From now through April, the Oberhausen International Short Film Festival will present “Film Studies in Motion”, a Web Series curated by Volker Pantenburg and Kevin B. Lee. This series, available on the festival’s website and Facebook page, presents weekly selections of analytical video essays on the web, in preparation for Pantenberg and Lee’s presentation “Whatever happened to Bildungsauftrag? – Teaching cinema on TV and the Web”, scheduled for April 28 at the festival.
Week Four: Precursors: TV, Cinema, Contemporary Art
There is a a tradition of “Videographic Film Studies” that existed before the Internet. Some TV channels, like the West-German WDR, but also TV programmers in other countries, initiated an impressive variety of programmes on cinema that combined thorough analytical observations with an inventiveness of visual forms and techniques. Found footage has also been used in experimental cinema and contemporary art. Most examples of this audiovisual legacy remain either overlooked or invisible as they are stacked away in archives or private catalogues. For this reason, this episode mostly gathers fragments and snippets instead of entire essays.
Screening Room (1972-1981)
Even in a world with hundreds of cable TV channels on the air, today it’s virtually impossible to conceive of a commercial TV program dedicated to discussing experimental filmmaking in depth. But there was a time when such a program existed; in fact it lasted for a decade and left an indelible legacy to appreciating the art of cinema.
Screening Room was a 1970s Boston television series that invited independent filmmakers to show and discuss their work on a commercial (ABC-TV) affiliate station. This unique program, developed and hosted by filmmaker Robert Gardner, dealt even-handedly with animation, documentary, and experimental film, welcoming such artists as Jean Rouch, Jonas Mekas, Stan Brakhage, Hollis Frampton, Yvonne Rainer, and Michael Snow. Frequently, famous literary guests such as Octavio Paz, Stanley Cavell and Rudolph Arnheim appeared as well. The filmmakers presented on the show are now considered the most influential contributors to their respective genres and the footage is invaluable for students, scholars and lovers of film. The series is now available on DVD through Studio7Arts.
View all Motion Studies video selections.
Volker Pantenburg is assistant professor for moving images at the media faculty of the Bauhaus-Universität Weimar.
Kevin B. Lee is Editor in Chief of IndieWire’s PressPlay Video Blog and contributor to Roger Ebert.com. Follow him on Twitter.