As with their Convergence section, the New York Film Festival offers an expanded view of the current cinema with yet another installment in their Projections series, a showcase of recent developments in and classic examples of experimental work from around the globe. These are hard to pin down as fitting particular types, and the only qualifier I can give is that whatever I manage to see from Projections stands as some of the most fascinating, enriching work I encounter at NYFF every given year.
I’m particularly excited about a few things here: two new Nathaniel Dorsky shorts, for one thing, and The Human Surge, a Locarno title and recent TIFF selection that we (positively!) assessed as being “pretty much a film that, by nature, is unlovable.” But that’s a very small pack that stands out, not least of which is because they have individual program slots. Read a description of just about any work and tell me you aren’t at least a bit curious as to how it plays out, even if “only” as a formal experiment.
Below, you’ll find a quote from Projections curator (and the Film Society’s Director of Programming) Dennis Lim, as well as a complete list of titles and screening dates:
“With the third edition of Projections, in the belief that artistic radicalism takes many forms, we’re casting a wider net than ever. This is a section of the festival that we hope reflects the perennially fluid nature of experimental moving-image work, the fascinating and exhilarating ways in which visionary artists are always reinventing the medium to both mirror and shape the historical moment. This may be our most eclectic and energizing lineup yet, juxtaposing major figures of the avant-garde with promising up-and-comers, ranging from abstract short work to feature-length semi-narratives, combining and straddling genres, registers, and generations.”
Program 1: THE SPACES BETWEEN THE WORDS
Friday, October 7, 4:00pm
Saturday, October 8, 3:00pm
Total Runtime: 81m
Karissa Hahn, USA, 2015, 16mm, 2m
An old Regal Cinemas pre-show animation is further degraded as it’s run through a ringer of format transfers, each layer representing a different viewing space.
Steve Hates Fish
John Smith, UK, 2015, 5m
Recorded from a smartphone screen, its translation app running on the wrong settings and struggling to interpret North London street signs in French and convert them to English, Steve Hates Fish turns errors into unintentional poetry.
Real Italian Pizza
David Rimmer, Canada, 1971, 16mm, 13m
Scenes outside a Manhattan pizza joint, shot over eight months from a fourth-floor apartment window. Men stand eating their slices and drinking their sodas alone; groups of friends and neighborhood acquaintances, mostly black, hang out, talking and laughing; a few cops, all white, march a man away in handcuffs; summer turns to winter. Preserved by the Academy Film Archive.
Now: End of Season
Ayman Nahle, Lebanon, 2015, 20m
In the cosmopolitan Turkish city of Izmir, thousands of Syrians fleeing Assad, ISIS, and the proxy forces lined up behind them, bide their time, waiting to cross the Aegean Sea. On the soundtrack, voices from a previous war.
See a Dog, Hear a Dog
Jesse McLean, USA, 2016, 18m
This tragicomic analysis of communication between humans, animals, and machines was made with original video footage, computer animations, and internet media, including YouTube dog videos, chatbot dialogue windows, and images from iTunes visualizer.
Twixt Cup and Lip
Stephen Sutcliffe, UK, 2016, 23m
This sound and video collage, produced in conjunction with a museum exhibit about Yorkshire playwright and novelist David Storey, draws from BBC outtakes, Edwardian-nostalgic commercial design, and other sources of mid-century British middlebrow to consider the vagaries of class mobility.
Friday, October 7, 6:30pm
Saturday, October 8, 5:15pm
Total Runtime: 78m
Burning Mountains That Spew Flame / Montañas Ardientes Que Vomitan Fuego
Helena Girón and Samuel Delgado, Spain, 2016, 14m
Scientific claims made by 17th-century Jesuit polymath Athanasius Kircher and political ones made by the Invisible Committee are examined in this journey into the volcanoes of Lanzarote.
Bending to Earth
Rosa Barba, USA/Germany, 2015, 35mm, 15m
Helicopter shots circle variously colored shapes carved into desert landscapes. We discover these manmade inscriptions are storage cells for radioactive material designed to eventually return to the soil.
Ten Mornings Ten Evenings and One Horizon
Tomonari Nishikawa, Japan, 2016, 16mm, 10m
Delivering exactly what his title promises—but not necessarily in the order you’d expect—Nishikawa presents 20 sequences shot along Japan’s Yahagi River; images tautly suspended between stillness and movement, darkness and light.
Canadian Pacific I
David Rimmer, Canada, 1974, 16mm, 9m
Scenes taken from a single, second-floor view of Vancouver Harbor, recorded over three winter months, pieced together with subtle dissolves so as to resemble one ten-minute shot. “Its formalism is very unimposing,” wrote Jonas Mekas, “like in a Hudson School painting.”
Sky Hopinka, USA, 2015, 8m
Hopkina’s video address to his father is made of landscape images saturated with dark shadow and dreamy light, and features his father’s own words taken from recordings of Hočak language songs and chants.
Bad Mama, Who Cares
Brigid McCaffrey, USA, 2016, 35mm, 12m
Geologist Ren Lallatin inhabits different spaces—of brilliant snow and blazing sun, rundown towns and little-trodden deserts—in this structural-lyrical landscape film shot on richly tinted film.
Ears, Nose and Throat
Kevin Jerome Everson, USA, 2016, 10m
Everson returns to his hometown of Mansfield, Ohio, in this unblinking look at the simultaneity of the tragic and the mundane in black American life. The subject is the 2010 murder of 25-year-old DeCarrio Couley, who appeared in a number of Everson’s earlier films.
Program 3: THE ILLINOIS PARABLES
Friday, October 7, 8:45pm
Total Runtime: 70m
The Illinois Parables
Deborah Stratman, USA, 2016, 16mm, 60m
Eleven episodes from the history of Illinois stand in for the United States at large. Working in her essayistic, political mode, Deborah Stratman synthesizes an array of materials into a rigorous yet playful consideration of the catastrophe of the state and the resilience of those who make up the nation.
The Horses of a Cavalry Captain / Die Pferde des Rittmeisters
Clemens von Wedemeyer, Germany, 2015, 10m
North American Premiere
During World War II, Wehrmacht captain Harald von Vietinghoff-Riesch traveled in advance of the army scouting for barracks. An amateur cinematographer, he also made 16mm images behind the front. Part of a larger project, Die pferde des Rittmeisters,made by Vietinghoff-Riesch’s grandson, presents footage of the cavalry horses, the artist’s commentary never letting us forget that these attractive creatures were also Nazi machines.
Program 4: FADE OUT
Saturday, October 8, 2:00pm
Saturday, October 8, 7:30pm
Total Runtime: 76m
Zach Iannazzi, USA, 2016, 16mm, 8m
A scrapbook of 16mm images made on the fly, the length of each determined by the position of the Bolex spring when the shot begins. Some shove past as quickly as slides in a carousel advanced at top speed; others—etching the explosive ascent of fireworks in high-contrast white, or the arc of the setting sun on the mirrored glass of an office tower—linger.
Flowers of the Sky
Janie Geiser, USA, 2016, 9m
Named after a medieval term for comets, Flowers of the Sky finds a seemingly infinite number of ways of looking at and into two mid-century postcards depicting the Freemasonic Order of the Eastern Star, using a macro lens and a variety of printing and masking techniques.
Mónica Savirón, USA, 2016, 16mm, 5m
Answer Print is assembled with pieces of deteriorating 16mm color stock. Not only the images themselves but also the world that produced them and which they reproduce—here suspended in the red aspic of faded color dye—threatens to disappear.
Athyrium filix-femina (for Anna Atkins)
Kelly Egan, Canada, 2016, 35mm, 5m
This homage to botanist and photography pioneer Anna Atkins was made in cyanotype photograms and reanimated film stills on stock exposed in the sun. Handcrafted with historically domestic, feminine tools, it’s structured as a narrative in quilting patterns.
Variations on a Cellophane Wrapper
David Rimmer, Canada, 1970, 16mm, 9m
This classic work of Canadian structural cinema consists of an eight-second shot of a woman in a factory unrolling a spool of cellophane in sheets, which crash like waves toward the camera. Rimmer loops the image, replaying it in segments that give it different visual and aural treatments. Preserved by the Academy Film Archive.
Joao Vieira Torres, Brazil/France, 2016, 17m
North American Premiere
Ghost Children presents seven reminiscences of early childhood, read in seven different voices, as the camera presses close against the faded dye and exaggerated grain of family photographs from the early 1980s. The film encourages the audience to interrogate assumptions about gender, memory, performance, and death.
Camilo Restrepo, France, 2016, 13m
A woman takes her mother’s dying wish to the father she never knew; he is dead but not gone from the Réunion Islands village of Cilaos, historically a Maroon community. With the collaboration of renowned singer Christine Salem, Restrepo develops a trans-diasporic narrative form built on the slave rhythms of Réunionese maloya and Colombian mapalé.
Luna e Santur
Joshua Gen Solondz, USA, 2016, 35mm, 11m
Mingling sex and death with the supernatural and subnaturalistic, this visually assaultive threnody alternates white hot light with furious streaks of cruddy black goop, pushing the eye and the ego to their breaking points.
Saturday, October 8, 4:15pm
Sunday, October 9, 12:30pm
Total Runtime: 84m
James N. Kienitz Wilkins, USA, 2016, 23m
A procession of black and silvery white stills of New England’s Androscoggin River unspools alongside an anxious monologue on movies, memory, and minor history.
Europa, Mon Amour (2016 Brexit Edition)
Lawrence Lek, UK, 2016, 14m
North American Premiere
This guided, two-part meditation on Brexit unfolds in a computer-simulated hallucination of the London district of Dalston, a place with no people but filled with drones and fires.
Strange Vision of Seeing Things
Ryan Ferko, Canada/Serbia, 2016, 14m
Time-spaces of post-Yugoslav Serbia: the empty lobby of a defunct industrial conglomerate’s headquarters in Belgrade; an unseen man describing tripping on acid during the 1999 NATO bombings; a mother and her young son visit ruins left by that same campaign. At first they appear in crisp HD, but cracks form, revealing dimensions beneath the smooth surface.
Ismaïl Bahri, France/Tunisia, 2016, 32m
A white haze flutters on-screen, accompanied by street sounds in Tunis. Indistinct shapes appear as passersby engage the cameraman about his project and their lives. He tells one of them, “The wind does the editing.”
Program 6: ALL THE CITIES OF THE NORTH
Saturday, October 8, 6:45pm
All the Cities of the North / Svi severni gradovi
Dane Komljen, Serbia/Bosnia-Herzegovina/Montenegro, 2016, 100m
North American Premiere
In the darkly wooded grounds and concrete boxes of what was once a Yugoslav resort complex, two men share an enigmatic, tender life. A stranger comes to town; things change, but how, what, and why remain ambiguous. In Komljen’s richly suggestive, quietly moving elegy to lost utopias, no words are exchanged, and speech only comes in monologues, taking up questions on the architecture and administration of human sociality.
Saturday, October 8, 9:30pm
Sunday, October 9, 3:00pm
Total Runtime: 63m
A Boy Needs a Friend
Steve Reinke, USA, 2015, 22m
This latest installment of Final Thoughts, the series of unreliably narrated queer video essays that Reinke intends to continue until his death, takes love and friendship as its main subjects. Onto this he latches a long chain of endless digressions, which include, among much else, Stephen King and Joyce Carol Oates, the pleasures of needlepoint, and the design of an anal tattoo.
Spotlight on a Brick Wall
Alee Peoples and Mike Stoltz, USA, 2016, 16mm, 8m
An abstracted nightclub performance, its constituent parts—stand-up comedy, a capella, a laconic bass-and-drum rock duo, a slapstick mime—wrenched apart and recombined.
Return to Forms
Zachary Epcar, USA, 2016, 10m
The surfaces and shapes of typical international contempo yuppie style are defamiliarized, staged in and around a condo in an unnamed urban environment.
Dream English Kid, 1964–1999 AD
Mark Leckey, UK, 2015, 16mm, 23m
North American Premiere
Dream English Kid traces the cultural developments in the life of a working-class English boy, between the start of the Nuclear Test Ban and Azzido Da Bass’s first EP, as a collage of images and sounds, locating the broadly shared within the idiosyncratic and personal.
Program 8: DORSKY AND HILER
Sunday, October 9, 1:00pm
Sunday, October 9, 5:00pm
Total Runtime: 65m
Nathaniel Dorsky, USA, 2016, 16mm, 26m
“Autumn, photographed during the last months of the drought year, 2015, is a stately, but intimate, seasonal tome, a celebration of the poignancy and mystery of our later years.” —Nathaniel Dorsky
Nathaniel Dorsky, USA, 2016, 16mm, 19m
“This year our midsummer’s night was adorned with a glorious full moon. The weeks and days preceding the solstice were magically alive with crisp, cool breezes, bright warm sunlight, and a general sense of heartbreaking clarity. The Dreamer is born out of this most poignant San Francisco spring.” —Nathaniel Dorsky
Jerome Hiler, USA, 2016, 16mm, 20m
“With Bagatelle II, I seem to have come full circle by returning to the so-called polyvalent style of my earliest film endeavors from 50 years ago. The film actually includes material from all the intervening decades. It’s both up to the moment yet life-spanning, with a thread of deep affection for the special characteristics of 16mm film.” —Jerome Hiler
Sunday, October 9, 3:15pm
Sunday, October 9, 7:00pm
Total Runtime: 81m
Ana Vaz, Brazil/France, 2016, 13m
The camera jerks quickly across a field in the Brazilian Sertão, homing in on a young Maroon woman crouching in the tall grass. A hand feels around in the brush, caressing the earth. From these two images, Ana Vaz’s film proceeds on tracks that neither fully merge nor completely diverge, expressing the incommensurability of filmmaker and subject.
Ephraim Asili, USA/Jamaica, 2016, 12m
Shot between the Maroon village of Accompong, Jamaica, and Hudson, New York, the alternately sparse and exultantly polyrhythmic Kindah is part of a series of films examining the filmmaker’s relationship to the African diaspora. The title alludes to the mango tree that symbolizes common kinship in the Jamaican Maroon culture.
In Titan’s Goblet
Peter Hutton, USA, 1991, 16mm, 9m
Titled after a painting by Thomas Cole, this work of Hudson River School landscape filmmaking by the late Peter Hutton is a study of ships and smoke on the water.
An Aviation Field / Um Campo de Aviação
Joana Pimenta, Portugal/USA/Brazil, 2016, 13m
Using warm, darkly saturated 16mm images shot on the volcanic island of Fogo, Cape Verde, and in modernist Brasilia, and sounds that range between trebly crackle and aquatic gurgle, Pimenta constructs a surreal and mythical landscape from the remnants of Portuguese colonialism.
Rosalind Nashashibi, UK, 2015, 18m
Commissioned by London’s Imperial War Museum, Electrical Gaza combines vérité documentary scenes of public life in Gaza shot by Nashashibi in 2014, portraits of her crew, and uncanny, painterly computer animations modeled from the footage, rendering it unreal—as the Israeli government would claim and Palestinians would like to make it.
Guillermo Moncayo, France, 2015, 16m
A story modeled on 19th-century ethnography and colonialist travel literature unfolds in titles written in a mythological register. Lush images and sounds accrue a level of detail that refuses knowledge and courts being.
Program 10: FROM THE NOTEBOOK OF . . .
Sunday, October 9, 5:30pm
Total Runtime: 55m
From the Notebook of…
Robert Beavers, Italy/Switzerland, 1971/1998, 35mm, 48m
North American Restoration Premiere
An essential film by one of cinema’s living masters, forged from the brilliant light of Florence streets and the shadow of an old pensionne, this astounding work of public science and private experience was inspired by Leonardo Da Vinci’s notebooks. According to P. Adams Sitney, this is “the first film of [Beavers’] artistic maturity.” Restored by the Austrian Film Museum.
Luke Fowler, UK/USA, 2016, 16mm, 7m
Fowler’s portrait of New York School composer Christian Wolff continues his investigation into the legacies of 20th-century avant-garde music. Short, handheld shots taken at Wolff’s New Hampshire farm are assembled in diagonal relation to a soundtrack that features snippets of conversation with Wolff and passages from his compositions.
Program 11: THE HUMAN SURGE
Sunday, October 9, 7:30pm
The Human Surge / El auge del humano
Eduardo Williams, Argentina/Brazil/Portugal, 2016, 97m
A twenty-something in Argentina loses his warehouse job. Boys in Maputo, Mozambique, perform half-hearted sex acts in front of a webcam. A woman in the Philippines assembles electronics in a small factory. Williams’s inquisitive camera is in constant motion, as are his rootless characters, who wander aimlessly, make small talk, futz with their phones, and search for a working Internet connection. Unfolding within the unfree time between casual jobs, this wildly original rumination on labor and leisure in the global digital economy seems to take place in both the immediate present and the far horizon of the foreseeable future. Winner of the top prize in the 2016 Locarno Film Festival’s Filmmakers of the Present section.