July 14 2009 | Georgia Straight | By Craig Takeuchi
If your eyes glaze over at the mention of the words experimental film, consider this list of names: Quentin Tarantino, Darren Aronofsky, David Lynch, Todd Haynes, and Gus Van Sant.
“You wouldn’t have a lot of the most amazing Hollywood films if you didn’t have an experimental-film community,” says Amy Lynn Kazymerchyk, programmer of DIM, a monthly evening of experimental film at the Pacific Cinémathèque (1131 Howe Street). Over tea on Broadway, she discusses how experimental-film techniques penetrate mainstream movies more than most people realize. “I think, oftentimes, it’s subtle. It’s there but simply in the way filmmakers will develop their dialogue…or how people will play with time-space continuums in a film.”
As a teenager, Kazymerchyk used to watch obscure underground films at the Edison Electric Gallery of Moving Images run by media artist Alex MacKenzie on Commercial Drive, and later at his Blinding Light!! Cinema in Gastown, which closed in 2003. Kazymerchyk noted the impact of its absence.
“I think that there was a real gap left in the city, both in terms of the experimental- and avant-garde film culture that he was representing but also just as a physical space,” she says. “Because it [the Blinding Light!!] wasn’t a formally artist-run centre or a formal institution with boards and programmers…he had a certain autonomy over what happened.”
When an Emily Carr University instructor who is also a Cinémathèque board member asked Kazymerchyk what might make the theatre more accessible to a younger audience, she recalled how the Art Institute of Chicago ran a weekly series called Conversations on the Edge at the Gene Siskel Film Center. When she proposed a similar program, the Cinémathèque was receptive and gave her “carte blanche”.
Over the past year, the program has included screenings of structuralist cinema, works by Jean Genet and Sid Chow Tan, Super 8 films shot in one take without editing, and even multimedia performances.
“One of the things that I was interested in doing was creating a space that wasn’t just for experimental film,” she says. “As I’m doing it, I’m finding actually what I think is more interesting and finding is an even harder discipline to find space for: people who are doing more performative cinema.”
Kazymerchyk clarifies that the city’s space problem isn’t one of lack, but continuity. “The space issue in the city is not necessarily that there’s not enough space—because there actually are a lot of spaces, I think—it’s just that there’s no security in it. Things are constantly disappearing.”
Attendance at DIM has generally varied from about eight to 45 audience members. Nonetheless, DIM is now celebrating its first anniversary on July 20 (7:30 p.m.) with Tough Stuff from the BUFF, a program of 15 experimental and activist videos from Buffalo, New York. It’ll be followed up on July 21 with a free slide lecture by Portland artist, curator, and activist Marc Moscato about DIY culture and city policy at 7 p.m. at Spartacus Books (684 East Hastings).
Happy birthday, DIM, and, hopefully, many more.
Photo Credit: Kelly Spivey, Poor White Trash Girl: Class Consciousness, 2002