Film is dead, long live film. Hark, the herald trumpets blast—whoa, not so fast. There are still lots of people making movies on celluloid. A few Hollywood directors with box-office clout continue to shoot 35mm film (and collect wet kisses from critics for their efforts). Not so well-known, though, is that avant-garde filmmakers well and truly own the film medium now.
Some are in sync and in love with the tactile, handmade aspect of filmmaking. Others cherish the tension between experimentation (the effects of light, the rhythms of editing, the magic connection between music and image) and discipline (celluloid is costly, especially compared to drives and chips). The great beauty of the Light Field Festival of Film, a deep dive into contemporary and classic celluloid-based art co-presented by Intersection for the Arts’ Intersect San Francisco, Dec. 7-10 at The Lab, is the range of motivations, inspirations and approaches within a single program.
The opening night compilation of ethereal 16mm films spans the world premiere of Pasadena filmmaker Gail Gutierrez’s one-minute street-stairs soliloquy, Falling Upward, to the late, great Chick Strand’s evocative and empathetic 1976 portrait of the domestic rituals of rural women, Mujer de milfuegos (Woman of a Thousand Fires). Turkish-born, Milwaukee-based filmmaker Nazli Dincel’s Shape of a Surface is rife with textures and (historical, archaeological and metaphorical) layers, while UK artist Bea Haut’s black-and-white Defenestration transcends traditional projection to incorporate aspects of installation and live performance. Frankly, it’s difficult to conceive of a more appropriate film event to land on the cusp of the festival of lights (aka Chanukah) and the season of (Christmas) lights than the Light Field Festival.