Alibi V.26 No.16 • April 20-26, 2017 

Film Festival Preview

From Cuba With Love

Experiments in Cinema v12.3

Experiments in Cinema

Once a year Albuquerque audiences are afforded an opportunity to view the art of cinema through a different lens. For the last dozen or so years, local arts organization Basement Films has put together the Experiments in Cinema festival, which—according to the group’s mission statement—“brings the international community of cinematic un-dependents to Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA for a film festival that is designed to inspire a new generation of homegrown media activists to participate in shaping future trends in cultural representation.” In simpler terms, it’s a week-long extravaganza of eye-opening, mind-expanding experimental films and videos from around the globe, interspersed with parties, guest lectures, hands-on workshops and live multimedia performances.

Basement Films, one of the few remaining first wave micro-cinemas left in the United States, has been supporting underrepresented forms of media since 1991. Despite recently completing a laborious move—relocating more than 8,000 16mm and 8mm films from their old location at the Harwood Arts Center to their new home at the University of New Mexico’s Department of Cinematic Arts at Mesa Del Sol—the Basement Films folks still found time to assemble a spectacular 2017 festival. This year’s Experiments in Cinema v12.3 represents the 12th year (more or less) that the group has organized this massive meet-up of media manipulators.

This year is particularly notable because it is “The Cubano Edition,” featuring scholars and experimental films from the isolated island nation of Cuba. Last December EIC’s founder and director Bryan Konefsky was invited by the International Festival of New Latin American Cinema in Havana to give a presentation about Experiments in Cinema. Konefsky describes the trip as “a life-changing experience—except when Customs agents confiscated my Cuban cigars in Texas.”

While in Cuba, Konefsky had the opportunity to meet with a number of film/video artists. “In spite of limited technological resources,” says Konefsky of his Cuban compatriots, “it seems that there is a very vibrant and forward-thinking community of experimental media makers that rivals anything I have experienced in all my years traveling festivals around the world.” After a few conversations with local cinematic artists, Konefsky says he “came to realize that we had an opportunity to host a series of Cuban presentations/screenings of experimental media at EIC and that such a comprehensive program of Cuban experimental cinema had never been staged before in the United States.”

As a result of this fortuitous trip, EIC v12.3 will spotlight four unique Cuban presentations/screenings at Guild Cinema (3405 Central NE). These include media artists whose personal films draw inspiration from the daily life in Cuba, a historic look back at Cuban animation (1960 to 1990), a glimpse into Cuban film/video installation art, and a program that looks at self-taught media makers whose “rough and tumble” works speak to the “necessary inventiveness that these artists must embrace as aesthetic when faced with the challenge of availability and limited resources.”

Of course, that’s just the tip of the iceberg, really. Films from the USA and 36 other nations around the world will be screened at Guild Cinema from Tuesday, April 18, through Sunday, April 23. All in all 120 films will be screened over the course of the 6 days. A curated exhibit will look at films from the UK that address the theme of “Disasters of Peace” (Friday, April 21). There will be a special presentation about the films of pioneering underground film director and “low-fi” video artist George Kuchar by radical media activist Gene Youngblood. (Saturday, April 22). And on Friday, April 21, there will be a free workshop at UNM’s Department of Cinematic Arts in which Cuban scholars Maria de Lourdes Marino Fernandez and Yinet Rodriguez will discuss, in a more intimate environment, issues related to their formal presentations.

Guild Cinema will handle the bulk of the films, while new partner 516 Arts (516 Central SW) will feature a special exhibit of film and video installations from around the world. Films run from 3 to 10pm every day at Guild. Attendees are invited to gather across the street at Tractor Brewing (118 Tulane SE) every night after the final screening for a casual reception with filmmakers and guest lecturers (and beer). Admission is only $10 per day (or $8 for students). For a full listing of films, workshops, events and times, go to experimentsincinema.org.