Introduced by Jesse Lerner, a documentary filmmaker, curator, and writer based in Los Angeles who has organized exhibitions for the Flaherty Seminar, Mexico's National Palace of Fine Arts, and the MAK Center in Los Angeles.
Program One - Countercultures and Undergrounds
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.
Juventud, rebeldía, revolución
Enrique Pineda Barnet, Cuba, 1969, 30 min., Spanish w/ English subtitles
Manuel DeLanda, Mexico/US, 1979, 6 min., silent
Narcisa Hirsch, Argentina, 1967, 8 min., Spanish w/ English subtitles, b&w
Esplendor do martirio
Sergio Peo, Brazil, 1974, 10 min.
Rolando Peña, Venezuela, 1976, 10 min., Spanish w/ English subtitles
Segunda Primera Matriz
Alfredo Gurrola, Mexico, 1972, 13 min., Spanish w/ English subtitles
Program Two - Dreams of Suitcases and a Blue Lobster
Several well-known auteurs, including Alejandro Jodorowsky and Rafael Corkidi, whose films are characterized by disturbing, dream-like imagery, absurdist juxtapositions, and other devices characteristic of surrealism, hail from Latin America. Many exiled surrealists fleeing fascism in Europe found home in Latin America, including Luis Buñuel, who made over twenty features in Mexico. This program highlights some less familiar short films that share surrealist preoccupations, including the Colombian treasure The Blue Lobster. Rounding out the program are four additional shorts. Two are early works: one made by the Argentine photographer Horacio Coppola while he was studying at the Bauhaus in that school’s final years; the other film is by the very prolific Chilean director Raúl Ruiz. The Peruvian painter Fernando de Szyszlo, still active today at 92, directed Esta pared no es medianera shortly after befriending André Breton in Paris. Finally, the late Luis Ernesto Arocha, also from Barranquilla, contributes a study of Bernando Salcedo’s assemblage sculptures.
La langosta azul (The Blue Lobster)
Álvaro Cepeda Zamudio & Gabriel García Márquez, Colombia, 1954, 29 min., Spanish w/ English subtitles
La maleta (The Suitcase)
Raúl Ruiz, Chile, 1963-2008, 20 min., Spanish w/ English subtitles, b&w
Horacio Coppola, Argentina, 1933, 2 min., silent, b&w
Las ventanas de Salcedo
Luís Ernesto Arocha, Colombia, 1966, 6 min., b&w
El dedal de rosas
Mariana Botey, Mexico, 1998, 13 min., Spanish w/ English subtitles
Ism, Ism, Ism: Experimental Cinema in Latin America (Ismo, Ismo, Ismo: Cine experimental en América Latina) was organized by Los Angeles Filmforum as part of Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, a far-reaching and ambitious exploration of Latin American and Latino art in dialogue with Los Angeles. Ism, Ism, Ism surveys Latin America’s vibrant experimental production from the 1930s through today. www.ismismism.org
Ism, Ism, Ism is accompanied by a bilingual publication, Ism, Ism, Ism / Ismo, Ismo, Ismo: Experimental Cinema in Latin America (Jesse Lerner and Luciano Piazza, editors, 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. Available worldwide, https://www.ucpress.edu/book.php?isbn=9780520296084.
This series is presented as part of Subversive Elements, Lightbox’s ongoing spotlight on experimental artists’ cinema.