Proposal Draft: Help Needed: The Unseen Cinema: Early American Avant-Garde Film 1893-1940

contact: Bruce Posner, The Unseen Cinema: Early American Avant-Garde Film 1893-1940 Proposal Draft The films produced by American experimentalist dating between 1893 and 1940 have never been properly exhibited as a whole. The series' main objective will be to serve as a testament to the artistic and historic significance of early American avant-garde filmmaking. Until the publication of Jan-Christopher Horaks' anthology Lovers of Cinema: The First American Film Avant-Garde, 1919-1945 (University of Wisconsin Press, 1995), the cinema of individual artists, collective-made, or even studio-related experimental filmmaking in the United States has eluded critical evaluation to asses the merit of these productions as a relevant part of film history. Although many of the films have been influential to post World War II film-making in the Americas and other world cinema practices, the exhibition of these films as a collective has been at best piecemeal. At the time of their initial creation and release (keeping in mind that many of these films never premiered in a theatrical situation), pioneer experimental films for the most part immediately fell into oblivion. Likewise the exacting influence of these films as a genre has yet to be realized. Many problems arise in determining the boundaries of inclusion. Such varied and seemingly at odds practices encompass the experimentalist field including fiction, poetry, abstraction, non-fiction, animation, and home movies. Likewise, films from the commercial sector (especially pre-1920s) beg inclusion as prime examples of experimentation in film form. Sorting through these issues will be one of the goals of the series' curators. Not since the ground-breaking, post Maya Deren film series A History of the American Avant-Garde 1940-1976 compiled by John Handhardt for the Whitney Museum of American Art has such a restorative critical task been proposed. The film prints will be primarily culled from the film archives of The Museum of Modern Art, The International Museum of Photography and Film at the George Eastman House and Anthology Film Archives as well as from other film archives and private collections from around the world. The selection will offer a unique opportunity for viewing the films in 35mm and 16mm prints. Many restored for the first time since their original conception and release. Accompanying the series will be an illustrated catalog with critical essays written for each of the six programs, an overview on the nature of early American avant-garde film practice in particular approaching the question of what constitutes an avant-garde film, and a detailed filmography of those filmmakers presented by the series. It is hoped that this traveling series of six programs will present an invigorating overview of early American avant-garde film craft to a wider audience of filmgoers, historians, academics, and critics than has been previously possible. Bruce Posner, Series Director

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