These two programmes are a personal selection of favorites from the world(s) of experimental cinema over the last decade, showcasing the richness and vibrancy of current and recent avant-garde moving-image art.
I live in Austria, a country which has long been synonymous with excellence in this particular field. There is no great mystery behind this: avant-garde cinema has always been valued as a crucial element in the cultural landscape. It is (relatively generously) supported by various funding mechanisms, the most remarkable of which comes directly from the office of the Federal Chancellor. And then there is Sixpackfilm, the Vienna-based company which since 1990 has been successfully promoting and distributing the most adventurous flowerings of Austrian moving-image around the world: of the ten selections in the «Country Close-Up» programme, no fewer than eight are Sixpackfilm titles.
Combining internationally-recognised major names such as Peter Tscherkassky, Johann Lurf and Siegfried A Fruhauf with exciting, emerging talents, this survey spans abstraction, quasi-documentary, found-footage, hilarious comedy, music-video and bedazzling forays into futuristic technologies.
The «World Wide-Angle» programme, meanwhile, is a subjective sampling of outstanding works, seeking (optimistically) balance in terms of gender, format, geographical origin (albeit with Europe doubly represented), chronology and duration. These films show that experimental cinema can be stunningly beautiful, piercingly political, hauntingly enigmatic, sensorially stimulating and barrellingly entertaining…. sometimes all at the same time.
In both programmes my primary intention is to open a window into a form of filmmaking that is sometimes misunderstood and misrepresented as somehow inaccessible and impenetrable. The opposite is, in fact true: in my experience the most brilliant examples of avant-garde moving image (such as these 17 films) can appeal to audiences of all stripes, and it is my hope that even viewers who have never ventured very far out of the mainstream will find plenty to absorb, entertain and provoke them here.
Avant-garde cinema has always been about finding new forms, new languages, new ways to channel artistic impulses into sound and image, uncompromised by commercial considerations or narrative/documentary «storytelling» strait-jackets.
A particular joy is being able to present some of the works via celluloid film, a reminder that, while conventional cinema has long since shifted to digital, a significant chunk of those toiling valiantly on the low-budget, high-inspiration margins continue to proudly fly the analogue flag.
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