Friday, January 25, 2008

DIY cinema notes (local)

Nice coverage in today's Age for my friend (one-time Brisbane art/punk compeer), Dean McInerny. A link to the article is here

... Had the pleasure of dinner w/ Dean twice in the last week; an avuncular cat & possessed of a rare and lucid intelligence. Timecapsules is his regular intervention into local screen culture & his venue, a muy simpatico bar/gallery within a Collingwood warehouse conversion, is probably the most agreeable local forum for film screenings.

Irving Gribbish celebrated 10 years of continuous screenings with his Splodge! Film Society at the Empress of India Hotel, late last year - a milestone that passed seemingly unremarked in the local media. (Irving probably needs to do something about maintaining his on-line presence, but it is also remarkable that he should be so casual about it...)

Anyways, Dean related to me part of his interview/conversation (missing from the published text), & he made the point that a contemporary audience is accustomed to the phenomenon of a DJ choosing a mix of tunes; why not a film curator doing the same thing in a public space, but with the moving image? And while Dean is quick to acknowledge the evident differences in the social functions of music & cinema, he has a point - Irving has exhaustive historical smarts on US comedy & animation (among other things); Dean has an acute sensitivity to radical politics & camp aesthetics. The audience at their screenings is assured of revelations, even when viewing seemingly familiar films. Those epiphanies proceed from the respective curatorship.

... Of course I tend to think the whole thing is essentially unsustainable at a personal level - the audiences are typically modest and diminishing all the time. How much time & energy (not to mention: your own money) can a curator commit to a project like this? Thankfully, they persist.

(An historico-legal aside: film societies in Australia began in the 1960s on university campuses. While film societies presume a measure of, unnh, "discretion" in the application of copyright law to their activities, the law as-such only provides formal exemptions to strictly "educational" screenings...

So what happened? Well, after the original drafting of Australian copyright law in 1968, social agitators of a cultured persuasion recognised that film societies were a productive means of building and supporting creative communities. This trend is exemplified by the Workers Entertainment Association, operating out of Sydney...

If they changed their name to the WEA Film Study Group to facilitate some limited state funding, they never compromised their unique (imminently oppositional) political stance. Extreme art, as workingpeople's culture. For cheap! And with trade union affiliation!)

* & not defunct, as previously stated - check the link...

I think everyone that persists at this particular endeavour shares some variety of that politic. The point is: cinema is a social phenomenon.

The alternative? Atomised individuals staring into their mobile phones...

... which finds a certain correspondence with this great bit of investigative journalism into the politics & commercial interests behind facebook, from the Guardian

More in this thread, "shortly". Meantime, some links:

Unlike to ACMI - which arguably deserves to be the subject of an ACCC lawsuit in the Federal Court because its commercial operations (repertory cinema, festival venue) are both state-subsidised and in direct competition with commercial cinema operations (the government isn't supposed to compete with existing private industries!) - the new Australian Cinematheque is showing some remarkable programs; imported prints, curated for a local audience...

Head of film programming at ACMI is Richard Sowada; interesting character with some fascinating perspectives on cinema exhibition in Australia. He really needs to think on ACMI's breach of Federal law, but...

Jack Stevenson is one of the most prominent champions of this area internationally. Here's a link to my review of his book (which is great: mostly (the book, that is)).

Senses of Cinema's Film Culture Forum, from a couple years back.

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