FICKS’ PICKS San Francisco Cinematheque’s annual experimental film festival CROSSROADS 2018 is celebrating its ninth year at SFMOMA this weekend, Thu/7-Sun/10. With 84 works of film, video and performance cinema by 72 artists representing 20 countries and 6 continents with nearly 30 artists anticipated to be in attendance.
For newcomers to experimental cinema, perhaps overwhelmed by the sheer amount of films and filmmakers, I have put together a simple visual list of the fest’s most exciting experiences. For connoisseurs of the avant-garde, I have put a spoiler-free emotional response to a film from each of the jam-packed programs. Also listed are all of the tribute screenings to the Bay Area’s beloved projectionist/filmmaker/inspirer Paul Clipson (R.I.P.)
Jonathan Schwartz’s The Crack Up (18 minutes)
My favorite film of the entire festival and named after a collection of essays by F. Scott Fitzgerald, this stunning creation seeped into the glaciers of my anxiety-ridden stomach. Plays in Program 8, Sunday, June 10 at 2:15pm
Talena Sanders’ Reasonable Watchfulness (6 minutes)
This “diary/collage film” kept me up all night long as it pulled me down. Plays in Program 4, Saturday, June 9 at 1:45pm. Filmmaker IN PERSON!
Richard Tuohy’s Blinding and Blending (11 minutes)
Calmly superimposing the interiors of space, this Australian is an absolute revelation, with four films being showcased in this year’s festival. Plays in Program 8, Sunday, June 10 at 2:15pm. Filmmaker IN PERSON!
Peggy Ahwesh’s The Falling Sky (10 minutes)
Cryptic refashioning of footage lifted from an online animated new outlet. Fans of Ahwesh’s She Puppet (2001) be excited. Plays in Program 10, Sunday, June 10 at 6:30pm
Karen Yasinsky’s Vera (6 minutes)
With glorious music by Andrew Bernstein, this found footage/animated masterpiece takes so many twists and turns that you’ll be wanting to watch it again as soon as it ends. Plays in Program 2, Friday, June 8 at 9:15pm
Simon Liu & Warren Ng’s High View (24 minutes)
This year’s definite main event is this a quadruple 16mm-projected extravaganza. Hand printed & processed, this breathtaking new film layers its participants, taking these home movies to a truly otherly world. Combined with Warren Ng’s haunting live musical accompaniment. Plays in Program 6, Saturday, June 9 at 8:00pm. Filmmakers IN PERSON!
Kerry Laitala’s Astro Trilogy: Velvet of Night, Chromatic Wheels, Kali of Technology (33 minutes)
Exploring stunning new designs and utilizing her trichotomous tri-projector, these three separate patterned patchworks have to be experienced in a theater to achieve maximum hypnotic bliss. With live accompaniment by the band Wobbly! Plays in Program 2, Friday, June 8 at 9:15pm. Filmmaker IN PERSON!
Paul Clipson’s Another Void (11 minutes)
Filmed in the Tenderloin nights of San Francisco, Paul Clipson found absolute cosmic magic with his in camera collaging. This one reaches the glorious heights of Blade Runner (1982) and even 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) for me. Plays in Program 10, Sunday, June 10 at 6:30pm
Dianne Barrie & Richard Tuohy’s China Not China (14 minutes)
With close to a dozen layers in some sequences, this parade through the late night streets is absolute medicine for insomniacs. Plays in Program 10, Sunday, June 10 at 6:30pm. Filmmakers IN PERSON!
Jessica Bardaley’s The Making and Unmaking of the Earth (17 minutes)
Extremely emotional exploration, combining archival footage of the earth’s processes with personal accounts of the self. A truly special film. Plays in Program 1, Friday, June 8 at 7:00pm
Kevin Jerome Emerson’s IFO: Identified Flying Object (10 minutes) and Ears, Nose and Throat (10 minutes)
Interviews of real life UFO sightings along with an uncomfortable trip to the doctor’s office, KJE has delivered two more mindful movies to his ever-growing oeuvre. Both play in Program 7, Sunday, June 10 at Noon
Alexandre Larose’s Saint Bathans Repetitions (20 minutes)
Screened in glorious 35mm and filmed in a town of New Zealand, this meditative multiplication of minor moments helped pace my breathing for its full 20 minutes. Plays in Program 6, Saturday, June 9 at 8:00pm
Akosua Adoma Owusu’s Mahogany Too (3 minutes)
Inspired by Nollywood’s remakes and sequels of American films, this tiny trek revives Diana Ross’ iconic role in Barry Gordy’s Mahogany (1975). Program 3, Saturday, June 9 at Noon. Filmmaker IN PERSON!
Dianna Barrie & Richard Tuohy’s Pancoran (9 minutes)
Filmed in 16mm within the busy streets of Jakarta, this explosive exercise in movement mixed up my sense of direction masterfully. Plays in Program 3, Saturday, June 9 at Noon. Filmmakers IN PERSON!
Paul Clipson’s Absteigend (2012, 6 minutes)
Showcasing Evan Caminiti’s haunting music (from his Dreamless Sleep album), this was one of the first films of Paul Clipson that changed the way I saw light, shadow and reflections. Program 5, Saturday, June 9 at 4:30pm
Alison Nguyen’s you can’t plan a perfect day sometimes it just happens (9 minutes)
The irony of this collage of blown-out, re-appropriated footage from contemporary White American commercials will linger long after the screening. Program 10, Sunday, June 10 at 6:30pm. Filmmaker IN PERSON!
Dianna Barrie & Richard Tuohy’s Inside the Machine (12 minutes)
Dual Super 8 projection crisscross their ways through sight and sound. Humans and machines converge, the world is never the same. Plays in Program 5, Saturday, June 9 at 4:30pm. Filmmakers IN PERSON!
Paul Clipson’s Union (2011, 14 minutes)
This defining Super 8 film of Paul Clipson has the haunting music of Jefre Cantu-Ledesma. Plays in Program 4, Saturday, June 9 at 1:45pm. NOTE: There will also be “A Tribute to Paul Clipson” on Thursday, June 21, 2018 at 6:00pm at SFMOMA. The FREE event will include a slide show of illustrated film changeover notes from his book REEL, and a screening of his films and others he curated for the museum. The program includes a special musical performance by Paul’s collaborators and friends, Liz Harris (Grouper) and Jefre Cantu-Ledesma.
Tickets and more info here.
Jesse Hawthorne Ficks teaches and is the Film History Coordinator at the Academy of Art University and curates/hosts the MiDNiTES FOR MANiACS series in the Bay Area. He is a member of the San Francisco Film Critics Circle and writes film festival reviews for 48hills.