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The purpose of this page is to give you an idea of the typical programming of an AFA show, and to provide you with details on films and filmmakers we've showcased. In 2007, in addition to our ongoing research and documentation activities, we showed 26 films over the course of five public shows. The following programs are chronicled from the most recent 2011 show backward to the first of the calendar year.
Friday, September 30, 2011: Dig We Must: a Cinematic Ode to the beat Era
Tonight, we celebrate the Beat era with a rarely-screened film that chronicles the live performance of several poets in the Beat genre, Alan Ginsburg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti among them. We’ll also screen a rare jazz film from the era as well as another goodie that while not exactly “beat,” reflects much of the same joie de vivre.
About ‘beat:’ Interest for this show as kindled by the discovery that Beat icon Neal Cassady lived down the street from the Women’s Club, on Santa Clara Street. Carolyn Cassady raised a family in Monte Sereno, and Johnnie Cassady had a band called the Feltones, so family roots run deep here in the San Jose area. The Beat era had a spawning ground in the Bay Area, and influenced the Psychedelic Era and free jazz, music, and poetry. And some beat-era folks may be joining us for the show, too.
'Wholly Communion' (1965) 35 m, dir. Peter Whitehead. The best poetry film we’ve ever seen... let's take the wayback machine to London's Royal Albert Hall in June, 1965, for a poetry convention (The International Poetry Incarnation) featuring Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Adrian Mitchell, and our personal favorite Ernst Jandl (whose wordless poetry brings down the house in a pandemonious riot). About halfway through the film, poet Harry Fainlight gets testy when heckled by an audience member, and the event threatens to break down into a great anarchic mess. The film was shot with a single, zoom-lens camera, and the camerawork could be described as being as anarchistic as the poets themselves. A lovely film, and a great document of the transitionary era between "beat" and "hip".
‘Shelly Manne’ (1959?) 15m, uncredited director. Beat and Jazz were two themes constantly intertwined in the era, and a classic west coast jazz spot at the time was Shelley’s Manne Hole in L.A. Drummer Manne created some of the more progressive music emanating from the LA post-bop jazz scene in the 1950s. Here, we witness Manne’s landmark group, performing in an uncredited television show which I suspect was called "Take Another Look". The real star here is the underappreciated tenorman Richie Kamuca, whose forceful solos highlight the cool, bop, and post-bop tunes in this short film. Other musicians include tpt. Conte Candoli, p. Russ Freeman, and b. Monty Budwig.
'Frank Film' (1973) 9m, dir. Frank Mouris. In a dizzying array of 11,592 collage shots, Mouris utilizes multiple voices to summarize his life, an amazing film that challenges the visual and auditory senses to the extreme. He made this film while teaching at Harvard, on a production schedule that involved seven consecutive 10 hour days. Nominated for an Academy Award in the best animated short category, 1973, the film is a free-flowing mash of images that combines the angst of the Beat era with the psychedelic creativity that followed it.
Of the over 1500 films we presented our underground theatre in San Jose from 1997 through 2006, several provoked constant requests for a return. Tonight, we're showing the films that are among our finest. If you never attended a ciné16 show, prepare to be amazed at these extraordinarily interesting and exciting rarely-shown films. On tonight's how:
'Bate's Car: Sweet as a Nut' (1974) 15m, dir. Tony Ianzelo. Harold Bate is an eccentric British inventor whose old car runs on 'the material', which we soon find to be chicken droppings (the engine compartment is full of weird gauges, hoses, and pumps invented by him, and the damn thing actually runs...) Bate also showcases his perpetual-motion bicycle, which the assistant cameraman rides but cannot stop (oops, Bate forgot to install brakes). Ianzelo’s portrayal of this brilliant and ultimately odd inventor, which was shot in one day as a vignette while the crew was engaged in working on another film deemed more important, is funny, whimsical, and intelligent, and one of the more memorable films ever produced by the National Film Board of Canada.
'Calder's Circus' (1963) 17m, dir. Carlos Vilardebo. From his home in Saché France, the gruff and funny Alexander Calder hosts, in French and English, a circus consisting of his small wire, cork, and cloth sculptures. They perform to the tune of Mrs. Luisa Calder's Victrola, to a small-but-raucous audience of friends. This documents some of Calder's finest work, which he stopped formally exhibiting "when it filled 5 valises".
'Canaries to Clydesdales' (1977) 28m, dir. Eugene Boyko. We agonized over this choice, as it meant supplanting two other films that were very good in themselves. Ultimately, this film, which is at the same time a vocational film, a Western film, and a business film, was so powerful that it couldn't be ignored. An award winner at two festivals, 'Canaries' is a "day-in-the-life" visit with country veterinarians Vic Demetrick & Reg Maidment as they make their appointed rounds. Think you've seen everything? Trust me, you'll need a strong stomach for this one: castrating a sheep, sawing out a still-born calf, removing porcupine quills from a dog's muzzle, and sticking an arm up a cow's butt are all in a day's work for these two. A fascinating film, not the least of which is the playful personal interaction between these old friends at work.
'Congruent Triangles' (1976) 7m, dir. Bruce & Katharine Cornwell. What’s the best way to describe geometrical concepts in a film? This film encompasses abstract design, third stream jazz, and Klee-like animation, in which the Cornwells make a showpiece out of a seemingly mundane subject. When the International Film Bureau went out of business, the Cornwells’ fine films were not picked up for distribution by any other company. For more information on their oeuvre, visit: http://www.afana.org/cornwell.htm
‘Heartbeat of a Volcano’ (1970) 21m, prod. Bert Van Bork. This film is, we think, the granddaddy of all volcano films, a twenty-one minute trip to hell in the fast lane. Van Bork intended, in his visit to the big island, to film the sputtering Kilauhea, show the geologists using seismographs and geotometers, and maybe get a shot or two of the degassing process at the vents. Instead, as the ground base geologist yells into the short-wave: "she's going wild, she's going wild!", the volcano trembles furiously, dramatically erupting from a threatening lava vent. The following sequence is perhaps unprecedented in academic film, roughly seventy seconds of non-narrated footage, accompanied only by natural sound. These moments are filled with spectacular night shots of a giant firefall twice as high as Niagara Falls, glowing lava streams and tremendous explosions.
'It's Done with Arrows' (1947) 11m, prod. Howard Hill. Hill was a legendary archer, showman, and fishing pal of Errol Flynn. His films are largely unknown today, a pity, because they're unforgettable. In this wonderful perios piece, archery tricks are made accompanied by starlets & co-eds, where short skirts & bumpercone bras are the rule. As the narrator sez, "archery is foremost a sport, and she can dispense with the clothing." Beyond the glitz are terrific arrow tricks, such as shooting a quarter at 50 feet, and hitting a lightbulb at 90 feet. We snuck in this recent acquisition, never before shown at ciné16.
'Magicians of India' (1940?) 10m, uncredited director. This gem combines the best in colonialist attitudes with some truly amazing magic from the fakirs shot in real-time with no edits (we can't figure how they do it either).
‘Vampire’ (1979) 30m, prod. Adrian Warren. The vampire bats of Trinidad approach their prey on wing and on foot, as graphically illustrated by the donkeys abused in the filming of this picture. Sneaking up behind and biting ‘em on the heels, they then follow these tethered and tormented creatures as they wander in circles. The humans then work to catch the winged mammals, poison them, then go to their cave to collect the dead. This film really makes ‘Dracula’ seem pretty tame...
Wednesday, February 13, 2008: History San Jose's "History Makers" series,
to be held at MACLA, 510 South First Street
The melting pot that is America is not, socially or economically, always an easy one to enter. Despite the fact that we’re not as economically, ethnically, socially, or sexually stratified as many Asian countries, the challenge of leaving one’s home country and adopting new mores can be daunting. The challenge crosses generations, as US-born children of immigrants often differ with their parents on the concept of "joining" vs. "acquiescing". In addition, while the prejudices of the old country are left behind, they often reveal themselves anew, this time with different names, faces, and languages. In the 1970s, educational film companies began attempting to decode the melting pot. The thematic material in the films they produced on this broad subject often took one of three forms:
Tonight, we’ll showcase two of these important films, which continue to have relevancy today. There will be a panel discussion of the films and themes, and the audience is invited to participate. Tonight's films are:
‘Side By Side: Prejudice’ (1980) 15m, uncredited director. Here, a Chinese girl discovers her white girlfriend is not going to invite her to the prom because her boyfriend insists on going to an all-white country club. The end is purposely ambiguous.
‘Overture: Linh from Vietnam’ (1980), 26m, dir. Seth Pinsker. ‘Linh’ is a fine ethnodrama on Latino-Asian relations, and focuses on two mothers, Latino and Vietnamese, both working in sewing factory. Though their stations in life are similar, the Hispanic woman views her Vietnamese counterpart as an enemy, stealing from her already too-small piece of the economic pie. The enmity filters down to unwritten laws regarding the ethnic groups from which their adolescent children are allowed to date. As an educational film, the ending cannot point fingers at ethnicities or cultures, but Pinsker effectively avoids a syrupy finish.
The AFA hosted no public shows in 2007.