MoMA presents a variety of exciting film exhibitions next month, ranging from the historical to the contemporary, from lighthearted family films to in-depth conversations.
Modern Matinees: Six New York Independents, 1-27 April
American independent filmmakers Norman C. Chaitin, Milton Moses Greenberg, Joseph Jacoby, Harry Hurwitz, Leonard Kastle, and Bette Gordon were all either raised in or around New York City or adopted the city as a home and workplace. But what truly connects these six filmmakers is their ability to craft intimate portraits of fragile humanity in the most colossal of all cities. In tawdry bars, depressing studio apartments, or a psychiatrist’s office, the characters in these unique narratives uncoil their disappointments and slights and sadly accept the fuzzy lollipop the world hands them. There is little in the way of a happy ending for these sorry souls; they simply acknowledge the disillusionment and get on with life. The majority of the actors in these films may be unfamiliar, but it is precisely their inconspicuousness that makes these stories feel so achingly genuine.
Germany 1966, 5-14 April
Selected from the Retrospective of the 66th Berlin International Film Festival, this program is dedicated to the year 1966, a turning point in German cinema. An atmosphere of change prevails: in the West, auteur filmmakers challenge the contradictions of the economic miracle, in the East, young directors question everyday life under socialism. The ‘New German Cinema’ manages to make an international breakthrough, whereas in East Germany, as a result of the 11th plenum of the Central Committee of the Socialist Unity Party (SED) in December 1965, almost half of all DEFA feature films intended for theatrical release in 1966 are banned. With that abrupt end to concurrent developments, opportunities for mutual appreciation were also lost. Germany 1966 aims to counter that with its overview of films from both sides.
Anucha Boonyawatana’s The Blue Hour, 8 -14 April
Tam, a timid loner, is bullied regularly by his fellow pupils at school. He is met with similar rejection and suspicion within the narrow confines of his parents’ dingy home, where his father beats him. One day Tam arranges online to meet Phum at a derelict swimming pool. They are both looking for sex, but their encounter leaves them with a feeling of comfort and security. A close bond develops between the two boys and, before long, they are roaming the rubbish heaps and dark corners of the city together, day and night. Phum opens a door for Tam, revealing a fantastical parallel universe full of spirits and dangerous encounters. Although he feels safe and loved for the first time in his life, Tam can no longer differentiate between dream and reality and finds himself increasingly drawn into a spiral of paranoia and violence.
Family Films: Tall Tales Saturday, 9 April
The Celeste Bartos Theater, mezzanine, The Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman Education and Research BuildingEnjoy new and classic family-friendly short films, engaging discussions, and suggestions for follow-up activities in the Museum’s galleries. Jack and the Beanstalk. 1955. Great Britain. Directed by Lotte Reiniger. The Gruffalo. 2009. Great Britain. Directed by Jakob Schuh and Max Lang.
Modern Mondays: An Evening with Rosa Barba, 11 April
Rosa Barba (b. 1972) investigates the material of film through installations, publications, and film sculptures. Her work with celluloid ranges from projections of pure light to representational works of historical investigation and personal experience. Barba will present recent work and take part in a conversation with Stuart Comer, Chief Curator, Department of Media and Performance Art.
Andrew Noren: Above the Lighted Field 15-17 April Andrew Noren, who described himself a “light thief” and “shadow bandit,” made some of cinema’s purest, most mesmerizing films. Working mainly with light, shadow, and movement he created moving-image works of breathtaking velocity, volume, and tactility. He elevated the world “out there”—his home and garden—into an evanescent, ecstatic state of luminous being, transforming images into a beguiling contemplation of the phantasmal nature of appearances. As Noren wrote, “Light, in itself, is an absolute mystery. It is literally invisible to us, it has no actual substance, no specific being. It cannot be said to even exist, except as a ‘presence’… [But] light creates mind.” The Museum of Modern Art has collected the films of Andrew Noren since 1969, and the has presented two retrospectives of his work—both organized by former film curator Laurence Kardish—in 1981 and 2002. Comprising five films made between 1978 and 2008, Above the Lighted Field is presented as a tribute to the artist, who died at 71 on May 2, 2015.
Lazar Stojanovic’s Plastic Jesus, 15–21 April
Lazar Stojanovic was a student at the Belgrade Academy of Dramatic Arts in the early 1970s when he made his thesis film, Plastic Jesus. The narrative centers around a Belgrade-based avant-garde Croatian performance artist and structural filmmaker (Tom Gotovac, playing an ironic version of himself). Stojanovic’s filmed footage is interspersed with black-and-white archival scenes of Yugoslavia between World War II and the late 1960s; this juxtaposition between the free-spirited protagonist and Nazi and Yugoslavian war propaganda forms a commentary on individual freedom of expression, Yugoslavian society, and authoritarian governance. As Josip Broz Tito’s government experienced radical shifts, the film was confiscated as subversive, Stojanovic was thrown in jail along with other student reformist leaders and artists, and scenes were redacted. It was not until 1990 that the film was released, proclaiming, “Plastic Jesus was filmed in 1971, arrested in 1972, convicted in 1973 and set free in 1990.” This is the film’s New York theatrical premiere.
Modern Mondays: An Evening with Tony Conrad, 18 April
Join Tony Conrad (b. 1940), celebrated experimental filmmaker, minimalist composer, and video artist, for an evening presentation of new work. Conrad’s work since the 1960s has been recognized for pushing the boundaries of each medium with which he has engaged. He will be joined by Stuart Comer, Chief Curator, Department of Media and Performance Art, for a conversation.
Modern Mondays: An Evening with Lynette Wallworth, 25 April
To kick off MoMA’s five-evening salute to the Sundance Film Festival’s New Frontier program, Australian artist Lynette Wallworth discusses her multimedia works, in which interactive and immersive technologies create powerful encounters with subjects as varied as war-ravaged communities and the immensity of the natural world. This evening includes the New York premiere of Collisions (2016), a short film and virtual-reality project developed through a New Frontier residency that debuted at Sundance 2016. Collisions centers on an indigenous elder who describes the Australian government’s atomic weapons tests of the 1950s as his first encounter with Western society. This 3-D, 360-degree experience produces a revelatory portrait of conflicting ways of life and affirms an arresting new mode of multimedia storytelling—in which cutting-edge technology serves to create a human connection. Presented as a part of Slithering Screens: 10 Years of New Frontier at Sundance.
Slithering Screens: 10 Years of New Frontier at Sundance, 25-29 April
Slithering Screens is a special selection of original cinematic works that premiered in the Sundance Film Festival’s New Frontier program over the past decade. Presented at MoMA on the occasion of the program’s 10th year, these works hack the cinema space itself by presenting stories that move from the silver screen onto the stage and into the hands, pockets, and homes of the audience. Featuring works by Lynette Wallworth, Yung Jake, Nao Bustamante, Miwa Matreyek, and the filmmaker/creative technologist duo James George and Jonathan Minard, Slithering Screens is an energetic mix of cinema-inspired performance, interactive documentary, and immersive media storytelling.
Ongoing Exhibition: Her Man: A Forgotten Masterwork in Context, 29 March – 4 April
Notes taken from Berlin Film Festival programme.
1. Still from Anucha Boonyawatana’s The Blue Hour. Courtesy of www.berlinale.de.