Film at SLC

Film events have been plentiful on campus this semester. Here's a recap of some of the major events that have taken place recently.

Making Movies at SLC

At the Bronxville Cinema in April, a crowd of almost 200 laughed heartily at the Sarah Lawrence-specific jokes in “We Are Zombies, So Are You,” by Kyle Chu. The final movie in the Student Film Festival told the story of an unwitting first-year who arrives on campus and discovers that all the other students are zombies.

Nick Colia ’11, president of the Student Filmmaker Coalition, said the film community has grown in leaps and bounds since he first arrived at Sarah Lawrence.

This was the first year the film festival was held off campus. Showing more than a dozen short films, the festival screening was open to students and the public alike. The films, which ranged from documentary shorts to animation, were selected by a jury of 30 students and faculty from diverse academic fields. (In previous years, they were chosen exclusively by the Student Filmmaker Coalition.) “The goal was to open things up and bring in a bigger variety of opinions,” said Colia.

Experimental Filmmaker Ken Jacobs

Ken Jacobs, a groundbreaking, avant-garde artist who has been experimenting with film for more than 50 years, visited campus in February to show some of his work and discuss his techniques with students and faculty.

Jacobs was at the forefront of the underground film movement of the 1950s and ’60s and continues to make films today. Retrospectives of his work have been shown at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the American Museum of the Moving Picture, and The American Center in Paris, among others. He also co-founded the film department at Binghamton University, where he taught until 2003.

Film History faculty member Malcolm Turvey said that Jacobs was invited to campus in part because “he has survived totally outside the film industry (both independent and mainstream). I wanted students to see that this is possible.”

As an artist, Jacobs’ goal is to explode cinema. He uses film less as a vehicle for storytelling and more as a tool to try to change the way that people look at the world. His techniques include a variety of moving-image media, from modern digital technology to hand-manipulated projectors that don’t even use film.

During his talk, Jacobs explained the basic premise behind his work: “I think that art must confuse you; you have to go through a period of confusion and then surmount it. It’s not necessary to understand it, but it must somehow be absorbed.”
Jacob’s visit was sponsored by the Spencer Barnett Memorial Fund, which honors the memory of a Sarah Lawrence student and passionate devotee of experimental film who passed away in 2008.

Bruno Barreto Film Series

Also in February, the College hosted a film series and discussion with Bruno Barreto, the Academy-award nominated director from Brazil. (Barreto’s son, Gabriel, is a student at Sarah Lawrence; he studies film history with Gilberto Perez, who arranged the series.)

Barreto’s work is much more story-based and traditional than the avant-garde Jacobs. Barreto’s movies range from comedies like Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands to social commentary and political thriller such as Four Days in September, a film that depicts the true story of the kidnapping of an American ambassador in Brazil.

Despite a snowstorm on the day in February when he was to speak to students, the turnout was high and the question-and-answer session lively at the Heimbold Visual Arts Center.

Fielding questions about his career and his directorial techniques, Barreto said that many things weren’t necessarily planned. “The secret to improvisation is preparation. When I’m really prepared, then I’m ready to improvise. It sounds like a paradox, but believe me, it really works. When you have a very solid starting point, then you can relax, explore, and play,” Barreto said--advice that seemed applicable well beyond the world of filmmaking.