FILM

Northwest Screendance Exposition preview: moving shadows on the wall

Third annual Eugene-based festival celebrates the collaborative artistic efforts of filmmakers, choreographers and sound artists

by GARY FERRINGTON

A quintet of ballerinas in a kitchen fling clouds of flour into the air in choreographed harmony. A cadre of dancers create a percussive soundscape by pounding their feet against a warehouse wall. These and many other moving images and sounds appear onscreen this weekend in the University of Oregon’s Dougherty Dance Theater when the third annual Northwest Screendance Exposition takes center stage October 13 and 14 in Eugene.

Screendances aren’t mere recordings of stage performances but instead a distinctive art form in which cinemagraphic techniques that manipulate time and space are woven together with the techniques of dance choreography. The result: a unique visual and audio time-based arts experience in which dance and cinematography are equal partners.

Still from student film “Camatori.” Photo: Angela Challis.

The movement of the human body through time and space has been the subject of filmmakers dating back to the origins of cinema, including early experimental films such as painter Emlen Etting’s Oramunde (1933) or Maya Deren’s A Study in Choreography For Camera (1946). Unlike in decades past, today’s filmmakers and dancers have access to relatively inexpensive digital technologies that facilitate screendance productions at all levels of capability. A celebration of this evolving form of collaborative expression, this year’s festival, sponsored by the UO School of Music and Dance’s Dance Department, includes 24 films by filmmakers living in Canada, China,  Italy, Poland, Spain, Switzerland, UK and the USA were selected for screening, chosen from 57 films submitted from 17 countries.

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Colin Manning: more is more

Oregon filmmaker's expansive visions, explored in a recent retrospective, need no apology

by MATTHEW ANDREWS

At the Northwest Film Center’s most recent installment of its ongoing independent Pacific Northwest filmmaker project Northwest Tracking,  the notorious Portland-based underground imagemaker Colin Manning gave us a taste of his special brand of film collage and animation: a retrospective of his earlier work plus a live performance of his signature projection art. After the performance and screening, Manning took the stage at Portland Art Museum’s Whitsell Auditorium for a conversation with NWFC’s Ben Popp.

His first words: “Sorry about that.”

Manning talked about his mad process, and how his tastes and techniques have evolved over time. “I have a capacity for overindulgence, too much all at once; sometimes it works, sometimes more is more, sometimes less is more. It’s different every time. The way I work, I don’t plan…it happens in the moment.”

More was definitely more at this event. Even before it commenced, as I hummed along with the Balanescu Quartet’s Kraftwerk covers playing on the house sound system, I noticed that the audients whose visual style most strongly signaled “artist” all positioned themselves (as I had, being an “artist” myself) behind Manning’s bank of projectors, which were set up not in the projector room but out in the audience, about five rows from the back. I counted four film projectors, two—no, three—slide projectors, and one of those overhead-transparency projectors like you used to see in schools, plus a DJ-crate full of reels. Manning was there early, testing his gear, talking to fans and former collaborators (I recognized Erin Laroue of local gothic doom pop group Jamais Jamais), and wearing a sweet vintage shirt printed with a pattern that looks like those sedimentary cross-sections you see in geology textbooks and science museums. Already it was one of the most Portland things I’ve ever seen.

Colin Manning’s first priority before getting into his “analog projection magick” was to introduce his supporting musicians, Disxiple 113 and Andrew Tomasello. “I usually do this in music settings: night clubs, someone’s basement,” Manning joked. We soon saw why.

I always like to go into these things without having a clue about what I’m getting into, so the live projection caught me totally off guard: a super-rich overabundance of wildly varied images, projected together all at once onto different planes of Whitsell’s screen, sometimes split by pieces of glass and mirrored on either side of the screen, sometimes densely superposed, usually flipped backwards or upside-down or both, film running in reverse, slides overlapping, colors and text washing out beyond the edges of meaning into some sort of trashily transcendent hyper-meaning.

For all the chaos, though, there was a clear artistic vision behind it all, a singular taste driving the selection and combination of images drawn from old nature films, safety catalogs, MST3K-worthy science fiction (I’m sure I saw some clips from the Heinlein classic Destination Moon), documentary footage from the last several decades, and gods only know what all else. I don’t think I’ve ever felt a cinematic experience so deeply in the avant-garde reaches of my lusty, psychedelic, extravagance-addicted gut. It can’t have lasted more than about 20 minutes but it felt like several hours. I’m always searching for art that’s big enough, full enough, and crazy enough to really scratch that itch, the one that demands More More More, and it’s not too often that I feel like I’m really getting good and properly fucked (aesthetically speaking, of course). For me, more was more.

The music fit right in there, noisy and dissonant and atmospheric, supporting the film and overwhelming the ears even as Manning overwhelmed the eyes. After each musician’s segment ended, Manning briefly flipped on that overhead projector as a sort of applause (I guess), broadcasting a ribbed ring of metal surrounding what looked almost like a bunch of teeth. Wild applause from the enthusiastic audience (who presumably also can’t get enough of this kind of art) and lights up for a quick stretch. We sure needed it.

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TBA: Pop goes the foreign film

Interview with curator Gina Altamura: Holocene's Fin de Cinema comes to TBA, matching live music with Tarkovsky's "The Mirror"

At PICA’s TBA Festival on Monday night, Fin de Cinema drew the largest crowd in its eight years of pairing local pop and experimental musicians with influential foreign cinema. Andrei Tarkovsky’s The Mirror projected on three walls of The Works while four sets of Portland-based musicians took turns performing original work as a soundtrack. Palm Dat and Noah Bernstein of Shy Girls started the show, followed by Brown Calculus (Members of Tribe Mars), and then Dylan Stark. Golden Retriever closed the night, their keening, ambient music filling the spacious hall as Tarkovksy’s dreamy meditation on war and memory faded out.

The series has been running at Holocene since 2009, serving a wide selection of films as creative and collaborative prompts for a healthy cross-section of Portland’s avant garde and pop music scene. The film listing includes Holy Mountain, Hausu, Svankmajer’s Alice, Blow-Up, Daisies, Valerie and Her Week of Wonders, The Cassandra Cat, Mala Morska Vila (The Little Mermaid), Stalker, The Mirror, Fantastic Planet, The Color of Pomegranates, and Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet. These were re-scored by artists including Typhoon, Tu Fawning, Brainstorm, Nurses, AU, Why I Must Be Careful, Grouper, Visible Cloaks, WL, Valet, Wampire, Soft Metals, Wooden Indian Burial Ground, and many more. Gina Altamura, who has been booking acts and curating shows for Holocene for nearly a decade, is the creator and curator of the series. I sat down with Ms. Altamura to discuss the genesis and history of this mainstay of the Portland film and music scenes now that it’s made it into the billing at TBA.

*

Andrei Tarkovsky’s “The Mirror.”

Oregon ArtsWatch: So when did Fin de Cinema start?

Altamura: It started in ’09 with [Alejandro Jodorowsky’s] Holy Mountain, which is like the quintessential one to choose. That was an epic one. It was in the days of (the group) Why I Must be Careful. Jon Niekrasz actually composed a bunch of poetry for it. So that was our first one. We initially had the audience sitting on stage, with the live performers behind the audience.

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A film festival takes a stand against Islamophobia

The Seventh Art Stand film festival explore the many strands of Muslim and Muslim-American experience

The Seventh Art Stand, a nationwide screening and discussion series that focuses on the many facets of the contemporary Muslim and Muslim-American experience, comes to Portland’s Open Signal at 7 pm on June 21. The series has been part of a multi-platform effort that is intended “as an act of cinematic solidarity against Islamophobia,” according to organizers. Through Q&A sessions at the screenings and social media campaigns such as #sharemuslimfacts, the series seeks to challenge and humanize the discussion around the lives and beliefs of members of the nationalities and ethnicities under attack by the current administration and Islamophobic currents in the media.

By the time it’s over, Seventh Art Stand will have shown in more than fifty theaters, museums, and community centers in more than half the states, with prominent shows in Honolulu, Detroit, Milwaukee, Houston, Harlem, and Minneapolis. As part of the collaborative nature of the project, each venue curates its own selection of films and runs its own public discussions, often tailored to the surrounding Islamic community. Previous screenings have featured Queens of Syria by Yasmin Fedda, A Stray by Musa Syeed, American Arab by Usama Alshaibi, and The Salesman by Asghar Farhadi, which won the Oscar for 2017 Best Foreign Language Film.

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‘James Beard: America’s First Foodie’ review: Oregon’s own culinary pioneer

PBS documentary airing Sunday chronicles the life of a Portland-born champion of farm-to-table cooking

By ANGELA ALLEN

Portland’s food royalty stepped out in full force May 5 when Northwest Film Center screened James Beard: America’s First Foodie at Portland Art Museum’s Whitsell Auditorium.

James Beard

Several notable Portland chefs, restaurateurs, brewers, food press and enthusiastic cooks appeared in the movie — and in the audience. Post-film, moviegoers among the standing-room-only crowd were invited to nosh on Beard’s famous onion sandwiches (on white bread with homemade mayo) at the convivial reception. Bon vivant Beard (1903-1985) would have been proud of that event; he loved to bring people together, and fresh local food was his way to do it.

Hard to believe this film, which airs tonight, May 21, on PBS’s American Masters and is available for streaming on the PBS website, is the first full documentary about one of Portland’s favorite citizens. Born in Portland in 1903 to an independent mother who ran a boarding house with righteous attention to market-fresh meals, Beard grew into what one newspaper called “America’s grand poobah of food.” Before he dove thoroughly into the food world, he went to Reed College, where, commentators in the film claim, he was kicked out for having an affair with another man. (Update: as ArtsWatch reader Robin Tovey notes below, that claim may not hold up. Decades later in 1976, Reed gave him an honorary degree.) He tried his talents at theater, but eventually food stuck as his calling.

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‘Kedi’ review: Turkish delight

Feline-filled foreign film fave needs fewer rooftop views, more rodents, envious Oregon expert explains

By C. S. ELIOT
Typing and litterbox assistance by Maria Choban

Kedi: The Cats of Istanbul.
Directed by Ceyda Torun

Opening in theaters everywhere in March, and in Portland at Cinema 21 on March 3, director Ceyda Torun’s love letter to the street cats of Istanbul follows seven cats through the packed avenues, back alleys and outdoor markets of Istanbul, with cameras mounted on toy trucks by agile cinematographer John Keith Wasson. It also opens this weekend at Ashland’s Varsity Theater, and in Corvallis, Salem, Sisters and Eugene later in March.

Hello! C.S. Eliot here!

I just watched Kedi: The Cats of Istanbul!!

Reviewers love it. Cat people love it. But I don’t understand why those street cats get all the attention while I languish here amid pillows and throw rugs. Which do me no good when they’re hanging on the wall where I can’t shred them.

As an oppressed Oregon indoor cat, I want the respect and glamour and thrilling life of those Turkish outdoor alley cats! How do they do it?

***

Kedi-cat Duman, the gentleman, eats soft gouda and smoked Turkey breast daily while I get kibble.

How does he accomplish this?

I study his technique. He paddles the high-end delicatessen window with his paws at around 300 beats per minute. I’ll try it! Here goes….

Oops. Harder than I thought. I’ll keep practicing.

***

I want to be a player like Gamsiz.

With an artisan baker as his main squeeze, Gamsiz scrambles up broken trellises, across roofs, and down multiple storied buildings, to play with his pussy-on-the-side — the actress across town. The stud still finds time to protect his turf.

I too want to be outdoors, patrolling my turf, chasing something larger than ladybugs. But not too large.

I want to be more than just on a diet. But reduced circumstances as in two less testicles, have turned me into a perennial, playful kitten. That and I’ve forgotten what my claws are for….

***

I want to be a bad-ass Kedi-cat like Psikopat, who terrorizes her neighborhood.

I study how she boxes her husband’s ears. Incited to terrorize the humans, I scamper to try this technique on them now! Banzai!

EPIC FAIL !!!!

I will continue to practice by batting my 23 cat toys around the chair and table legs and boxing with shadows on the walls. One day, I too will make the humans cower like Psikopat’s husband.

***

I examine Aslan, the hunter. The humans believe he repays them for tolerating his presence at their outdoor seafood restaurant. In gratitude, they imagine, he keeps their once problematic rat population under control.

I, however, realize the lion king has conquered them with his regal poise. Unlike the gymnastics of Duman and the martial arts of Psikopat, I feel a static pose is something I can master. A pose that will demand respect.

Not
this
pose
!

Didn’t Kedi promise me Birds? I’m pretty sure Kedi promised me Birds!!

With its endless shots of Istanbul rooftops, I still don’t understand why this movie is so popular. I darted my eyes over all the high panned Istanbul roofs looking for Birds! When I gaze out my window to the roofs across the street, I see Birds! I chatter in their dialect. Kedi needs more Birds! Or fewer empty rooftops.

You know what else Kedi needs more of? NOT boring talking people. It needs More Mice! Only one scene of a scurrying mouse. And NO money shot! I want to see Aslan bite its little head off!!! If you want to keep my attention, MORE MICE!

I guess I just don’t understand why Americans go gaga over these Istanfools when they could find far more fascinating companions like me at places like the Cat Adoption Team, where we Oregon cats go to adopt helpless humans. So, in conclusion, I give Kedi 2.5 paws up. Kedi returns to Portland’s Cinema 21 March 3. Get your advance tickets here.

I won’t be among the hordes of humans standing in long lines in the cold for tickets, as happened last month when Kedi screened for two sold-out days at the Portland International Film Festival. I’ll be at home in front of the fireplace, plotting my escape from indoor imprisonment.


Dreaming about Kedi: The Cats of Istanbul.

All photos of ME, C.S. Eliot, were snapped by my slave, Brett Campbell. I did NOT give permission to share all of them!

Maria Choban is ArtsWatch’s Oregon ArtsBitch. This (scratching) post originally appeared on her new Portland entertainment site, CatScratch

Want to read more about Oregon film and felines? Support Oregon CatsWatch!

James Baldwin: Fighting white supremacy

James Baldwin understood that capitalism lurked behind slavery and white supremacy in America, even if that side doesn't quite emerge from 'I Am Not Your Negro'

James Baldwin’s great project, as I might derive it from Raoul Peck’s documentary “I Am Not Your Negro,” was to try to understand the African American experience. That involved some specific questions: why the catastrophe of slavery fell on black people in America; what it did to them psychologically; how the culture of white supremacy that it bred continues to oppress them; how they might cope constructively with this history and this present, and how things might change.

Baldwin’s project was deeply serious, his conclusions generated by personal anguish and anguished thought, and his words are majestic, still. “I Am Not Your Negro” (which has begun runs at Cinema-21, the Hollywood Theatre and Kiggins Theatre, after playing the Portland International Film Festival and the Portland Black Film Festival) is awash in those words, those descriptions, those insights, that anguish.

The film does other things, too. It tracks the intersection of Baldwin with other black leaders of the ‘60s—Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X. It shows how Baldwin’s reading of the media around him, specifically Hollywood movies, changed as he began to become aware of the deep racism that infected the system. And it shows how Baldwin came to place the blame for America’s “race problem” squarely where it belonged.

James Baldwin, center, is the subject of “I Am Not Your Negro”/Magnolia Films

“But the future of the Negro in this country is precisely as bright or as dark as the future of the country,” Baldwin says in the film. “It is entirely up to the American people and our representatives—it is entirely up to the American people whether or not they are going to face, and deal with, and embrace this stranger whom they maligned so long.” African Americans, of course, are the stranger, and “maligned” is a rather tepid word for the evil that white people visited on them.

He continues: “What white people have to do, is try and find out in their own hearts why it was necessary to have a nigger in the first place, because I’m not a nigger, I’m a man, but if you think I’m a nigger, it means you need it. And you’ve got to find out why. And the future of the country depends on that.”

“You need it…” Peck’s film leaves the talking to Baldwin, his descriptions and explanations of our racial history, of the crimes white people committed, the lives they distorted, because they “needed it.” It’s a powerful film because Baldwin’s truth is so powerful.

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