The spring line-up at the San Francisco Cinematheque gets underway this Saturday with a four-part program (extending through Sunday) entitled ‘Apparent Motion’, which will feature live projector performances by artists from around the world.  Other highlights include the presentation of several of James Benning’s film and video works, as well as a lecture by the artist himself, a trip back through SFMOMA’s programming history with Steve Anker, an introductory overview of the Australian avant-garde, a Lynne Sachs retrospective and much, much more.  The following is just a brief sampling of the many wonders to be found throughout the diverse season… 

APPARENT MOTION [Saturday, Feb. 20th – Sunday, Feb. 21st]:

Apparent Motion celebrates the art of live image projection—the cinematic exhibition apparatus exposed as a primal light and sound machine, an invention without a future, ripe for rediscovery. Working with modified or distressed film projectors as if they were musical instruments or with live manipulation (even mutilation) of projected film (or even directly with the exalted beam of light itself), the artists presented over this weekend fuse image and sound into profound site-specific (yet cinematic) experiences—dazzling light works suggesting a paradoxically concrete form of sound/image synesthesia.” (Steve Polta)

[Friday, Feb. 26th - Sunday, Feb. 28th]:

Since the early 1970s, James Benning has created a body of formally innovative, long-form film works which use duration, understated camera work and (at times) elliptical narrative to examine cultural assumptions and contradictions with American culture and history, often revealing darkness or ideological conflict lurking beneath the surfaces of everyday appearances. A filmmaker committed to navigating his own deeply ambivalent relationship with American culture and history, Benning’s works explore the intersections of landscape, history and ideology as elegant monuments to contemplation and the passage of time. This three-program series presents two early films, two new video pieces and a detailed artist presentation that trace these threads in Benning’s work.”


Australian avant-garde film history is characterized by formal investigation into themes of landscape, alienation and perception. While their works are in conversation with contemporaneous European and American filmmakers, experimental filmmakers in Australia have worked largely in isolation to produce highly developed experiments with split screens and mattes, optical sound, collage animation and optical techniques (such as colour separation processes). Using the landscape as motivation or a formal premise as a starting point, the films in this program reflect the iconic aesthetics and innovative approaches that shape Australian avant-garde film history from the early-1960s through the 1990s. The rare 16mm prints in this program are provided either directly from the filmmakers themselves or from the National Film & Sound Archive in Canberra, Australia.” (OTHERFILM)


SFMOMA resumed regular screenings in early 1967 and continuing through late 1978, presenting programs sometimes once and at other times several times per week. During these years, Bob White, Edith Kramer, Mel Novikoff and Ken DeRoux were the curators. The programming was eclectic and strong, including classic films of all eras and nationalities. It primarily included contemporary independent narrative and documentary features from around the world but also had a steady presence of avant-garde films by local and non-local artists. The three-program series will begin by focusing on several avant-garde films by filmmakers whose work the museum highlighted during this period. In addition, independent features will be included in the second and third programs that are reflective of the daring and informed series and retrospectives that each curator initiated. In keeping with the spirit of the time, these programs will be eclectic; I have invited two critic-curators, Irina Leimbacher and Bérénice Reynaud, to expand the horizons of this mini-series. Of course, the range of what was shown can only be hinted at in three programs but hopefully the originality and depth of what was accomplished can begin to be acknowledged and appreciated.” (Steve Anker)

STATES OF BELONGING [Saturday, April 10th - Wednesday, April 14th]:

Working since the mid-1980s, variously on lyrical formal shorts and long form experimental documentaries, Lynne Sachs’ body of film and video work has explored the relationships between individual memory and experience in the context of large historical forces. Foregrounding personal history and autobiography, Sachs exalts the intimate gesture as perhaps the most heroic of poetic and political acts. With a keen grasp on cultural theory and media history, Sachs’s films avoid academicism in their celebration of life and political engagement, presenting complex pictures of the world with lyrical grace and joy.  States of Belonging is a four-part retrospective of the filmmakers work, presented as an earnest collaboration between San Francisco Cinematheque, the Pacific Film Archive, ATA’s Other Cinema and Oddball Film + Video. The series will be accompanied by a limited-edition monograph—available at each of the screenings—featuring original writings by Susan Gerhard, Kathy Geritz, Lucas Hilderbrand and Bill Nichols.”

The full Cinematheque schedule, complete with pictures and descriptions, can be found here


I had the pleasure of spending a little bit of time with some of the those involved with the Cinematheque while attending the screening of Robert Beavers’ film cycle, and it was clear that these are people devoutly dedicated to preserving and presenting cinema in many of its most breathtaking forms.  Those with the possibility of attending any of these offerings are highly encouraged to do so, as the potential rewards are truly immeasurable.