festivals in 1969, it aroused a storm of controversy because of its offhand violence. Soltero’s camerawork is wild and improvisatory, engaging the subject with a ceaseless series of zooms and pans, in the manner of Warhol’s Chelsea Girls.” – Wheeler Winston Dixon: The Exploding Eye: A Re-Visionary History of 1960s American Experimental Cinema
"Visually exquisite and deeply moving, El día que me quieras is at once an elegy to the passing of the age of revolution in Latin America and an investigation into the history and mythos surrounding the infamous photograph of the beatific corpse of its central icon: Che Guevara." – Jeffrey Skoller, Afterimage
Curated by Jesse Lerner, Luciano Piazza, Steve Anker and Bérénice Reynaud
Ism, Ism, Ism: Experimental Cinema in Latin America (Ismo, Ismo, Ismo: Cine Experimental En América Latina), is Los Angeles Filmforum’s contribution to Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA. Lead support is provided through grants from the Getty Foundation. Additional support provided by the Andy Warhol Foundation for Visual Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts. Claudio Caldini and Diego Rísquez’ presence were made possible thanks to the support of the Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts.
The Jack H. Skirball Series is curated by Steve Anker and Bérénice Reynaud and supported, in part, by the Ostrovsky Family Foundation.