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Click on year for:    2005 Shows | 2004 Shows | 2003 Shows | 2002 Shows | 2001 Shows |  2000 Shows| 1999 Shows | 1998 Shows 

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The purpose of this page is to give you an idea of the typical programming of a ciné16 show, and to provide you with details on films and filmmakers we've showcased. The following 59 programs, encompassing 234 films, were shown in 1996 and 1997, listed backwards chronologically from December 1997; for other years, please access the proper link at the top of the page.

1997 Highlights: In addition to the continuing series of weekly shows, ciné16 begins to host filmmakers, who preside at the showing of their films, and participate in Q & A sessions afterward.  This year's lineup included:   Bert Salzman (January 9), Bill Deneen (May 22), Larry Yust and Isidore Mankofsky (September 25), and Gerald McDermott (October 2).

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 Wednesday December 17: Dig We Must... Significantly Large Civil Engineering Projects

Tonight’s films document major civil engineering projects that were undertaken for three disparate reasons: to save lives, to promote commerce, and to preserve the past. Each, however describes the difficulties humankind faces in redirecting the forces of nature, and is a powerful reminder of the challenges faced in removing large amounts of stone and diverting or displacing massive volumes of water. We experience the outcomes of projects such as these every day of our lives, yet we’re largely ignorant of what forces come into play to get them started, and once they commence, the machines and machinations that are brought into play to get them finished. We found the Dutch films particularly fascinating, and were still thinking about caissons days later, as we idly played with an unusually rich bouillabaisse...

'Holland: Hold Back the Sea' (1967) 15m, dir. George Sluizer. Provides a tremendously interesting historical background to the Delta project, including the diking of the Zuider Zee in the early part of this century, the resultant polder farms created out of the former sea, and the devastating floods of 1953.

'Holland: Delta Project (Delta Phase I)' (1962) 20m, dir. Bert Haanstra. Historian Georges Sadoul calls Haanstra the "best documentarist" in Dutch cinema. This film contains incredible footage of the installation of undersea caissons as the foundation of a series of dikes that eventually would prevent the sea from encroaching on western Holland. Together with the previous film, provides a comprehensive insight into one of the more unique engineering projects in world history.

'The World Saves Abu Simbel' (1967) 30m, dir. Herbert Mayer-Franck. A Unesco film describing the moving of the colossal upper Nile statues to a higher altitude, necessitated by the construction of the High Aswan Dam. Lacking the financial and technological means to perform the task alone, many world governments cooperated in this Herculean effort to save this work, built in the lifetime of Ramses II, from inundation. Among the most impressive engineering aspects to the operation were the sawing and transportation of some 2000 blocks of 10-40 tons each, and the building of a coffer dam to protect the work site.

'Boulder Dam' (1940?) 15m, uncredited director. This silent black and white film chronicles the making of the dam which was in a large part responsible for much of the southern California sprawl that followed in its wake. Lots o’ blastin’ & pourin’. Great scenery too, from the US Department of the Interior.


Wednesday December 10... While We Were Sleeping:  Six Perspectives on the Music Film

Some time ago, in our deep dark nation’s past, high school music educators found John Philip Sousa. And with that discovery, out went jazz, ethnic, baroque, and all the other colors that prevent music from dying a lingering death in the crepuscular shadows of stagnation. I always wondered what most music educators listened to when they got home... Sousa, of course (good during the old "3 Esses"), maybe a little Lawrence Welk during dinner, maybe a little more Lawrence Welk when having sex, the "Horst Wessel   Song" of course when mustering the kids for bed. They enjoyed their boring little world so much that they, in turn, brought their dim and claustrophobic vision into the classroom for their students to enjoy, too. Concepts like improvisation, atonality, rhythms other than 2/4, brown, black, yellow and green people playing instruments made out of grass, clay, or bark? Absolutely communist!

Why am I describing this gang of ineffectual educators to ciné16 viewers? Because the magnificent music films on tonight’s program you probably never got to see, because your music teachers were so stuck on marching band music that great music films about great music never were brought into the classroom. Tonight’s program is what good music films should be all about: magnificent pieces of technically demanding work (Rubenstein, et al), wildly improvisational mixes with other media (Weil), or a showcase for the absolute weirdness of genius (Gould). The show includes:

‘Sorcerer’s Apprentice’ (1962) 15m, dir. Edward English. NO THIS IS NOT DISNEY. Lisl Weil was a splendid charcoal artist who draws gigantic figures to the famous piece by Dukas. Since this film, she’s become a well-known author/illustrator of children’s books.

‘Street Musique’ (1972) 11m, dir. Ryan Larkin. Fun, transformational animation by one of the animation giants at the National Film Board of Canada.

‘Toot, Whistle, Plunk, and Boom’ (1959) 10m, dir. Ward Kimball. Made when Disney actually allowed animators to experiment with two-dimensional animation, Kimball was told he’d never be able to pull a stunt like this again (he won the Oscar for this film in 1959).

‘Bassoon’ (1975?) 15m, dir. unknown. If I show the bassoon film last, you’ll walk out ahead of time won’t you? And if I show it first, you’ll arrive at eight. No one likes the bassoon except its own players, but Archie Camden is a real funny man who plays terrifically and narrates just as well. I want you to see it so much that I’m putting it in the middle of the program. So there.

‘Trio’ (1953?) 30m, dir. Irving Reis or Jules Dassin. Landmark musical performances were a staple of early television, but unfortunately many of the early examples have been destroyed. This extremely rare film documents cellist Gregor Piatigorsky, violinist Jascha Heifetz, and pianist Artur Rubenstein. Somewhat stilted in the way only early television can be, it nevertheless showcases the technique and personalities of three of the 20th century’s greatest musicians.

‘Glenn Gould’s Toronto’ (1979) 30m, dir. John McGreevy. One of the stranger films of any genre, the eccentric pianist plays a bit for us early in the film (complete with wig, makeup, and frock-coat), then takes us on a bewildering tour of his city (in the late Gould’s biography, McGreevy states that part of the challenge of making the film was that Gould never actually went anywhere, and McGreevy had to ferry him to places he’d never been --- shopping malls, for example --- in order to film a reaction. Gould is absolutely crazy in several segments.


Wednesday December 3... Assemblage

One of the more fascinating aspects to viewing educational film is the experience of seeing how an intricate object --- whether a boat, a mobile, a barrel, or a house of twigs --- is built. Tonight’s four films are more than lessons in assembly: they are ethno-cultural documents that tell us as much about how the lives of the makers are impacted by the process of design and development as they do about the objects themselves.

‘The Jean Richard’ (1963) 30m, dir. René Bonnière. We’ll say right up front that this is one of the most fascinating films we’ve seen to date. Every winter, the fishermen of Petite Rivières, Quebec, would gather together to built a vessel called a goélette. Hewed from trees growing on nearby hills, these large boats are built outdoors in extremely cold weather, using axes, adzes, and steamboxes to shape the timbers. When completed, these flat-bottomed craft trade along the St. Lawrence River, settling on silt at low tide in each village due to the lack of deepwater docking facilities. The film culminates in an all-night accordion party prior to the launching.

‘Building a House (Bozo People)’ (1967) 8m, dir. Hermann Schlenker. No, we’re not talking about the world’s most famous clown... the Bozo of Mali make exceptionally well-crafted homes out of local vegetation in a film made by one the great ethnographic filmmakers.

‘Cooperage’ (1975) 13m, dir. Philip Borsos. The intricate craft of making of wooden-staved barrels at Sweeney’s Cooperage in British Columbia.

‘Mobile by Alexander Calder’ (1980) 25m, dir. Robert Pierce. Calder’s large mobile in the East Wing of the National Gallery of Art presented design, engineering, and installation challenges unpredictable at the time, and largely unappreciated today. Architect I.M. Pei and engineer/artist Paul Matisse collaborate with the artist. This is the last film involving Calder, who died before his sculpture was to be installed, and features interesting early footage of the mechanical ‘Calder Circus’.


Thursday,  November 20... Five Artists: Escher, Russell, Chagall, Burchfield

Art films are a terrible challenge for the historian, who has to deal with fading Eastman film, splices and missing footage (art classes were always the hardest on film). Try to find a decent print of a Picasso film (none seem to have main titles) and you’ll see what we mean. On the other hand, certain artists, due to their relative unpopularity within the academic community, have had their films preserved quite well, as is the case with tonight’s Russell and Burchfield films. Tonight’s artists have nothing in common with each other save their merit as artists, and the fact that a very good film exists on each. As familiar with Chagall and Escher as you may be, I think you’ll be delighted with the work of Burchfield, a terrific watercolorist unfortunately largely ignored today. And if you (like me prior to seeing this film) have limited your view of Charles M. Russell to his being little more than a bump on the road to being a creative artist, you may leave ciné16 with a revised perspective.

‘Adventures in Perception (Escher)' (1971) 21m, dir. Han Van Gelder. A beautifully crafted film relying on the two-dimensional drawings of M.C. Escher, master of perspective. A favorite of art school students everywhere, our print is a bit hacked at the beginning before it settles into sprocket-arms of the mighty (but temperamental, mind you) Bell & Howell 552s for a gentle glide to finish. Of the numerous prints we’ve seen, this is the most watchable. An Oscar nominee in 1971 for Best Documentary short.

‘Chagall’ (1964) 30m, dir. Simon Schiffrin. The artist is somewhat reminiscent of Dalí in that numerous offerings of well-known images in print auctions of questionable nature have watered-down the aesthetic value of the overall work of a very good artist. If your opinion of the artist has been shaped by the commercial hype and hysteria, tonight’s film (Oscar-winner for best short subject, 1964) is a valuable document that puts his work in historical perspective. Highly recommended.

'Charles M. Russell: An American Artist' (1982) 25m, dir. Janice Broderick. Exceptional camerawork by David Gulick. If you think Russell was just another hack cowboy artist, you may be pleasantly surprised (as I was) at the talent and sensitivity of his work as portrayed in this wonderful film.

'Charles Burchfield: Fifty Years of his Art' (1966) 14m. dir. unknown. Like many watercolorists, the artist has been somewhat buried historically, which is a shame... his vibrantly exotic nature scenes evoke a bit of the old German expressionism, and his wallpapers and fabrics were superb.

'Paul Delvaux dans son Atelier' (1978) 10m, dir. Henri Storck. A poetic film featuring the well-known Belgian surrealist in his studio.


Thursday, November 13... Native America on Film: pre-1970 Classics

For some reason --- possibly because filmmakers were hyper-sensitive to offending native American interests --- most post-1960s 16mm films dealing with native American history and culture descended into two general categories: some films were hell-bent on promoting intra-tribal political agendas, with the result that films often seemed to be thinly-veiled advertisements for self-esteem programs or commercial enterprises, while other filmmakers, fearing to deliver a non-native perspective on native culture, chose instead to relate to seemingly every historical theme/event as a harbinger of new-age mysticism. Replete with whooshing wind sound effects, rambling techno-ethnic modal music scores, and "deep" narration, post-1960s films on native American themes are generally a boring, intellectually vapid fare more suitable to "dining room television" than to the classroom. Tonight ciné16 will return to the days of yesteryear with six beautifully crafted films --- from the somber to the sublime ---made prior to these more politically correct, yet perhaps less intellectually challenging times.

‘Ishi in Two Worlds’ (1967) 20m, dir. Richard C. Tomkins. This film features historic footage of the last Yahi Native American, discusses the circumstances surrounding the death of his tribe, and his integration into the academic community in Berkeley. A sad and noble document, the ‘ciné16’ print is splicy and red, yet begs to be shown.

‘Hands of María’ (1968) 20m, dir. J. Donald McIntyre. María Martinez was the greatest of the San Ildefonso potters. A fascinating look at her life and work.

‘Modoc’ (1965?) 15m, dir. Peter Winograd. "They brought smallpox, whisky, and Christianity"... a gripping history of the 1873 Modoc war against the US.

'Geronimo Jones' (1970) 20m, dir. Bert Salzman. Possibly Salzman's hardest hitting film, Geronimo is a Papago-Apache youth who has been given the gift of an amulet worn by his grandfather. In buying a birthday present for the grandfather, he trades the amulet for a TV, which he places before the grandfather. When Geronimo turns on the TV, the two are instantly reminded of the relationship of the native American to contemporary society. A gripping film and winner of numerous festival awards.

‘Navajo Weaver’ (1969?) 10m, dir. Susie Benally. Part of a series of seven silent films made by Navajos themselves, Benally shows her mother preparing, then weaving at the loom.

‘Indian Hunters’ (1949) 10m, dir. Stephen Greenlees. Shown earlier this year, a poetic canoe trip through upcountry Quebec in search of better hunting grounds.


Thursday, November 6... A Different Kind of Life: a Tale of Three Living Environments

We’ve found films depicting the ways people live in a non-urban/non-suburban fashion to be among the most interesting that have passed our way. Tonight we’ll show three films that speak to a lifestyle perhaps unfamiliar to us, yet which constitute the norm in other parts of the world.

‘Floating Logging Camp’ (1979) 20m, dir. Carl A. Jones. Forty five air minutes outside of Ketchikan, Alaska lies a nomadic village of loggers & their families. As the work moves to different localities, so does their village, moored offshore, and built of logs. These giant log rafts have houses, markets, and schools. A fascinating look at people who seem to embrace a certain kind of loneliness.

‘Mediating’ (1984) 60m, dir. Peter Montagnon. One of my great regrets as an archivist was missing a opportunity to obtain all of this director/producer’s ‘Heart of the Dragon’ series on China, hands-down the best overview of any country I’ve ever seen. In fact, every time I see one of his films the mixed emotions of joy and regret run deep, and you’ll understand my perspective once you see ‘Mediating’, which shows the oddly-democratic process of mediating marital disputes in the People’s Republic. Montagnon views China from an objective viewpoint, and his films combine good camera work with dramatic, sometimes difficult story content. We plan on showing several more in this series in 1998, and encourage you to see this one as an introduction to a filmmaker of the first rank.

‘Family Life: A Kibbutz' (1970) 13m, dir. Yehuda Tarmu. The idea of one’s children being taken care of by non-family members has ever been a difficult one for most Americans to accept, yet the Israelis have been doing it for years without it, apparently, tearing apart the moral fibre of the youth. Tarmu’s interesting look into how it’s done combines interviews with birth-parents and descriptions of the processes that make a kibbutz viable, and is remarkably undated, although made over twenty-five years ago. This film may be pertinent in this country as well: as more American families adopt the two-parent income, we suspect the kibbutz model may indeed be re-investigated by many who may see the communal life as a welcome alternative to the challenges of traditional American child care.


Thursday, October 30... Films To Watch With The Lights On: The Most Terrifying Films We've Seen This Year 

‘Rail-Rodents’ (1954) 6m, dir. Dave Tendlar. This ‘Herman & Katnip’ cartoon is certainly one of the most violent we’ve seen, and we’re not sure whether to blame the director or writer Jack Mercer for the ten grisly murders or three maimings that take place in this short cartoon for small children. Parents who yearn for the ‘child-protective’ years of the fifties may want to step into tonight’s wayback machine to see how things really were...

‘Masque of the Red Death’ (1970) 10m, dir. Pavao Stalter/Branko Ranitovic. This beautifully animated (shades of Vermeer and blue period Picasso) production from Zagreb is so dark that we can’t see how it ended up in a school film library, but it did. Parents who want internet filters at the library to shield the kiddies from porn may want to add Yugoslavian cartoon filters as well, as these pictures induce more nightmares than pictures of naked ladies ever will...

‘The Hangman’ (1964) 12m, dir. Paul Julian. A cynical look at how humankind loves to feed others into the death machine, from a disturbing poem by Maurice Ogden, read by Herschel Bernardi. Shadows and shifting geometric planes lend a Chirico-like quality to Julian’s animation. Not a happy film.

‘Helen Keller’ (1962), 25m, dir. Jack Haley, Jr. This is the ONE film I can’t watch at home with the lights out. I don’t know if it’s the scary black-feathered ‘bat hat’ she wears, or the mournful quality of her voice in her 1930s vaudeville act, or Mike Wallace’s maddeningly sad commentary announcing the death of still another link to the outside world, or the hearse which comes to take her away... we’ve all got stuff that gives us the creeps, and man, I don’t personally even like handling the film can when I put it back on the shelf. I’ll even take volunteers to run the projector while I time-out upstairs for a shot to steady the nerves...

‘La Jetée’ (1963) 29m, dir. Chris Marker. Told through still photos and narration, the story of a post-apocalyptic attempt to change the present by reworking the past. A remarkable and pensive film suggesting the folly of attempting to change the inevitable, and one which has influenced countless filmmakers.

‘Night and Fog’ (1955) 30m, dir. Alain Resnais (with assistant director Chris Marker). A poetic and Gallic interpretation of the concentration camp milieu, this is decidedly not holocaust lite! Probably no film in history provides such a succinct and powerful statement of evil. A tough film to watch, but one of the great films of history; rarely shown, but well worth your while if you can get through it. Seeing this film in the industrial, bunker-like confines of the cement-encasketed ‘ciné16’ speakeasy may add to the despair of the viewing experience. Our last film of the evening, and one which, I guarantee, you’ll never forget.


Thursday, October 23... Bill Cosby: 70's Agent of Change

Bill Cosby has become something of a beloved paternal figure: sitcom patriarch, pitcher of food products, deliverer of commencement addresses. But in the seventies, the comedian began taking on the persona of an agent for social change, as witnessed by his role in America’s first interracial television drama, as well as films such as the two we’ll see tonight. It could be argued that Cosby was the first black person advocating social change that was palatable to mainstream white America. His initial vehicle was comedy of a universal, non-racial flavor, which separated him from previous comic/provocateurs such as Dick Gregory, whose politically insightful humor became less accepted as he began the "hunger strike" period of his career, which had the unfortunate outcome of placing Gregory into the "nut" category by many white adults. Cosby, on the other hand, transitioned from his singular comic role to that of advocate for social change by participating in educational films that, rather than attempting to change the minds of adult bigots, were aimed instead at students who still might be in the process of forming opinions on race. There was nothing compromising on Cosby’s style: as a narrator/host, his opinions are clear, and occasionally delivered acerbically; as a writer/performer, he plays the role of a racist of many colors in one of the strangest social films ever made. We at ciné16 feel that it’s time to evaluate this important aspect of the actor’s career, and credit him for taking important steps to change the history of racism that permeated the social milieu of our country.

‘Black History: Lost, Stolen, or Strayed’ (1968) 50m, prod. Andrew Rooney & Vern Diamond. Cosby begins his narration in a classroom, discussing little-known black inventors and the impact their creations had on America. The program becomes progressively more intense, and, to a certain degree, frustrating for the viewer as the breadth of discrimination becomes ever more apparent, as is the historical lack of understanding of the positive contributions made by black scholars, scientists, and artists. Written and produced by Andy Rooney, it is appropriate today as ever, a timeless film that, not surprisingly, demands to be seen today both in a historic as well as contemporary light.  Part of CBS News’ ‘Of Black America’ series.

‘Cosby on Prejudice’ (1972) 25m, dir. Bill Cosby/Tom Mossman.  Four years after ‘Black History’, the actor presents a fascinating monologue on bigotry, taking on the role of racists of all colors and social classes. Cosby wears strange eye makeup someone resembling blinders, and set colors undergo a garishly continual change. This Cosby-produced film could almost be called experimental in its approach, and is a radical departure from the comedic or narrative personae displayed by the actor in previous films. An entertaining, unusual, and sobering film.

‘Crisis in Levittown’ (1957) 25m. dir. Lee Bobker/Lester Becker. The Black upper middle-class Myers family moves into all-white Levittown, PA in August, 1957, and are snubbed and mistreated, in this powerful landmark documentary showcasing racism in the United States.


Thursday, October 16... NFBC Two: Tribute to the National Film Board of Canada

Earlier this year we presented an evening of films made during the heyday of the organization that can rightly be called the most significant and influential public film movement in the history of the art form. Although the Canadian government diminished the impact of the Board by shifting funds from film to TV's CBC in the late 70s, older Film Board work is timeless and classic.Tonight's films are magnificently crafted, all-too-rarely shown, and each is, in its own way, unforgettable. And, as was the case with all NFBC work, all suggest the wit and individualism of the Canadian character, the presentation of which was the essence of the charter mission of the Film Board.

'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.

'The Street' (1976) 11m, dir. Caroline Leaf. A terrific transformational animated film based on a Mordechai Richler story, animated by oil on glass.  Winner of the Blue Ribbon at the American Film Festival Awards, 1977.

'Par Une Belle Nuit d'Hiver' (1974) 33m, dir. Jean Beaudin. A young couple meets on a cold winter evening, falls in love that night, only to find the magic of their evening disturbed by the middle-aged couple next door, who throw a boisterous, drunken, and slightly debauched party. The unpredictable ending makes for a wonderful, unfortunately unappreciated film. In French, without subtitles, but our ciné16 audience will I’m sure rise to the occasion of understanding the beauty of the film nonetheless.

'In Praise of Hands' (1974) 28m, dir. Donald Winkler. An amazing art film focusing on hand-crafted materials, including rare footage of the makers of 'Ocumichos', fantastic devil-characters of Mexican mythology.


Thursday, October 9... Headfirst Into the Time Tunnel: Three Directors Journey To the Past

The medieval and romantic eras were the subjects of many an educational film, and images of tiny soldiers marching across nameless battlefields armed with cardboard headgear and tin weapons are still memorable in an unpleasant sort of way. History was all-too-often taught by rote, with emphasis on dates, the significance of battles, and memorizations of lineages of kings. What was lost was the spirit of the times, and perhaps, because of this, the relevance of history to our times was lost as well. Tonight’s films are significant in that they eschew the didactic and carry the viewer along as almost a participant, rather than a disinterested observer. Each of these films is exciting, bold, and risky in its treatment, and fun. They stand far above most of the historical work done for the educational market, feature wonderful performances, terrific photography, and first rate directing. You’ve seen John Barnes’ fine work at ‘ciné16’ before, but you may not be familiar with the majestic work of Piers Jessop, or the wonderful films done by Helen Jean and John Secondari. All of them were at the pinnacle of their form in the early-to-mid 70s, and viewing their work as a group offers an interesting contrast of treatments of historical themes. If you slept through your share of history films, tonight’s an opportunity to see historical films done the right way.

‘Middle Ages: A Wanderer’s Guide’ (1973) 27m,dir.  Piers Jessop. We think this film may be one of the top fifty ed films of all time, with stellar performances by Nicholas Pennell as your gregarious host Robert, and Jessie Evans as Chaucer’s Wife of Bath.

‘Romanticism: Revolt of the Spirit’ (1971) 30m, dir. Helen Jean Secondari, p. John Secondari. This team made some of the finest educational films of the 1960-1985 era, and ‘ciné16’ will eventually present an evening of their films (John has passed away, and so far we’ve not been able to contact Helen). Terrific on-location footage accompanies a well-thought-out explanation as to the causes and effects of this era, so influential to the art and music of contemporary and subsequent generations.

‘Spirit of Romanticism’ (1977) 26m, dir. John Barnes. One of Barnes’ last films, Tim Piggott-Smith stars as an irascible, almost insufferable Lord Byron. A fun film, and a wonderful foil to the Secondari treatment of the same subject.

'Magna Carta' (1959) 30m, dir. John Barnes. The director filmed much of the dramatic action at Runnymeade, where the signing took place, and at other important historical sites in the area. A good background on the reasons the charter holds an important place in the history of individual rights.


Thursday, October 2... Animator Gerald McDermott in person at ciné16!  

Gerald McDermott was a mystery to us for a long time: maker of five of the most artistically arresting ethnofolk titles we'd even seen, we were curious as to why his film output ended suddenly in 1973. A trip to the library provided the answer: after his last film, McDermott turned to illustrating children's books, for which he won the Caldecott Award as outstanding illustrator for both 'Anansi the Spider' and 'Arrow to the Sun'. When we mentioned that it had been difficult to find information on him or his films, he replied that we "could have asked any 7 year old". Born in 1941, Gerald McDermott made his first commercial film (Stonecutter) at the age of 19, an extremely complex animation short featuring approximately 2000 animation cels presented in six minutes. Influenced by Klee and Matisse, McDermott used silk-screen as well as traditional painting techniques in crafting ethnographic folk tale animation shorts. With films that are startling in intensity, and majestic in execution, McDermott is clearly one of the outstanding animators of his generation, despite having an output consisting solely of only five films, all of which are under 12 minutes in length.

We'd ordinarily suggest that McDermott is terribly underrated as an animator and filmmaker, but it might be truer to say his fine film work is instead not rated at all by virtue of the fact that it is largely unknown today. Current histories of animated film seem to be unfamiliar with his work, so his appearance at ciné16 will be a high point for lovers of animated film desirous of finding lost treasures. Join us tonight as we discuss the craft of the animated film with a luminary who retired from film at the age of 32.

Tonight Gerald will show (and discuss):

Stonecutter (1960) 6m
Sunflight (1966) 4m
Anansi the Spider (1969) 10m
The Magic Tree (1970) 12m
Arrow to the Sun (1973) 12m


September 25: Special 7 pm start... Larry Yust in person at ciné16!  

Few critics would disagree that Larry Yust ranks among the elite of filmmakers working in the educational/theatrical genre. From the radical version of Shirley Jackson's 'Lottery' to the brooding and magnificent treatment of Conrad's 'Secret Sharer', Yust provided a challenging and extremely well-crafted series of films for EB in the 1960s and early 70s.  He'll join us tonight (along with master cinematographer Isidore Mankofsky) for an all-too-infrequent public appearance, and will select a program consisting of some of his favorite films. An earlier ciné16 show of Yust's films provided some of the best fanmail we've ever received. Please arrive early (we'll start at 7pm) for this unique event. Tonight we'll screen:

'Long Christmas Dinner' (1975) 38m, dir. Larry Yust. In a remarkable adaptation of Thornton Wilder's play, Yust uses elements of Japanese Noh Theatre to represent the passage of life. An extremely powerful - and somewhat scary - film starring David Soul.

'The Lottery' (1969) 20m, dir. Larry Yust. One of the two best selling educational films ever, Shirley Jackson's 'The Lottery' was nearly stopped from distribution by EB because of its dark content. William Fawcett as Old Man Warner must certainly rank as one of the bizarrest characters ever to grace an ed film. Yust's anecdotes about using actual townspeople from Fellows, California are a fascinating view of the filmmaking process.

Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment’ (1969) 20m, dir. Larry Yust. We asked Yust to suggest a third film for the evening, and his choice was this Faustian drama that we have not yet seen ourselves. We’re excited that we’ll be able to view a film that, like many of the others we show at ‘ciné16’, is virtually impossible to obtain today.Plus one other to-be-determined Yust classic.

For a full bio and filmography, click on Larry Yust.


Thursday, September 18... Trouble in Paradise: a Tale of Two American Cities

Tonight’s program is a study in contrasts, from a young black high school track star trying to make it in 1960s LA to the draconian urban policies championed by police commissioner (and soon-to-be-mayor) Frank Rizzo in the Philadelphia of the 1970s. As is the case with many ‘ciné16’ shows, there is a bittersweet real-life ending to the youthful optimism of the Willie Davis story. These two fine documentaries showcase the talents of Mel Stuart and Gerald Polikoff, and remind us of the days when network news organizations were more concerned with telling a good story than selling cereal.

‘Biography of a Rookie’ (1961) 50m, dir. Mel Stuart. Stuart was a vastly underrated d/p/w who created documentaries for David Wolper Productions. In 1961, he visited the LA Dodgers’ rookie camp to chart the progress of Willie Davis, a teenage track athlete trying to crossover into baseball. On the way, Willie & his mom sign the contract, he gets tutored by a paunchy, cigar-smoking talent scout, and we meet some of the players who were once and future legends. The film ends as the decision is made to keep Willie on the big club.  Davis went on to a noted acreer: he was a member of the National League All-Star team in 1971 and 1973 and won three Gold Gloves, 1971-73. In 1969, he had a 31-game hitting streak, tying the longest in franchise history.  

 In life, as in basebaIl, not every story has a happy ending.  On 04/15/97, USA Today reported:

Former Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Willie Davis was arrested March 14 while waving a samurai sword and ninja-style throwing stars in a confrontation with his parents over $5,000. Davis, 55, was picked up outside his parents' suburban Gardena home near Los Angeles. Davis, a former All-Star outfielder who played for the Dodgers from 1960 to '73, was clutching the weapons when deputies arrived at the home, authorities said. Charlie Davis, 85, and, Maudest, 76, who had locked themselves in a room of their house, told authorities their son demanded they give him $5,000. ''He told deputies that he would burn the house down if his parents wouldn't give him the money,'' deputy Jim Hellmold said. Davis was booked for investigation of assault with a deadly weapon, attempted extortion and exhibiting a deadly weapon.

‘Super Cop
’ (1970) 30m,  dir. Gerald Polikoff. I just read an article about the vast collection of cigars once owned by Frank Rizzo, now being auctioned for top dollar. Along the way, the writer talked about what a lovable guy ol’ Frank was. Unless, of course, you were black, politically progressive, or looked different, something that the writer didn’t bring up. Of course, Rizzo was a paunchy, white, conservative non-intellectual, just like the readers of ‘Cigar Aficionado’ which is where I found the article (now waitaminnit, Geoff, what were YOU doin’ reading it???) Let’s see, back to the point... Rizzo represented the worst in municipal police policy, the antithesis of what we today call community policing, and it’s easy to see why this ‘us vs. them’ philosophy caused tension, burnings, and riots in the late 60s,/early 70s. Back when NBC could still show a controversial documentary, Polikoff created a fine one on this archetype, shown in the film sympathizing with police officers up for charges of beating up suspects in their custody.

‘The Crowd’ (1975?) 15m, dir. Pierre Rihouet. Some experts now say that massive overcrowding doesn’t cause people to become more violent, but we’re not so sure. We found this 15 minute gem last week, chock full of hot edited crowd sequences that leave us with a sense of wonder that Rihouet’s work isn’t better known. Reminiscent of Arthur Lipsett’s ‘Very Nice, Very Nice’ shown earlier this year at ‘ciné16’.


Thursday, September 11... Five Parisian Shorts

No, we not talking about bikinis, bragas, boxers, tight-whites, or bermudas. French filmmakers have made a wonderful contribution to the educational film, primarily affective films without dialogue, that say something --- not always happy --- about the human condition. Tonight's films are well-crafted bittersweet tales that provided a welcome respite from many of the didactic ed films being made in the US during the same era.

'Clown' (1969) 15m, dir. Richard Balducci. Along with Larry Yust's 'Lottery', 'Clown' was probably the two best selling ed films ever made. On the surface, it's a cute kid & dog story. Underlying is a possible subtext that fascinates us every time we view the film, and makes for a satisfying, yet ultimately ambiguouis ending.  Gilou Pelletier is outstanding as the small boy, and the camera work by Guy Suzuki takes wonderful advantage of the terraces of Montmartre.

'Encore un Hiver' (1979) 15m, dir. Françoise Sagan. This wonderful film focuses on an older woman waiting on a park bench on a cold winter day for a lover who returns every year.

'Boy Alone' (1969) 15m, dir. Claude Pinoteau. In the Tuileries, a boy appears distant, and lonely.  When people approach him, he withdraws, forcing the viewer to question the differences between loneliness and being alone.

'One-eyed Men are Kings' (1974) 15m, dir. Edmond Sechan. In this Academy Award nominee, we witness a man's quest for friendship. He masquerades as a blind man, acquires new respect and becomes the center of attention; his ruse is detected and he resumes his lonely existence.

'Red Balloon' (1956) 34m, dir. Albert Lamorisse.  This wonderful story of a boy's pursuit of a balloon, filmed in Menilmontant, Paris, features exquisite cinematography by Edmond Séchan.


Thursday, September 4... John Barnes: The Odyssey

The filmmaker's three 1/2 hour films made in 1965 on the subject of the 'Odyssey' were --- in the Barnes tradition --- filmed in sumptuous surroundings, in this case the sound stage at Cinecittà in Rome (the storm scene using models is wonderful). Starring Simon Lack and Ann Moorish, this is a tremendously exciting rediscovery of Homer’s epic tale. Barnes' films are several cuts above virtually all educational films dealing with the humanities: they feature superior cinematography --- for example the opening beach pan, which stops at a hole in a beach cliff, then fades to a similar cave in the studio, then reverse pans to host Gilbert Highet. 'Odyssey', like so many other of Barnes' films, carries the viewer to a surprisingly deep emotional understanding of characters and events, and we encourage those unfamiliar with this filmmaker to visit our John Barnes pages for bio and filmography. Filmed in 1965, our print is a bit on the magenta side, part of the terrible legacy of the poor quality print film sold by Eastman in the 50s through 70s. Barnes' 'Odyssey' is such a terrific series of films that the intellectual viewer will notice the color shift only briefly, then concentrate on the wonderful acting, great camerawork, and first-rate directing of John Barnes.


Thursday, August 28... Growing Up With Fidel

As a salsa musician playing with keyboard player Eddie Reyes back in the early 80's, I well remember the night we played at the old Don Juan club in downtown SanJo. Unlike the Búgalu, our usual venue, the Don Juan boasted an aging audience, probably no one under the age of 60. From the moment the music started, one fellow would stand up occasionally and vigorously shout "Viva Castro!", then just as quickly sit down. At roughly 11 PM we were playing "Spanish Eyes", Eddie's one accordion number, the floor was packed with slowly moving silhouettes, a balmy night in old Mexico. Our friend again shouts "Viva Castro", and sudden;y the whole room erupts: the old guys start swinging at each other, one side of the room against the other, the women scream and hug the walls, the furniture turning over in the melee. Eddie and I look at each other and keep playing, a sound track for the film unfolding before our eyes. Incredibly, the men, though swinging furiously, land no punches; the women, cheering their gallants, take no sides against their women friends, and suddenly, as if nothing had happened, the fight ends, chairs and tables get rearranged, and of course, we're still on "Spanish Eyes". Machismo has been preserved, and the flames of romance have been rekindled.

Which brings me to the point of tonight's show: few leaders have been as both vilified and loved as Cuba's Castro, and the generation-old embargo has ensured that few of us have had the opportunity of seeing for ourselves what life in Cuba is really like. The press was always allowed to travel to Cuba in order to "tell it like it really is", and tonight we'll show two films of the type seen on television and in schools, both made by legendary news teams, and both leaving us with the feeling that maybe Fidel was getting the short end of the PR stick. Consider director Alan Landsburg's 'Fidel Castro' (1962, 25m) from CBS News' 'Biography' series. Lots of great early shots of Fidel and Bautista, but narrated with a distinct anti-Castro edge by Mike Wallace. Wallace's narrative qualities, of course were the best, but today we would perhaps view the script by Landsburg and Irwin Rosten as being inflammatory against the Castro regime.

Did ABC News' director Arthur Holch do better in 'Cuba --- the Castro Generation' (1977, 49m). Visually engaging, and narrated by Howard K. Smith, this film takes us on a trip to the cigar factories of Havana, to the clinics and schools. Judgments are formed, but perhaps not as strong as the 'Biography' film. These films not only portray elements of Castro's Cuba, but also, in their editorial content, helped to form opinions in the developing minds of the generation now leading our country. We ultimately ask ourselves some important questions: is the ongoing boycott of Cuba of any real value? And are films like these partly responsible for the current US political orientation toward the longest ruling leader in the Western Hemisphere?

For the opposite viewpoint (probably at least as propagandistic, but a lot more fun), how about 'Cuba and Fidel' (1975, 30m), made by a collective of four filmmakers from the US, in which Fidel discusses his politics in an intimate interview? The fun begins as we travel with Fidel as he makes friendly visits with various families, drinks, smokes cigars, tells jokes, and has a grand time.


Thursday, August 21... The Pen Shot by the Camera: Five Writers On Themselves

One thing I’ve learned about showing the intellectual stuff at ciné16 is that the more great documentaries and literary themes we pursue, the smaller our audience is. Without getting into the argument about whether San Jose is cosmopolitan enough to address challenging, stimulating topical material, the fact is that without an outlet for these types of films, bright people won’t ever get the exposure that ciné16 provides, and so we continue on our mission to provide great unknown films to a quality audience of whatever the size. This week I’m gonna do it again, and I’m expecting even fewer people than usual since folks got to be able to read to enjoy this program. Now many of you have seen me in the black suit with the lavender pocket square enjoying my Dominicans as the thick gray smoke envelopes the projector lamps of our mighty Bell & Howell 552s, and I’ve noticed --- when the fog lifts --- that some of you tend to move toward the front as I light up my second. Far from being merely trendy (I’ve smoked cigars since the 6th grade, when kindly Mr. Smethers introduced them to us on a class outing to Candlestick Park), I’ve actually taken pains to avoid smoking some brutal Nicaraguan cigars that I love, but can clear the room of less-discerning amateurs. But since I can predict a reasonably small crowd for tonight’s program (the watered-down pop-salsa of Pete Escovedo at ‘Music in the Park’ is going to draw minivanloads away from us as well), I’m going to bring several of the darker varieties of tobacco with me this Thursday evening, knowing that I’ll have several miles of space between me and the screen. Those who are courageous enough to brave the elements will be handsomely rewarded with one of the finest shows we’ve ever programmed, an insight into the wit and irony of writers Ray Bradbury, Irving Stone, Eudora Welty, Carl Sandburg, and Tomi Ungerer. Tonight’s smoky favorites include:

‘Story of a Writer: Ray Bradbury’ (1963) 20m, dir. Terry Sanders. A self-effacing Bradbury is shown hacking away at stories in his basement, at rocket sites, and undergoing a strict editing process in his living room joined by fellow writers. A compelling film about a legendary writer about to enter his prime, produced by the legendary Mel Stuart.

‘Carl Sandburg Discusses His Works’ (1961) 15m, prod. Edward R.. Murrow. Sandburg was famous for being a cantankerous interview, but he loved Edward R. Murrow, who spent a day with the historian-poet at his farm in North Carolina. Those of us who’ve been to Connemara (now a national park) have marveled at the mounds of ephemera strewn through every room, and this film documents it in its most pristine form. A classsic.

‘Tomi Ungerer: Storyteller’ (1981) 20m, dir. Gene Deitch. An engaging and funny man, Ungerer is one of the darkest of all writers of children’s books. He discusses his fear of the dark, how children enjoy the terror in his books, and takes an absolute joy in being an iconoclast. Not a word is mentioned about the fact that he’s also one of the world’s most ribald adult cartoonists in this insightful and humorous interview with cartoonist Deitch.

‘Eudora Welty’ (1975) 30, dir. Richard O. Moore. A beautiful and charming interview with the lively author, who reads for a spell, then talks about the South.

‘Writing: an Interview with Irving Stone’ (1976) 18m, dir. Doron Kauper. Author of books about Van Gogh, Michelangelo, and others, Stone offers a fascinating view to the time-consuming and difficult process of writing, and chronicles his arguments with his wife/editor Jean.


August 14: The first documentary: revisiting 'Nanook of the North'

'Nanook of the North'
(1922) 64m, dir. Robert Flaherty. Film historian/producer/theoretician John Grierson credits Flaherty with creating the first film that could properly be called a documentary (a word, incidentally, invented by Grierson). Prior to this film, ethnic peoples were shown in travelogue films as curiosities, seemingly devoid of personality or nobility. Flaherty, who filmed the Inuit in the Hudson Bay area explored by his adventurer father, showed the daily life of Nanook and his family as they brave the elements in their quest for survival in that unforgiving environment. Flaherty went on to make several other classics, among them ‘Moana’ and ‘Men of Aran’. Nanook would be dead of starvation two years after the work was completed on the film bearing his name.

'Knud' (1966) 31m, dir. Jorgen Roos. There can't have been many explorers as bright as Knud Rasmussen, who traversed northern Canada from Atlantic to Pacific in 1921-24 during the 5th Thule Expedition, recording languages and music of the people we now call the Inuit. Born in Denmark, Rasmussen's mother was a Greenland Inuit, so Knud learned the language at an early age, thus was able to document a culture in its pristine state better than any non-indigenous explorer ever could. Jorgen Roos’ terrific film uses real footage from Rasmussen's explorations, including a strangely chilling synch of Rasmussen's silent film footage with field recordings that must have been made on a primitive --- and durable --- recording device.. We even see photos of his wife, but given his penchant for travel as well as one of his most famous quotes ("Give me snow, give me dogs, keep the rest") we can but wonder as to the rhyme or reason of that liaison This rare Danish film shows a remarkably human side to the explorer, and is in my top ten list of favorite 16mm films. I'll include a somewhat distressing but honest verbal note regarding the necessity of film preservation after the film is shown. Knud’s writing bordered on the poetic, as in this on Hudson Bay Shamans (1930):

The angakoq consists "of a mysterious light which the shaman suddenly feels in his body, inside his head, within the brain, an inexplicable searchlight, a luminous fire, which enables him to see in the dark, both literally and metaphorically speaking, for he can now, even with closed eyes, see through darkness and perceive things and coming events which are hidden from others: thus they look into the future and into the secrets of others.

The candidate obtains this mystical light after long hours of waiting, sitting on a bench in his hut and invoking the spirits. When he experiences it for the first time, "it is as if the house in which he is suddenly rises; he sees far ahead of him, through mountains, exactly as if the earth were one great plain, and his eyes could reach to the end of the earth. Nothing is hidden from him any longer; not only can he see things far, far away, but he can also discover souls, stolen souls, which are either kept concealed in far, strange lands or have been taken up or down to the Land of the Dead".

For background information on one of the most remarkable people this century has produced: http://www.nlc-bnc.ca/north/nor-i/dorset/dors003e.htm

'Indian Hunters' (1949) 10m, dir. Stephen Greenlees. Two members of the Ottawa tribe paddle and portage a canoe to find food in Quebec backwoods waterways. From the National Film Board of Canada.


Thursday, August 7... Giving Olde English the Boot (as wielded by Dr. Frank Baxter & Andy Rooney)

When ever I get into a discussion on the subject of educational film,somebody always asks: “hey, remember the bald guy who used to do science films?” He’d probably rather be known as Dr. Frank Baxter, the glib, bemused host (and wearer of the worst looking suit I’ve ever seen on film) of some of the best known ed films of the late 50s -early 60s. Well, recently I’ve been reviewing some of those films, like‘Our Mr. Sun’, ‘Hemo the Magnificent’, etc. And you know what? They contain some of the most blatant pro-religious propaganda this side of Gene Scott. And no wonder: they were directed by one of America’s most beloved homophobic religious zealots --- oops, I mean directors --- Frank Capra (read his autobiography). We elementary school kids must have either missed the propaganda, or skipped critical thinking class that day: the films stand out in our minds as well-crafted and funny,but some come up short in the time test. Perhaps “someone upstairs”also sensed a church/state conflict: in the late 1950s responsibility for these Warner Bros. - made titles was transferred to Academy Award nominee Owen Crump, who produced terrific films such as “It’s About Time”, and tonight’s film, ‘Alphabet Conspiracy’.

‘Alphabet Conspiracy’ (1959) 55m, dir. Robert Sinclair. This is the only Bell Science film to explore a subject not specifically related to a traditional "hard science", the study of language. Frustrated by the ambiguity inherent in the English language, the Mad Hatter (Hans Conreid) and Jabberwock attempt destroy Language by lighting an explosive charge under the world’s great literature. On a fantastic, enlarged cartoon library set designed by William Kuehl, they convinced a young girl to join their conspiracy, when Baxter as "Dr. Linguistics" arrives to illustrate the value of the writtena nd spoken word. Guests range from jazz trumpeter Shorty Rogers, who banters in beat phrases, to psychologist Keith Hayes, whose research on chimpanzee communication was made with chimp family member and guest Viki. .

‘Strange Case of the English Language’ (1968) 48m, prod. Andy Rooney. While ‘Alphabet Conspiracy’ can be viewed as a great children’s film that adults may like as well, ‘Strange Case’ is a funny, occasionally acerbic film for adults that also appeals to bright kids. Rooney’s tenure as ‘60 Minutes’ resident curmudgeon often masks the fact that he was a
magnificently witty writer (we’ll show his sobering ‘Black History: Lost, Stolen or Strayed’ later in the year). And how many hosts today are as adept at interpreting irony, amusement, and intellectual bewilderment as was Harry Reasoner? But the real highlight of this film is an amazing interview with Peter Ustinov, who mimics American speech patterns.

Tonight’s films are two of the finest documents on the English Language we’ve seen, and each of them represents a historically significant gathering of individuals who today are considered giants in their respective crafts. They may considered to be rare: ‘Alphabet Conspiracy’ is never shown to adults, and the witty, understated ‘Strange Case’ is sadly never shown anywhere.


Thursday, July 31... Low Rider Double-Header

‘Boulevard Nights’ (1979) 102m, dir. Michael Pressman
‘Low Rider’
(1976) 20m, dir. Frank Lisciandro

Some of you may have seen my buddy Pete Fallico lugging a big Hammond B3 organ to various jazz events in the Bay Area. Pete and I both taught for the County Office of Education, and we enjoyed working with “at-risk” kids, and trust me, there weren’t many volunteers for those positions: the kids could be tough, insulting, and uninterested. So we tried unusual educational techniques, one or two of which I’d probably be fired for today (in spite of the fact that the students settled down, learned, respected us, and liked us, as well). Most our kids were east-siders, and damned if one day I didn’t walk into Pete’s class to find the janitor at work with the wrench, lowering every chair and table right down to the ground! Think those guys were proud of the classroom? Ay, que firme!

I’ve always had a passion for low-ridin’ automobiles, and now there’s even one in the Smithsonian. So if there’s one in our nation’s showcase museum system, there’s gotta be one at ciné16. Tonight, there’ll be a whole lotta them, right up on the big screen, as our mighty Bell & Howell 552 projectors heat up for the formulaic, predictable, and terrifically ethnic ‘Boulevard Nights’. OK, go into any video guide and read about this one-star film. But see, they miss the point, ese. This film’s complete with hot jumpin’ ranflas, rucas firmes, and maybe the best part’s when the carnales run afoul of la placa and head over to Old Man Diaz’ for a tat. Where’s the ethnographic part? For starters, riding around in circles chatting up the girls is just a Califas version of the old evening paseado, practiced in the major square of virtually every Spanish town and city, new world and old. And what about ‘caló’, the patois spoken in low and slow circles from here to San Antonio? Words like ruca (meaning old woman, changed to mean “old lady” or girlfriend) and vato (man) derive from the same ‘caló’ spoken in Flamenco circles in southern Spain, carried to the new world by the first conquistadores.

There’s a thriving and important element of Hispanic culture here, and although directed by a guero, 'Boulevard Nights' has captured much of it. The story is hackneyed, so I’m not even going into it, love story, cops, jail, etc. Richard Yñiquez and Marta DuBois are serviceable actors. The real star in my book is the cameo by Carmen Filpi, portraying the cranked-out tattoo artist, Old Man Díaz. We show very few features at ciné16, but feel the positive ethnic elements of this entertaining film were ignored by contemporary critics, and perhaps needs to be shown in this context.

‘Low Rider’, made by the US Department of Transportation, is a funny film made with the Imperials Car Club of Echo Park about the travails of drunk driving. Rumor has it that a contingent from the SCCounty DA’s office will be in attendance to view this film. We invite you to join them.


Thursday, July 24... Avoiding Madame Schmatz: the Tricky Business of Severe Mountaineering

Climbing Everest, El Capitan, or downhill skiing in the Antarctic are tough enough for the adventurer. But what about the photographer, who does all of the above, and must film it? Severe weather, arduous conditions, and avoiding objects which at first appear to be tents are challenges which must be met by the intrepid cinematographer. Tonight we'll feature three of the most cinematically stressful films we can find. Ah, you ask, but who is Madame Schmatz? Adventurer Chris Bonington in "The Everest Years" tells it best: coming down from the top, he "noticed what looked like a tent... veered toward it... and as I came closer, realized that it was a woman sitting very upright in the snow, fair hair blowing in the wind, teeth bared in a fixed grimace. I didn't look any closer, but looked away and hurried past. I guessed it was the body of Hannelore Schmatz" who died from exhaustion on a 1979 climb. She'd died further up the mountain, but had been carried further down by gravity, and in fact still today, she's way up there. Why not do the humane thing and bring her down? Check out Audrey Salkeld's Schmatz story, to find out what happened when they tried: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/nova/everest/everest96/week2/newsflash/news59.html.

But I digress. Here are three outstanding films that are certain to challenge acrophobics:

'Americans on Everest' (1965) 55m, prod. Norman Dyhrenfurth. Purported to be the first motion pictures taken from the summit, taken by the first American team to scale it, with terrific narration by Orson Welles. Top notch.

'Sentinel: West Face' (1968) 20m, dir. Roger C. Brown. Yvon Chouinard and Royal Robbins climb 1600 feet of sheer face in Yosemite, and still manage to grin for the camera. A real vertigo-producer.

'The Cutting Edge' (1980) 18m, dir. Eric Perlman. Yuichiro Miura is famous as the man who skied down Everest, reportedly attaining speeds of over 100 mph down 45 degree slopes, stopping with a parachute. In tonight's film, he attempts to ski down an 8000 foot peak in Antarctica, gets buried by an avalanche, then does it again successfully the next day down slopes of 60 degrees. I'm not sure if he's a comic-book caricature of a 20th century samurai, or just plain nuts. Either way, he talks about the Zen of it all.

'Abyss' (1974) 17m, dir. Gilbert Dassonville. A well-done re-creation of R. Sorgato's terrifying fall in the Dolomites.


Thursday, July 17... Cinematic Masters of Science and Math

Imagine a school in which: the woodshop teacher turns the shop into his own private furniture store, trading passing grades for student "slave labor" in the manufacture of pieces which he takes away for home use or sale; the metal shop instructor issues an 'F' grade to a student for a project in which he had worked for months, saying "you couldn't have done this"; an English teacher is arrested for selling dope to her students; the head of boys Physical Education pulls out a camera and snaps dozens of boys in the shower; a science instructor angrily hurls part of a science experiment at the head of a student seated at the rear of the classroom. This, my friends, is not the plot of some wacky summer film. Nope, it's the school I attended, Dartmouth Jr. High, which still sits staring blankly at the traffic on Blossom Hill Road. And right, you guessed it, I'm the kid who nearly got nailed by the ballistic science experiment gone wrong. Perhaps it was the unintentionally errant arms of science teachers like Mr. Hays that caused thousands of kids to turn off to the sciences, aided and abetted by perhaps the lack of a proper background in child learning theory, by uninspired teaching materials, and the use of boring, really awful science films.

You know the type: the didactic black and white Coronets, the terribly narrated Moody Institute films with the religious message --- ("them bugs ain't as smart as the creator") --- at the end of every film, and all the others with their paste-and-glue graphical representations of mitosis, amoebae, and paramecia. I'm telling you this story as an introduction to tonight's program, which features science and math films that are so phenomenally good that anyone could be enchanted. There may be no way to adequately count the number of young minds saved by Bruce Russell, Thomas Stanton, Norman & Marjorie Bean, David & Peter Boulton, and Bruce & Katherine Cornwell, who made science and math films engaging, fun, intellectually stimulating, and artistically beautiful. These films truly created an educational revolution, are magnificent films for people of any age, and will be a real eye-opener for ciné16 viewers who graduated from high school prior to 1980. Tonight's films include:

'Imaging the Hidden World: the Light Microscope' (1984) 20m, dir. Bruce Russell.  To say Russell makes films on biology is sort of like saying Rodin threw some clay on a table and a few minutes later came up with a figure representative of a human. 'Light Microscope' starts out didactically (Russell was a former K-12 biology teacher) in instructing the student on proper microscope technique, then goes off into the hyperspace of lighting techniques, using light and colored filters, that make otherwise difficult-to-see phenomena visible.   This film, frankly, borders on psychedelia, and shows the technology Russell himself uses to make his visually arresting films.

'Crystals: Flowers of the Mineral Kingdom' (1983) 13m, dir. Thomas Stanton. Stanton's film of rapidly expanding colorful crystalline growths is reminiscent of a quote attributed to Salvador Dalí, who once said "I don't take acid, I am acid".  Exceptional Ken Middleham cinematography.

'Carnivorous Plants' (1979) 11m, dir. Thomas Stanton. A Blue Ribbon award winner at the American Film Festival.  Insidious, again with fine camera work by Middleham.

'Fungi' (1983) 15m, prod. David & Peter Boulton. Neat slo-mo shots of slowly spreading destructive growths. Boulton-Hawker Films were made in Britain, distributed by Benchmark. Exceptional.

'Spiders -- Backyard Science' (1978) 12m, prod. Norman & Marjorie Bean. OK, a film for elementary kids, complete with friendly narrator... except that these horrifying images will scare the bejesus out of them! Extreme color close-ups of nightmarish clarity.

'Congruent Triangles' (1976) 10m, dir. Bruce & Katharine Cornwell. Abstract design, third stream jazz , and Klee-like animation make a showpiece out of a seemingly mundane subject.

'Insect Parasitism: the Alder Woodwasp' (1968) 18m, prod. Gerald Thompson & E.R. Skinner. The wasp drills a hole in a log, deposits its eggs, then four different kinds of bugs use its developing offspring for all sorts of things. Incredible cinematography, docs in labcoats. A fascinating film.


Thursday, July 10... Defibrillating Dead Composers: The Classical Music films of Jeremy Marre

From the ho-hum concert films seen on public television to the mindless 'Amadeus' film that came out a decade or so ago, one would think that the life and times of famous composers were either boring or vapid. That's the reason that twenty classical music films have been sitting under a table at ciné16 world headquarters for over six months. At last, having stubbed our toes on these boat anchors one too many times, we dusted them off and previewed what we now think may be the best films on classical composers ever done.

Jeremy Marre (with whom you may be familiar as the producer of the 'Beats of the Heart' ethnic music video series) made a series of films in the mid-70s showing, among other things, Larry Adler playing Bach on a harmonica, W.W.I and II footage explaining the eventual lot of countries like Chopin's Poland and Debussy's France, and the opulence of the interiors of the grand houses in which many of the pieces in question were originally performed. Tonight we'll show three (and perhaps attempt to show a fourth) films stunningly directed and brilliantly written by Marre, for John Seabourne's 'Great Composers' series. We'll choose from 'Johann Sebastian Bach' (1973), 'W.A. Mozart' (1973) --- with Prof. Hermann Aicher's Salzburg Puppet Theatre, 'Chopin' (1974), and 'Claude Debussy' (1974), each approximately 25 minutes in lenghth.


Thursday, July 3... Hoaxes near and far: the New World Order and the Tasaday

Today’s Independence Day program delves with the most American of institutions, the hoax. Our first film describes a hoax originating in 1963 that in many ways continues to this day; the second is of a film that in itself is a hoax, and part of a mystery that hasn’t yet been completely solved.

‘Case History of a Rumor’ (1963) 50m, prod. Gene DePoris w/Roger Mudd. Right-wing paranoia of the supposed takeover of the US by the United Nations is nothing new, as evidenced by this hard-hitting CBS News documentary about ‘Operation Water Moccasin’, US Army maneuvers scheduled to take place in the deep south in the early 60’s. Fueled by a rumor that African troops were massing in the state of Georgia, thousands of individuals flooded political mailbags with letters and telegrams of concern. Mudd and DePoris, interested in discovering the origins of the rumor, traced it back over several states to its surprising source. Of particular interest was the role of radio evangelist C.W. Burpo, to whom I used to listen throughout the 60’s and 70’s (‘you know, god loves you... and I love you too’), who, along with Brother Al, Reverend Ike, and Sister E.G. Jamerson, provided tremendous comic relief during the otherwise scary Vietnam years. In ‘Case History’, we can see Burpo during an actual broadcast, a bank of ten tape recorders in the background copying the show for radio stations nationwide.

‘Cave People of the Philippines’ (1972) 38m, dir. Gerald Green, w. Jack Reynolds. In 1966, word appeared from the Philippines that a stone-age tribe had been discovered, interesting anthropologists worldwide, who applied en mass for permission to travel to the island of Mindanao to conduct formal research on the group. The Tasaday had no notion of agriculture, wore few clothes, and subsisted mainly on stream animals and deer. A Filipino official, Manuel Elizalde, was the nominal discoverer of the group, and he closely guarded access to the Tasaday, allowing few news agencies and educational institutions to visit the tribe, and then only under the supervision of Elizalde and a hand-picked translator. ‘Cave People’ was made during this time of interest and discovery. Subsequently, rumors began surfacing that Elizalde had paid the tribespeople to remove their clothes for journalists, and the official was considered by many people to be nothing more than a master hoaxer. His death in 1997 at the age of 60 prompted an obituary which sent us back to review the laudatory ‘Cave People’ film, and we at ‘ciné16’ have come to our own conclusion about what Elizalde may have really been up to.

During the 1960s, international corporate interests began a policy of moving Mindanao indigenous groups off their ancestral lands in order to obtain logging, mineral, or agricultural rights. This was typically accomplished by a vanguard of Christian missionaries, followed in close order by hired thugs who would kill, burn villages, and otherwise subjugate the people, who would then flock to the new churches. There, they would find food, clothing, an understanding that rewards were better in heaven than they were in this world. Elizalde had a known compassion for indigenous peoples, fought the church, and actually succeeded in having large tracts of land designated native areas, with little or no commercial activity allowed. Could it be that this master hoaxer, in drawing the world’s attention to ‘stone-agers,’ had crafted a master plan to use world opinion to salvage the native cultures of Mindanao? Elizalde (b. 1937?--d. May 3, 1997) is no longer around to tell us. We invite you to see the film and form your own opinion.

Additional note: historians have not been kind to Elizalde. Purportedly, he fled the Philippines after the death of Ferdinand Marcos with millions of dollars, and died, a destitute drug addict, in Costa Rica: http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/alabaster/A726653  Today, there appears to be increasingly mounting evidence that Elizalde and the Tasady were all they appeared to be, and allegations of a hoax were, in fact, a hoax in themselves::   http://www.tasaday.com  From an archival perspective, film libraries began de-accessioning this film as soon as its veracity was questioned. As a result, there are very few --- if any --- prints remaining of this film, outside of what may or may not be in the NBC archives.

Thursday, June 26... The films of Larry Yust

While Europe-based John Barnes crafted his monumental Humanities films for EB, west-coast-based Yust was making some equally memorable theatrical films for the same company. This filmmaker's most significant contribution to educational film was through a finely crafted, intriguing, and intellectually stimulating series of dramatic films made for Encyclopaedia Britannica from roughly 1965-1975, under the name "Short Story Showcase". These films are, we feel, one of the three great serial dramatic bodies of work of the 1965-1985 era of educational film (the others being the Sheldon Sachs-produced "American Short Story" for Perspective Films, and the fine continual series of dramatic films done by Barnes from approximately 1959 through 1975).

Yust, whose father was the editor of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, was exposed to films (and filmmakers) at an early age, when his father took him to Hollywood on a business trip for the purpose of collecting data on the film industry for the encyclopaedia. Later attending Stanford University as a math major, he became involved with the theatre department, developing an interest in set design, lighting, and directing. After military duty (television programming with Walter Reed Army Hospital as part of the Signal Corps' Army Pictorial Service), Yust further developed his craft at other television stations, most notably XETV, the ABC outlet in Tijuana. Yust's film career began with a series of health and safety films for EB in 1957-1958, followed by a number of science shorts made in conjunction with Dr. Al Baez. In 1959-60, he filmed a series of physical science titles at MIT.

"Short Story Showcase" is a series of 16mm dramatic films made between 1965-1975, all released by Encyclopaedia Britannica Educational Corporation, are written, directed, and edited, by Larry Yust, and produced by the filmmaker in conjunction with Clifton Fadiman. Many of these have a companion ten minute short entitled "Discussion of __________", which provides insight into the goals of the author, objectives of the filmmaker, and an overview of the events surrounding the writing of the original story. Yust’s EB films have to a large extent been sadly ignored. Join us for this unique opportunity to see exceptional works by this fine director.

Tonight we’ll feature:

‘The Lottery’ (1969) 12m. Possibly the biggest-selling educational film of all time, Shirley Jackson’s tale of the ultimate municipal election was very nearly blocked from distribution by EB execs, who felt the subject too dark for developing minds. Filmed in a small town outside of Taft, CA, it features many of the townspeople in supporting roles.

‘The Secret Sharer’ (1973) 20m. At first, this adaptation from Conrad appears somewhat inaccessible, yet the slightly unsettling insight into the soul with which we’re left is oddly comforting in that it belongs to the Cap’n, not us. Charles van Doren’s terrific commentary in the accompanying ‘Discussion of...’ brings us back from the depths, to a degree.

‘Well of the Saints’ (1975) 50m. My favorite Yust film, John M. Synge’s story of simplicity and greed could now be called ‘magic realism’, but with a bit more bite, as denotes the character of much of Yust’s work. Exceptional performances by Jack Aronson and Peggy Webber as the blind couple.


Thursday, June 19... C’est la vie, también: eight remarkably memorable language instruction films

Maybe because I grew up in an environment in which a foreign language was spoken, and yet not understood, I’ve always been fascinated by watching people speak tongues completely foreign to me while I attempt to pick out the story through voice inflection, body gestures, and reactions from other listeners. I’m always scouting around for foreign language instruction films that transcend the language barrier, and tonight’s films are terrific examples. Take for instance William Gumbiner's ‘La vie familiale d’une ferme française’ (1964, 15m), in which a man reflects on the joys of living on an old French farm, and the sorrow of seeing his son consider leaving it. Or ‘Une recette d’Abidjan’ (1974, 11m, unknown director) in which a young French couple invites a couple from the Ivory Coast over to watch 16mm films (!) in a the only language instruction film I’ve seen that specifically promotes racial harmony. How about ‘Quelle Chance’ (1953, 10m, unknown director) in which some teens drink too much wine and get in a traffic accident in a picturesque French village? ‘L‘entente cordiale’ (1951, 11m, unknown director) is very much like "Chance’, in that it portrays a life that is rapidly disappearing in many French villages, in this case, the charm of the small groceries. ciné16 viewers with good memories will remember ‘El Cumpleaños de Pepita’ (1957, 16m, unknown director) which we showed earlier this year, and which describes a girl and her uncle attending her birthday party in Janítzio, Lake Pátzcuaro, chock-full of ethnic traditions, dancing, etc., a film I’ve seen many times and of which I’ve never tired. The rapidly vanishing traditional Andalucian village life is documented by cameraman Haskell Wexler in Gunther Frisch's  'Un Pueblo de España’(1960, 10m), and guitar maker Ignacio Fleta shows the intricacies of a centuries-old craft in Al Brown's 'La Guitarra Española'(1964, 10m) beautifully photographed short. And finally, I’m not sure why I have a fondness for the farcical ‘A Toledo’ (1969, 20m, unknown director), except that it depicts so well the life of a carefree Madrileño family in the waning years of the Franco era.


Thursday, June 12... ciné16 Dance Party: with your hosts Norman McLaren & Martha Graham

‘Dancer’s World --- Martha Graham’ (1957) 30m, dir. John Houseman. A terrific film hosted by Graham, award winner at the‘57 Venice film festival. Magnificent choreography by Graham, and superb cinematography by Peter Glushanok. Produced by Nathan Kroll, who was responsible for Graham’s ‘Appalachian Spring’ film as well as ‘El Prado --- Masterpieces in Music’ shown earlier this year at ‘ciné16’.

‘Pas de Deux’ (1967) 14m, dir. Norman McLaren. Slo-mo images replicated in gradual degrees on an optical printer was the technique used by the late filmmaker, known for his meticulous craftsmanship and insistence on quality. With a total output of under three hours of film, McLaren’s short works are legendary. This is one of his finest, and probably his most famous.

‘Flamenco at 5:15’ (1983) 30m, dir. Cynthia Scott. Skeptics may raise an eyebrow when considering a film on Spanish Dance shot in a studio in Montreal, featuring dancers under the tutelage of a Russian émigrée, but enough critics were taken in that this film won the Oscar for documentary short subject in 1983. A fine, memorable film.

"The Adventures of *' (1957) 10m, dir. John Hubley. This animation short is a riot of abstract art, color, and post-bop jazz, describing the infancy, adolescence, and adulthood of '*'. Trust us, it's good.


Thursday, June 5... Changing futures for yesterday’s girls: pedagogical sociodramas of the 70’s

There was a time in the not too distant past when career options for women were pretty much limited to teaching, secretarial work, nursing, and homemaking. Changing the mindset of boys and girls to accept --- and indeed to advocate --- more robust career choices for women was the charter of many educational filmmakers in the decade of the seventies. Addressing these issues through film was a challenging task in an era in which the face of America was changing through the influx of new ethnic groups and traditions, single-parent families, and the growing insistence by adolescents that their opinions be heard and choices respected. The ideal film in this genre presented a conflict either generational or cultural, suggested a decision based on eschewing expectations of others when in conflict with the persona of the individual in question, and was presented in 40 minutes or less in order to allow time for classroom discussion. We are convinced that, while forgotten today, films like these had a tremendous impact on life as we now know it, and are in their own way a somewhat sobering reminder that many Americans seem to wish we could return to the ‘good old days’ when women stayed home and shut up. Two of the finest examples of this type of film are Hal Weiner’s ‘Black Girl’ (1980, 30m), and Michael Ahnemann’s ‘Siu Mei Wong: Who Shall I Be?’ (1970, 15m). Also on the bill, Seth Pinsker’s ‘Overture --- Linh from Vietnam’ (1980), 26m is a fine sociodrama that addresses ethnic, socioeconomic, and familial conflict within and between ethnic groups. And finally, a tremendous short on the subject of youth alienation, Gene Kearney’s 1966 adaptation of Conrad Aiken’s ‘Silent Snow, Secret Snow’ (17m).  Also added: Bobe Cannon's fabulous 'Gerald McBoingBoing' (1950, 10m).


Thursday, May 29, 1997... Classics of Heavy & Light Industry

While we've not as impressed as others with industrial films in general, we’ve identified a couple from the US that we think make the grade: 'Pontiac Pours it On' (1971, 20m, uncredited director) in which eight cylinder engines are sandcasted, chased, and stuffed with goodies by GM robots, and Carson Davidson's '100 Watts, 120 Volts' (1977, 10m), a non-narrated short depicting the making of lightbulbs. Ancient crafts in developing nations are often in the forefront of 'ciné16' shows, and tonight we'll show two of the best: in 'Glassmakers of Herat' (1977, 30m), well-known still photographer Elliott Erwitt provides a fascinating look at some of the oldest glassworks in existence in this film, featuring an Afghan family still making glass by crushing rock and vegetation, and blending them to make blue glass. And finally, a wonderful film too rarely shown, Robert Haber's hour-long 'Potters of Hebron' (1976, 53m), Blue Ribbon Award winner at the American Film Festival, depicting the making of Palestinian 'zirs'.


Thursday, May 22, 1997... An Unabashed Evening with Filmmaker Bill Deneen

Bush pilot, adventurer, filmmaker, and executive, Bill Deneen has done it all, and been bombastic about it. One of the most controversial figures in the educational film world, Bill is a terrific raconteur who has pulled few punches in the interviews we've done with him, and tells a fascinating series of stories describing the arduous task of making films in developing nations on a low-budget basis. He’ll share his opinions on a wide range of subjects, from his lifelong disagreement of the high prices charged by film companies to schools, to the challenges of working with foreign governments during filming. He’ll also answer your questions about his early days with Encyclopedia Britannica Films, his subsequent founding of Learning Corporation of America, a company which produced and distributed some of the finest educational films ever made, and his involvement in commercial successes, which included ‘Easy Rider’, ‘A Man For All Seasons’, and ‘Brian’s Song’. Opinionated? Consider Bill’s opening statement in response to our request for a filmography:

‘Here's a list of films on which I'm reasonably sure of what my role was. On so many others I was often writer or director or cameraman or script doctor, or peace keeper or diaper changer etc.’

Deneen’s own films may sometimes be considered a bridge between industrial and educational film, often shot on low budget with a film crew of one. Films on tonight’s program will be chosen from the following four films with very different themes and goals:

‘Happy City’ (1953) 30m, dir. William F. Deneen.  Sponsored by the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, Deneen traveled three days by bullock cart to the remote leper colony run by Father Cesare Columbo in Keng Tung (Kyiang Tong), Burma. Intended to be a film to be used for fundraising, the film is a fascinating documentary about a humanitarian effort that would soon be terminated by the Burmese government.

‘Arts & Crafts of Mexico’ (1961) 14m, dir. William F. Deneen.  Featuring the well-known pottery maker Doña Rosa de Nieto of Oaxaca.

‘West Indies’ (1965) 15m, dir. William F. Deneen.  A look at the political and social climate of various Caribbean countries.

‘The Island’ (1976) 30m, dir. William F. Deneen.  Deneen produced a number of films in a more commercial vein for Highgate Pictures. Films such as this were either shown on television or in classrooms, with study guides containing educational objectives for use in the latter. ‘The Island’ stars John Hurt, in an adaptation of British writer L.P. Hurley’s short story


Thursday, May 15, 1997... Cinema of the Absurd: Ionesco and Polanski

Tonight we'll feature several exceptional films dealing with the subject of alienation. Filmmaker Larry Yust delivers a powerful portrayal of two people at opposite ends of the communication spectrum, yet similar in their refusal --- whether conscious or subconscious --- to deal with the process of change in Ionesco's ‘The New Tenant’ (1975, 31m). Yust is an exceptional and underrated filmmaker, and 'ciné16' will devote an evening to his films sometime in June. Additionally, we'll also screen a short entitled 'Directing a Film' (1975, 17m) that describes some of the challenges faced by Yust while making 'Tenant'. Also from Ionesco is a short version of 'Rhinoceros' (1965, 11m) from Polish animator Jan Lenica.

Also from Poland: Roman Polanski's first film, 'Two Men And A Wardrobe' (1958, 15m), made while the director was still in film school, has a funny, absurd plot, and a terrific first music score by Krzystof Komeda, the greatest jazz musician of his era in that country, and who, after collaborating with Polanski on films of note such as 'Knife in the Water' and 'Rosemary's Baby', would unfortunately pass away in his mid-thirties, on the brink of stardom.

Visit http://www.interlog.com/~mrcunnin/roman.html for more on 'Wardrobe' and Polanski


Thursday, May 8, 1997... Shaw vs. Shakespeare: A tribute to --- and an evening with --- director John Barnes. 

(Note: John was unable to join us due to health reasons.  Daughter Judith and son Joshua Barnes appeared at ciné16 in his absence). 

John Barnes is considered by many to be the most outstanding filmmaker ever to work in the 16mm educational film genre. Exacting in his standards, Barnes convinced Encyclopaedia Britannica Films to allow him to set up shop in Europe, where he made films that set the standard for excellence in films pertaining to the humanities. With subjects as varied as the Chartres Cathedral, Chaucer’s Tales, Oedipus, and the Renaissance, Barnes drew on his own considerable writing skills --- developed as a writer of radio dramas in the 1940s --- as well as some of the finest actors of the day to produce a body of over 100 films. Although it’s impossible to convey the depth of Barnes oeuvre in one evening, we’ve chosen to present his masterwork, ‘Shaw vs. Shakespeare’, as an example of the type of educational film that is not being made today, whether for budget reasons, or because filmmakers of Barnes’ stature no longer find it financially viable to work in non-feature films. John Barnes, who now lives in New York, will be joining us tonight to describe the events surrounding the making of this film, and to answer your questions. We think you’ll come away from tonight’s show with an appreciation for a man who will ultimately be regarded as one of the great filmmakers of his era. On tonight’s program:

'The Portable Phonograph' (1977) 24m, dir. John Barnes. It would be difficult to identify a more engaging, thought-provoking, and somber short than this, Barnes’ final film. In the devastating aftermath of perhaps the final war, four cultured survivors fight to retain memories of the past.

‘Story Into Film’ (1977) 10m, dir. John Barnes. We think you’ll be so taken with ‘Phonograph’ that you’ll have lots of questions about the making of this outstanding film. Who could better answer them than the John Barnes of 1977? He filmed his own explanation of the challenges faced by the filmmaker in adapting a story such as this for film, and how he went about meeting them. A fascinating look at the narrative film process. Afterward, you’ll have an opportunity to ask the filmmaker your own questions.

‘Shaw vs. Shakespeare’ series (1970) 90m, dir. John Barnes. After reading the complete works of George Bernard Shaw, Barnes wrote, directed, and produced a series of three films narrated by Shaw (brilliantly portrayed by Donald Moffat), describing how parallel characters (e.g. Julius Caesar, played by Richard Kiley) are treated differently by the two playwrights. We feel this series is one of the highlights of educational cinema: engaging, thoughtful, and intellectually stimulating. This is a rare opportunity to see these three half-hour films, produced in 1970, presented consecutively.


Thursday, May 1, 1997...Peter Chermayeff’s ‘Silent Safari’ series (1971, 1984)

We figure there are several schools of zoological films. There are the ‘animals sure are silly, gosh darn it’ people, who coordinate stupid music (bassoons for lumbering beasts, flutes for birds) with movement, as epitomized by Walt Disney. Then there are the Jane Goodalls and Jacques Cousteaus of the world, who attempt to attribute human characteristics to the animals in order to impart a dramatic effect to a story. There are the old-world academics, who either torment or program animals in order to get a reaction, like our old imprinting buddy Konrad Lorenz. Some of our favorites are people such as Alan and Joan Root, who tell a great story, research it well, a pretty much leave the animals alone in the process. Filmmakers like Robin Lehman simply show the animals, and let us figure it out for ourselves. Peter Chermayeff’s films would fall into the latter category, but are almost ethnographic in their non-narrated, completed action approach. Making two expeditions to eastern Africa (1971, 1984), the filmmaker returned with difficult-to shoot footage of a host of fauna, and chose as accompaniment nothing more than a solo guitar, which, at least initially, seems somewhat out of place.  Fading in and out, seemingly at happenstance, its barely noticeable by the end of each film. The films themselves are wonderful works of art, simple, yet powerful. And unlike many of the ‘ciné16’ filmmakers we’ve showcased, Chermayeff is still in the public eye... but not as a filmmaker! As perhaps the best-known architect of municipal aquariums (aquaria?), you’ll see an example of his Oceanário in Lisboa at the following site:


On tonight's show:

Ostrich (1984) 11m

Wildebeest (1984) 20m

Lion (1971) 10m

Cheetah (1971) 10m

Elephant (1971) 10m

Also on the program:

‘Animal Behavior: Mechanism of Imprinting’ (1977) 15m, uncredited director. I’m just not sure about the ethics of having a just-hatched duckling bond with a balloon, but the makers of this film  think it’s all in good fun.

‘Nightlife’ (1975) 12m, dir. Robin Lehman. There are some strange things crawling around at night in the Irish Sea, and in this EFLA Blue Ribbon winner, the filmmaker follows a few of them. The scallop shell scene nearly scared me half to death when I watched this film after 11 one night, so make sure you’ve got a drink nearby to settle your nerves...


Thursday, April 24, 1997... Judith Bronowski’s Mexico

This filmmaker made four outstanding films showcasing historically significant artisans of Mexico. Made in the mid-1970s, they document the work --- and the words of the artists. Tonight we’ll show three of them: 

Artesanso de Carton: Pedro Linares’ (1975) 22m, dir. Judith Bronowski.  Linares and family make papier-maché’ monsters called ‘alebrijes’.

Artesano de Madera: Manuel Jiménez’ (1977) 21m, dir. Judith Bronowski.  A profile of the famous woodcarver from Oaxaca.

‘Artesano Bordadora: Sabina Sanchez’ (1976) 21m, dir. Judith Bronowski.  A visit with an embroiderer from Oaxaca. 

Also on the program will be the strange and unusual ‘Maya Are People’ (1951, 22m) by Les Mitchel.  Many explorer-adventurer hosts of historical/cultural films seemed to  view their subjects as "objects", rather than people, poking fun at their naïveté (e.g. Paul Hoefler and Carveth Wells), and picturing indigenous adults as children.  This is not the case with the wonderful and forgotten Les Mitchel, who treats his subjects as peers, obviously concerned about their fate in the increasingly modernized, mechanized world.  Here, he arrives in the Lacandon area of the Yucatan, shows the chief Obregon K’in (of Agua Azul village, Palenque) how to fire a pistol, then takes him on a plane-ride to view his ancestral ruins at Palenque.  Much of this magnificent film was shot at Lacanha Chan Sayab.  Overly-sensitive individuals will be put-off, no doubt at Mitchel’s politically-incorrect use of cigarette-as-tool, burning the leaf of a jungle plant to show its reflex to heat. At the end of the film, Mitchel delivers a heartfelt plea to save the culture from encroachment. All our attempts at finding any information on the filmmaker have failed.

Also: 'Fabricantes Mexicanas de Ollas' (1962) 9m, prod. Stuart Roe.  On the making a unique form of Mexican pottery.


Thursday, April 17, 1997... Robbe-Grillet's 'Trans-Europ Express'    

‘Trans-Europ Express’ (1965) 100m, dir. Alain Robbe-Grillet. Rarely do we show feature length films, but tonight is an exception, as the entire program is given to the experimental filmmaker Alain Robbe-Grillet's ‘cine-roman’ approach. This outstanding work is a film within a film as Robbe-Grillet sits in a train car and discusses with his producer and script supervisor a film he'd like to make about a drug deal in Antwerp. A man in fake beard and glasses gets on the train, but the director states he'd rather have J-L Trintignant, who then materializes, and stars, along with Marie-France Pisier, in this fascinating, unusual film in which characters and authors cross each other's paths, yet stay in their own frames of reference. Robbe-Grillet scholar John Leo will present a ten minute introduction to the work of this outstanding writer and filmmaker.

John hosts a Robbe-Grillet site; please visit it for more info: http://www.halfaya.org/robbegrillet/


Thursday, April 10, 1997... 'Up north is down south from here: Inuit culture of the Canadian Arctic'

Web site of interest (Inuit sculpture & art): http://www.elcalondon.com/

The Inuit are a nomadic aboriginal group from northeastern Canada comprising some 600 bands speaking derivations of the Inuktitut language. In 1999, the territory of Nunavut will be spun off from the Northwest Territories, and provide more formal representation for the Inuit in the new bi-cultural government residing in the town of Iqaluit, formerly know as Frobisher Bay, Baffin Island. The Inuit have been the subject of many dramatic and fascinating films, and tonight we'll show three of the best. In addition to providing wonderful insight into a little-understood population, these understated films provide a tonic for those of us who have grown tired of having to listen to new age music and panpipes as musical accompaniment for seemingly every documentary, ethnographic, or zoological film be produced today.

'At the Winter Sea Ice Camp, parts I and II' (1969) 30m, dir. Quentin Brown.   In 1963 anthropologist Asen Balikci attempted to document traditional customs, including seal hunting and komatiq (dog-sled) making, as they were before the coming of the missionaries and the use of rifles, usually dated at 1919 or so. When these films were made, there were still Inuit who remembered how to do these things, and Balikci and director Quentin Brown made total of nine films. Our two favorites are the savage 'At the Winter Sea Ice Camp I' and 'At the Autumn River Camp II', both outstanding documents in the non-narrated ethnographic tradition, and filmed at minus 10 degrees F. Among other things, the Inuit make a sled out of fish and antlers, and successfully hunt seal living six feet under sea ice.

'Land of the Long Day' (1952) 37m, dir. Doug Wilkinson.  Preceding the former films by 17 years, the director shows Inuit customs as they really were in the early 50's. Idlouk, the protagonist, tragically terminated his own life several years after 'Land' was made. This film is not only a fine explanation of the challenges faced by the Inuit, it is also a tribute to the filmmaker working in adverse conditions in which cameras freeze and weather is unpredictable.


Thursday, April 3, 1997... Some weird cin-ema: Truly Bad Films

One of the most frequently asked questions of us at 'ciné16' is "how long can you continue this?" I usually respond by saying that there are so many great films out there that this could go on forever, but in order to find the gems I have to watch a seemingly Herculean (or is it Augean?) number of films (it averages three a night). What 'ciné16' viewers don't get to experience are the truly awful films I have to cycle through in order to produce these shows. This week, I'm going to invite you into my own private hell, and show you films so awful that it's almost inconceivable that any producer would have allowed their release. As you might guess, most of them don't have credits. Come down to the show. Buy a drink or two, see a short, have another coupla' drinks. I think you'll have a great, hilarious, memorable evening. Try these:

'Le Perroquet' (1966) 11m, unknown director.  This one takes the prize as being both the worst foreign instruction film I've seen as well as having the worst animation. I confess: it's a ten minute film, and I couldn't finish it. Easily undoing five centuries of French culture and civilization, the characters are not endearing, their mouths move at the wrong times, the story is meant to be funny, but it's just plain stupid. No one who saw this film would be motivated in the least to learn French. With no credits, I'm thoroughly convinced that this film was quickly exported to America so that no French person would have a clue that junk like this could be made at home.

'Democracy: Role of Dissent' (1970) 14m, uncredited director.  Brought to you by Coronet, and "New Document Productions". Picture this, a phony documentary about a fair housing issue, with actors looking like they were just pulled out of detox long enough to read a few lines (badly) and get back on the bus. One elderly actor is so feeble that someone actually props a fake picket sign in his hands and closes them around the stick; a few frames later, we see the same identical sign in the hands of a woman who appears on-screen five seconds after the earlier actor left the frame (the sign has obviously been handed to her as she enters the frame. Dorothy Fadiman spotted the same font on the storefront window of the landlord as was seen on the picket signs. The cops are thin, wimpy guys with weird uniforms and hats too big. Is this the worst documentary ever made? You be the judge.

'Toymaker' (1952) 15m, prod. Alfred Wallace/Wang-go Weng' So what could be so diabolical about a puppeteer doing a kids' film about how stupid racism is? This individual has crafted a puppet on each of his hands and spends a lot of time lecturing them not to beat each other up. He really doesn't seem like such a kindly guy to me, and several viewers have opined that they'd never let their own children alone in a room with him.

'Plant Pilferage' (1966) 30m, dir. Francis J. Rose, prod. Highway Safety Foundation. Boy, I sure wouldn't want to work at this factory! This film was meant to show 50's plant managers how to prevent employee theft. The plant is surrounded by barbed wire, and the good guys go around checking lunch pails (one of the employees is shown hiding a clothes iron in it beforehand). Right off the bat, you start pulling for the employees, taking glee in every theft. Terrible microphone placement is one of the hallmarks of this remarkable period piece on industrial-employee relations.


Thursday, March 27, 1997... 'Breaking the seal: Iran revisited

Iran has been a closed shop for most visitors from the US for some time. Political dogma aside, how fun can it be to travel in a hot country in which the wearing of short-sleeved shirts --- men included --- is illegal? Yet, this most intriguing of countries contains numerous historically significant architectural monuments surrounded by peoples culturally rich and diversified. Tonight's show is a reminder of all that is beautiful in this magnificent and tragic land.

'Iran' (1971) 18m, dir. Claude Lelouch. Far more than a travelogue with pretty pictures, this little-known film is among the best of its type ever made. 'Iran' consists of spectacular geographical and archaeological footage interspersed with "slice of life"' shots, with the best juxtapositional editing we've ever seen. So who paid for the film? We suspect the Shah was involved, judging by the heroic equestrian footage toward the end of the film; one could guess that international dissatisfaction with the excesses of the Pahlevi regime negatively affected the distribution of the film, a shame, because few films treating similar themes are its equal. The musical score by Francis Lai is priceless, with heavy early-70s euro-pop wah-wah guitar. An intriguing, beautifully crafted, and dynamic film, surprisingly moving as well...

'Woven Gardens' (1975) 52m, dir. David Collicom. In this BBC film from the 'Tribal Eye' series, David Attenborough enthusiastically describes the Qashquai nomads' thriving carpet culture; a great ethnographic and art piece.

'Jafar's Blue Tiles' (1978) 25m, dir. Deepa Mehta, prod. Paul Saltzman. 'ciné16' favorite Saltzman returns in this intriguing and beautiful educational film shot in the village of Soltanieh, and features an adolescent learning to make glazes and tiles to repair a centuries-old mosque. As in all of Saltzman's films, the art and craft of the repair process is shown, as are the events surrounding the transference of knowledge from one generation to the next.


Thursday, March 20, 1997...

'Baobab: Portrait of a Tree' (1973) 55m, dir. Alan Root. Many of you became Alan Root fans after seeing his terrific film on giant anthills earlier this year... tonight we'll show his engaging film about the amazing baobab tree of Africa, an ecosystem unto itself. This film is a fascinating look at the birds, insects, and other flora and fauna that live off this singularly robust giant of the bushveld.

'Wild Dogs of Africa' (1983) 55m, dir. Hugo van Lawick. "Director" is really a misnomer here, as the filmmaker can't get the dogs to do anything! Seriously, these creatures are under-appreciated elements of the African scene, and are referred to by noted tracker Clive Walker as "killers in carnival suits". Capable of top speeds of 35 mph, they can sustain speeds of 25 mph for three miles, which means they kill roughly 85% of the prey they pursue. This film, part of the Jane Goodall series, describes their social and feeding customs. While having some useful information, the anthropomorphist approach taken by van Lawick and Goodall proves tiresome. 


Thursday, March 13, 1997... NFBC One: our first tribute to the National Film Board of Canada

Founded by the legendary John Grierson, the mission of the Film Board was to interpret Canada for Canadians and non-Canadians alike. In the best of times (1939-1985) they did just that with lots of funding from the Canadian government to promote films by the likes of Norman McLaren, Donald Brittain and Colin Low. Film Board work has an 'attitude' and nobility that are truly distinct. If you're not familiar with the NFBC, you will not forget tonight's show: films aren't made like this anymore. Tonight's films include:

'Bethune' (1964) 59m, dir. Donald Brittain. One of the great humanitarians of this century was Dr. Norman Bethune, noted for his work in Spain during the civil war, and in China during the Japanese invasion. This beautiful, sobering film is unknown to most of us because it was banned from release to the US by the Canadian Foreign Office (we'll tell you why at the show).

'Rallye des Neiges' (1961) 30m, dir. Donald Wilder. Some truly nutty people run a road rallye in Quebec in the dead of winter with Volvos, Minicoopers, etc.  Lots of fun and craziness.

'Nahanni' (1962) 15m, dir. Donald Wilder. "I'll be dead or drowned before I quit!" says ancient prospector Albert Faille, as he attempts to go upriver in the Yukon yet again in search for gold.  Either a tribute to man's perseverance or his folly, Nahanni is one of the more unforgettable films ever produced by the Film Board.

'Whistling Smith' (1976) 27m, dir. Michael Scott. We just love this cinema vérité biodoc of a beat officer working Vancouver's skid row. Although citizens and Bernie Smith alike are to a certain extent playing for the camera, the proprietor of a Chinese restaurant is not, when he kicks out the entire film crew and Sergeant Smith for disturbing his customers.


Thursday, March 6, 1997... Filmonfilm

Five fascinating films investigate the mechanics of making different types of films, from features to cartoons to commercials. For 'ciné16' people who have never taken a film class, this will unveil many of the techniques that go into making a superior work of art. Filmmakers will especially enjoy the Vinton and Zeman films. Included are:

'The Magic World of Karel Zeman' (1969) 15m, dir. Zdenek Roskopol. A rare Prague title showing the special effects master's approach to fooling us in Captain Nemo and dinosaur films. Enchanting and masterful.

'Ink, Paint, Scratch' (1979) 11m, dir. Robert Swarthe. Great ways to make a film as a non-photographic process.

'Sixty Second Spot' (1973) 25m, dir. Harvey Mandlin. A fascinating look at the process of making a commercial in the Mojave desert, ends by showing the completed work.

'Frame by Frame' (1973) 13m, dir. Paul Burnford/Jerry Samuelson. A repeat from the 'Cut-out' show of late last year, this film provides an encyclopedia of animation techniques including pixillation, kinestasis, time-lapse.

'Claymation' (1978) 17m, dir. Will Vinton. Shows how Will goes about making a clay film. Great stuff on choosing clays, dyeing, shooting. A landmark.

'Practical FilmMaking' (1972) 15m, dir. Bill Brame. Great camera tricks and casting info while making blaxploitation pic 'Miss Melody Jones'.


Thursday, February 27, 1997... The Future Was Yesterday

Guest projectionist Stephen Parr's tribute to old timey computers and pre-electronic era oddities, consisting of a pastiche of forgotten 16mm films.


Thursday, February 20, 1997... Imagefest Highlights

Tonight, Sacha Parisot brings some of the best films from the recent "Imagefest" film festival. All directors will be in attendance and will answer questions after the screening of their films. IMAGE films include:

- 'The Speed of Light' Director: Ken Karn (San Jose)

- 'Fluf' Director: Sacha Parisot (Morgan Hill)

- 'Down For Life' Director: David Mehlman (Palo Alto)

- 'The Wheelbarrow' Director: Helmut Glew (San Jose)

- 'Game' Directors: Rob Myers and Rod Myers (San Jose/San Francisco)


Thursday, February 13, 1997... Norteña culture in the southwest: two films by Les Blank

Barinda Samra shows 'Del Mero Corazon' and 'Chulas Fronteras', and brings her tarjeta to prove she knows what she's talkin' about.  Flaco Jiménez fans will enjoy his performance in 'Chulas'.

'Del Mero Corazon' (1979) 30m, dir. Les Blank
'Chulas Fronteras' (1976) 60m, dir. Les Blank. 
Blank has been more successful at getting to the underlying cultural aspects of the creation and performance of music than any other filmmaker, and these two films are brilliant portrayals of the people who make the music. The former features tejano musicians Andres Berlanga, El Conjunto Tamaulipas, Little Joe, Chavela, and Carlos Castillo in a wide variety of popular styles; the latter, less commercial, concentrates on the 'nortena' form, with great early Flaco Jimenez, when he could still really blister the keys. I first saw 'Chulas' in Berkeley with Blank present for a Q&A afterward, and some nut berated him for allowing the microphone to enter the frame, causing Blank to lower his shaking head, run his fingers through his hair, and probably ruminate on the wisdom of Governor Reagan turning off the financial spigot to mental institutions, freeing some of the patients to attend film showings...


Thursday, February 6, 1997... Surviving the last good war --- rare training films from WWII

'Castaway' (1944?) 50 m, dir Thomas Willard. Narrated in the second person, a pilot parachutes into the Pacific to survive in the sea and on land until rescued. A fascinating look at how survival gear was used, as well as a valuable sociological document pertaining to how to treat native populations on remote islands. We strongly suspect that the humanitarian elements of this film may have been on the agenda of the filmmaker, who we suspect could have had a bit of the old conscientious objector blood in him.

'Flak' (1943?) 20 m, uncredited director. Here, Yank pilots are taught to foil Nazi anti-aircraft gunners. A fascinating look at how understanding differences in altitude and flight path guided US bombers to their marks.

'Why We Fight: Battle of China' (1943) 50m, dir. Frank Capra. This is one of the classic seven-part series that critics consider to be among the finest war documentaries ever made. This series is also the prototype for post-war industrial training and affective educational films. Tasked by General George Marshall with training the troops to understand what they were fighting for and against, Capra hit on the brilliant idea of using captured axis footage rather than creating his own. A powerful film.


Thursday, January 30, 1997... Master of the Ethnographic Drama --- Cultures in Transition through the films of Paul Saltzman

Paul Saltzman's 'World Cultures & Youth' series portrayed adolescents who had taken on the role of learning traditional crafts from elders, and applying them.  Tonight, we present three films from this outstanding series.  

'Slima the Dhowmaker' (1978) 30m, dir. Paul Saltzman. 1978. In an interview with 'ciné16', Saltzman tells us that it took 3 1/2 hours over a rutty dirt road to reach the remote village (Ras Nungwi, Zanzibar) where "Slima" was filmed. In the best ethnic tradition, the film details the building of these boats, a traditional which has lasted probably thousands of years. The launching, carried out by what seems to be the entire village laboriously -- yet joyously --- pulling the boat overland by ropes is one of the most astounding bits of filmmaking we've seen.

'Lee's Parasol' (1979) 25m, dir.  Paul Saltzman. Beautifully painted parasols are a craft indigenous to the village of Bor Sang, near Chiang Mai, Thailand, and Lee's friends and family are involved in the entire process: cutting large bamboo stalks, trimming shoots for the intricate pieces, making dye for the paper. As in many of Saltzman's films, there is drama here as well, as Lee's boss is faced with the prospect of having to give away Lee's first creation to satisfy an important customer.

'Joshua's Soapstone Carving' (1981) 22m, dir. Don McBrearty.  Serving as Executive Producer for many of the final film in the 'World Cultures & Youth' series, Saltzman provided various directors with the opportunity of working within an ethnodramatic framework similar to the early films. We like "Joshua" because:

a) it features Levi Qumaluk, one of the most famous Inuit sculptors
b) it's got throat-singing
c) the family has a seal spread out on cardboard in front of the kitchen sink for snacks, sort of like the "chips and salsa" of the far north!

In other words, great authentic Inuit culture! A can't miss for aboriginal arctic fans.

Also on the program: 

'Taleb & his Lamb' (1975) 15m, dir. Amiram Amitai.  A terrific ethnodrama, focusing on conflict within a Bedouin family.


Thursday,  January 23, 1997... Beats & beyond --- art and culture from the early 60's

The art scene in the US was going through a remarkable transition in the years spanning roughly 1960 through 1965, as the focus began moving from concern about the cold war to concern about the new "hot" one in Vietnam. Tonight's films reflect the beauty, anger, and rebelliousness of the pre-psychedelic era , and address three themes: poetry, sculpture, and art film.

Tonight's films include:

'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 1965, for a poetry convention 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, the poets start heckling and fighting each other, and it breaks down into a great anarchic mess. A lovely film, and a great document of the short era between "beat" and "hip".

'Claes Oldenburg' (1966) 30 m, dir. Mallory Slate. Oldenburg's mammoth soft sculptures of auto engines, vacuum cleaners, and toilets have been tweaking the art world for years. In this early visit to his studio, narrator (and painter) Jim Dine introduces us to this surprisingly low-key artist.

'Five British Sculptors Work & Talk' (1964) 28 m, dir. Warren Forma. Henry Moore and four others discuss their work. Sweaters must be a dress code for English sculptors, we think.

'Very Nice, Very Nice' (1961) 8 m, dir. Arthur Lipsett. An extremely sarcastic film nominated for an Academy Award in 1961, this work juxtaposes images in rapid-fire form to create relationships always intriguing and occasionally disturbing. From the National Film Board of Canada.


Thursday, January 16, 1997... A lost tradition -- hard-hitting television documentaries from the 60's

There once was a time in this country in which the three major networks boasted of extensive news teams chartered with bringing social issues to the living rooms of America via one hour documentaries. "CBS Reports", the NBC "White Paper", and ABCs "Close-Up" fought each other over bragging rights to the most controversial, well-researched, and non-compromising intensely investigated news stories. And the networks backed them up: news departments were considered to be the elite, and as such were rarely under pressure from advertisers or politicians.

As tonight's films will attest, those days are gone. Thirty years later, we won't find any network brave enough to show something as controversial as Rowe and Cronkite's "Abortion and the Law", and that in fact is what makes tonight's show so intriguing: networks today run scared from massively organized groups of religious nuts and censorship advocates who threaten to boycott the breakfast cereal du jour should said network air documentaries that raise uncomfortable questions. When we look at these documentaries today we end up asking ourselves how television news could have plummeted so far in thirty years, and at the same time are thankful that the best commentators of those years, Walter Cronkite, Chet Huntley, Eric Sevareid, Charles Kuralt, and Howard K. Smith among them, are still available on film to remind us of what's been lost.

But are Americans today reflective of the audiences that would have watched these documentaries originally? We at 'ciné16' have mentioned 'Abortion and the Law' to several people, each of whom decided it would be better to skip this week's show, and return on the 23rd. "Campaign American Style" is just as tough. Perhaps as a society, when we watch visual media today, we'd just rather kick back and relax.

For people who continue to demand substance, 'ciné16' offers a program this week that will not easily be forgotten.

Tonight's films include:

'Abortion and the Law' (1968)  60m, prod. David Lowe. CBS Reports had undoubtedly the most extensive and talented documentary team of the 60s. Legendary reporters such as Cronkite, Sevareid, Kuralt, Daniel Schorr, and Dan Rather teamed with producers such as David Lowe to create a body of work so vast that it was not uncommon for production teams to be working on twelve or thirteen stories simultaneously. Great documentaries stand the test of time, and speak to issues that are just as great of a concern 30 years later as they were originally. This film was shot before the Roe v. Wade decision, and describes the world as it existed when the only means to terminate pregnancy were illegal. It's a sobering, challenging, and well-written documentary, with plenty of the cross-cutting interview technique for which CBS Reports was famous. Regardless of where 'ciné16' viewers stand on the abortion issue, this film is of value in going beyond the theory, and instead addresses the practical realities surrounding unwanted pregnancy. One of the finest documentaries ever made, and one you'll never again see on television.

'Campaign American Style' (1968), 40m, prod. Jay McMullen. The premise is basic enough: a democrat running against a republican in a relatively minor race in the state of New York. Both candidates appear to be intelligent, personable, and ethical. The campaign of one of the candidates changes radically when advisors are brought in, and a new candidate emerges: one who bears little resemblance to his former self. A shocking look at what goes on behind the election process, and features Sol Wachtler future chief judge of the New York State Appellate Court who eventually served time for attempting to extort money from an ex-girlfriend while suffering from mental illness and over-medication. Interestingly, Wachtler's memoirs as a convict ('After the Madness', Random House 1997) are fascinating indictments of the prison system, and the ex-justice now is an eloquent and forceful speaker on the subject of prison reform. Narrated impeccably by Eric Sevareid.


Thursday, January 9, 1997... A tribute to --- and an evening with director Bert Salzman

We are honored to host an appearance by one of the greatest directors who ever worked in the 16mm genre, Bert Salzman. An Academy Award winner in 1976 for his powerful portrayal of a migrant family in "Angel & Big Joe", Salzman's films deal primarily with ethnic cultures in transition. Join us for screenings of "Angel" (Puerto Rico), "Matthew Aliuk" (Eskimo), "Geronimo Jones" (Native American), and "Shopping Bag Lady", all introduced by the director.

The early to mid-1970s were truly heady times for the educational film world. Fueled by the Johnson administration's "Great Society" philosophy, educational programs embraced themes of ethnic awareness and diversity, and school districts nationwide began demanding professional quality 16mm films that both encouraged and provoked classroom discussion. Two critical demands were made of these types of films: 1) the story must be an engaging one so that adults as well as learners would be involved and interested, and 2), the story had to be told completely in twenty minutes or less to allow time for adequate discussion in a 55 minute class .

Learning Corporation of America, was a prime source for these types of films, and the maker of many of its most profound and dynamic films was Bert Salzman. Born in New York City in 1931, Salzman was already an successful artist before embarking on a career as a filmmaker when, in 1970, LCA asked him to choose three ethnic groups as focal points for his first LCA films. The series ran to eight before Salzman moved on to his next major film project, and 'ciné16' tonight presents the four we consider to have to most impact. Salzman infuses each of these films (which he both wrote and directed) with elements essential to great film of any genre: pathos, passion, and humor, and does it all in twenty minutes. Perhaps the greatest mystery of all is: why did this major filmmaker retire from film at the young age of 51, and where has he been for the last 15 years?

Tonight's films include:

'Angel and Big Joe' (1975)  27m, dir. Bert Salzman. An Academy Award winner for best Live Action Short as well as eight other festival awards, 'Angel' stars Paul Sorvino in a story about a Puerto Rican migrant boy having to make a tough decision to co-run a business with a valuable new friend, or leave with his family toward an unknown future.

'Matthew Aliuk --- Eskimo in Two Worlds' (1973) 18m, dir. Bert Salzman.  Here, Matthew's Uncle Isak comes to visit the family in Anchorage after undergoing harsh and unfruitful hunting conditions in the North. Uncle Isak's challenges in dealing with a more structured environment presents the Aliuk family with a new series of questions.

'Geronimo Jones' (1970) 20m, dir. Bert Salzman. Possibly Salzman's hardest hitting film, Geronimo is a Papago-Apache youth who has been given the gift of an amulet worn by his grandfather. In buying a birthday present for the grandfather, Geronimo trades the amulet for a TV, which he places before the grandfather. When Geronimo turns on the TV, the two are instantly reminded or the relationship of the native American to contemporary society. A gripping film, winner of numerous festival awards, and perhaps the first and only educational film ever screened in the giant Radio City Music Hall in New York.

'Shopping Bag Lady' (1975) 19m, dir. Bert Salzman. Twenty years ahead of its time in addressing the issues surrounding people without fixed addresses, this film also explores the cruel ways humans often interact with each other, the ignorance responsible for those actions, and the accidental event that transforms the antagonist into one who better understands the events surrounding the misfortune of others.  Mildred Dunnock gives a fine performance in the lead role.


Thursday, January 2, 1997... Ants, amoebas, and ostriches: the art of the animal film

Tonight we showcase three of the greatest producers of zoological/biological films, Alan Root, Bruce Russell, and Peter Chermayeff. Root's "Castles of Clay" is a fascinating film about the interior workings of a huge African anthill, complete with ultimate attack by aardvark (who then fights with porcupine). Chermayeff filmed two separate series of "Silent Safari" films for EB, and tonight we feature "Ostrich" from the second group, a non-narrated look at its mating ritual. There is no way to adequately describe the beauty of a Bruce Russell biology film --- these truly are bio films for people who hate biology! Each film contains eerie and wonderful electron-telescopic shots of cells, amoebas, growing crystals, spermatozoa, you name it. Of special interest is his "Light Microscope" film, in which he shows how putting small black discs and colored strips under the light source can turn the microscopic experience into a living lightshow. Root, Chermayeff, and Russell represent a class of nature filmmakers unto themselves .

'Mysterious Castles of Clay' (1978) 55m, dir. Alan Root. It was frankly tough for us to choose between 'Castles' and 'Baobab: Story of a Tree', also by the same filmmaker, Alan Root. Each of the films defines an ecosystems, each are equally fascinating, and leave us scrambling to find biographical information (again, we come up blank). We finally chose 'Castles', because halfway through the film, after the termites have painstakingly build a huge mud anthill (these are in Africa, and often are taller than you or I), an aardvark comes and eats the whole damn thing!  The termites themselves are fascinating creatures, and Root masterfully films them as they go about building the nest, protecting the queen, raising their young, and foraging for food. A magnificent film.

'Ostrich' (1984) 11m, dir. Peter Chermayeff
'Gazelle' (1984) 11m, dir. Peter Chermayeff. Chermayeff was best known for two chronologically-separate series of films, each in the 'Silent Safari' series. Tonight's film are from the latter period, and are non-narrated slice-of-life films shot in the Ngorongoro crater in Tanzania. The mating ritual accentuated by wing movements in the ostrich are unforgettable.

''Imaging the Hidden World: the Light Microscope' (1984) 20m, dir. Bruce Russell.  To say Russell makes films on biology is sort of like saying Rodin threw some clay on a table and a few minutes later came up with a figure representative of a human. 'Light Microscope' starts out didactically (Russell was a former K-12 biology teacher) in instructing the student on proper microscope technique, then goes off into the hyperspace of lighting techniques, using light and colored filters, that make otherwise difficult-to-see phenomena visible.   This film, frankly, borders on psychedelia, and shows the technology Russell himself uses to make his visually arresting films.

'Ecological Biology' (1981) 15m, dir. Bruce J Russell. It's difficult to select one of Russell's other films because they're all so good. We chose this one because of its subject matter, especially à propos to us Californians, that of returning nutrients to earth.


Thursday, December 26, 1996... American Ways of Life: Coal and Shoeshines

The Coal Trilogy:

'Life in a Coal Mining Town' (1966) 10m, unknown director. Step into the wayback machine as we visit a Happy American Family living in the sunny coal burgh of David KY. See Dad & Junior go to work in the mines as Mom & Sis bake cookies. A twisted short from Coronet, and an ironic intro to set the stage for the following two films.

'West Virginia: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Coal' (1973) 60 m, dir. Stephen Fleischman.  This is an ABC News' 'Close-Up' film, describing how coal mining sort of takes up the space around the mine. And lots of it. Hard-hitting, the way great documentaries used to be.

'Christmas in Appalachia' (1964) 30 m, dir. George Golsuch. Celebrate the holidays the Appalachian way with Charles Kuralt as he takes us on a sad visit to what's left of a once-thriving coal mining town once the company has taken the coal and left. This, and the previous two films, provide a "book" on the coal experience in America. We challenge you to join us for this remarkable and challenging series of films.

Also on the program:

'American Shoeshine' (1976) 30 m, dir. Sparky Greene. Nominated for an Academy Award in 1976, it's hard to see how this one missed. A dozen or so shoe shiners are featured, and when the rag-poppin' starts, better duck. Too rarely shown, this tribute to the rhythm and poetry of an important element of American life should not be missed!

'Shoeshine' (1987) 10 m, dir. Tom Abrams. A wonderful story featuring Jerry and Ben Stiller, shot on Staten Island ferry.


Thursday, December 19, 1996... 'John Barnes' Victorian England' with 'Chartres Cathedral'

Who is John Barnes?

'Early Victorian England & Charles Dickens' (1962) 30m, dir. John Barnes
'Great Expectations I' (1962) 30m, dir. John Barnes 
'Great Expectations II' (1962) 30m, dir. John Barnes

These films are insightfully narrated by Clifton Fadiman, perhaps best known for his spoken word productions for Caedmon Records in the 1960s, and feature brilliant theatrical examples given by a troupe directed by Douglas Campbell. This series was developed by Encyclopaedia Britannica films as a four part treatment of "The Novel" (the first part is more about the structure of the Novel itself and less about Dickens). The acting is marvelous, and Barnes' direction stunning. Educational film at its finest.


'Chartres Cathedral' (1963) 30 m, dir. John Barnes

In 1963, Barnes spent six weeks filming this magnificent building. He noted in conversations with us that much of that time was spent "eating in wonderful restaurants, which is, after all, one of the great joys of filmmaking in France". This is a tour-de-force of architectural filmmaking, and an essential introduction to one of the world's best-known buildings.


Thursday, December 12, 1996... A Dream of Mexico

Although the mission of 'ciné16' is to showcase film that was meant to be shown in 16mm format, we make two exceptions. One of them, as with last week's program, consists obscure television documentaries originally shot on 16mm; the other, as presented in this week's show, represents work done originally in 35mm, but shown by 'ciné16' because either 35mm prints are non-existent, or never shown. 'Time in the Sun' by Sergei Eisenstein, falls into the latter category.

'Time in the Sun' (1932) 60 m, dir. Sergei Eisenstein.  Of all the tragic tales in film history, few are sadder than the story behind the filming (or maybe we should say the events surrounding the post-production) of Eisenstein's '!Que Viva Mexico!', renamed and edited into tonight’s film 'Time in the Sun'.  It is not only a tragedy, in the sense of the film itself, and what became of it, but it may have also have documented the last truly happy period of the filmmaker's short life. It began simply enough: In 1930 Eisenstein (whose "Potemkin" is included in numerous Top Ten lists of important films) received $25,000 from novelist Upton Sinclair to make a film in Mexico. Within months, shooting was behind schedule, the bills had run up to $53,000, director's contract was abruptly terminated, and Stalin recalled Eisenstein to the Soviet Union (he was never to see Mexico again before his death in 1948, at the age of 50). Although Sinclair promised to send to Eisenstein in Moscow the work print and negatives for final editing, he never did. Instead, they were hacked up and used for anthropology loops, stock footage for films of others and three or four incomplete works. Much of the beautiful work of Eisenstein, although originally unedited, was functionally destroyed.

Some of it survives in abbreviated form: Marie Seton, his biographer, assembled many of the parts, which still maintain the beauty and power of much of the original film, creating ‘Time in the Sun’, which we're showing tonight. Of particular note is the stunning photography of Eduard Tissé, and the almost constructivist staging of the initial burial scene. While the essential continuity has been undermined by amateurish editing, we can still to a large degree sense the affinity Eisenstein had for Mexico, and revel in the dream-like aura that surrounds this incomplete work. Because it is incomplete, it is rarely shown... it has become the lost film of a great director, and a must-see for all Eisenstein enthusiasts, and people interested in the Maya.

'Pedro Linares: Artesano de Carton' (1975) 22m, dir. Judith Bronowski. A fascinating glimpse at the papier -maché' craftsman noted for colorful, frightening monsters called 'alebrijes'. In Spanish, and worth it.

'El Cumpleaños de Pepita' (1957) 14m, unknown director. Meant to be shown to students learning Spanish, this film transcends the didactic, and provides a glimpse into the Mexico that has, in many places, all too quickly disappeared. Pepita and her uncle travel to Lake Patzcuaro, get their pictures taken by an itinerant photographer, see wonderful dancers, and attend a birthday party. A sweet, wonderful film.

'Centinelas del Silencio' (1971) 18m, dir. Robert Amram. The real star here is photographer James Freeman, whose breathtaking helicopter shots of Mayan and Aztec ruins at sunrise and sunset won an Academy Award for this film in 1971. Narrated in Spanish by Ricardo Montalban (as with the previous two films, a knowledge of Spanish is not needed to enjoy the films). Some are put off by the heroic musical score, but don't let that stop you. A memorable film, and the last word on spectacular ruin photography.


Thursday, December 5, 1996...

The task of filming the contents of a museum can be daunting --- one can easily and mindlessly shoot frame after frame of canvases, accompanied by matter-of-fact narration and produce a complete yet boring work. A great filmmaker, on the other hand, can create a work that transcends the paintings themselves and instead give the filmgoer a sense of the absolute magic defines the museum experience. Tonight's filmmakers, John Sughrue and Nathan Kroll are not well-known, although the latter won prizes at the Venice Festival for dance films in 1958 and 1959. In our opinion, however, they produced the two greatest films on the museum experience ever made. Rarely shown today, they provide an insight into the culture, civilization, and people of Spain and France, essential to a true understanding and appreciation of the Louvre and the Prado. They are exciting, dynamic, wonderful films.

`Golden Prison --- The Louvre' (1966) 45m,  dir. John Sughrue Jr. Who better to guide us through this icon of French civilization than host Charles Boyer, whose pithy, Gallic commentary provides a magnificent history of the building and art? A terrific introduction to the museum for those who have not yet visited it, and a fascinating history of the building itself for those who have.

`El Prado -- Masterpieces and Music' (1967) 55m, dir. Nathan Kroll. Nathan Kroll had --- in a word --- vision. The film is about the Prado, yet mention is made only of El Greco, Velázquez, and Goya. Ribera, Murillo, and Tiepolo are replaced by four of the greatest musicians Spain has ever produced, three of whom perform in the Prado itself. Andrés Segovia's stilted narration reminds us of the stuffy old Madrid that many of us have grown to love, and the guitarist, whose playing suggests that he's several years beyond his prime, is perfect as a living link to Spain's past. Pianist Alicia De Larrocha powerfully contributes DeFalla and Granados compositions, Victoria de Los Angeles, provides a wonderful song or two, and Flamenco Roque Montoya sings part of a 'martinete' brilliant and terrible in its interpretation. Filmed in 16mm for the Bell Telephone Hour, it is a historical document and period piece of the first order, and a tribute to a Spain that --- for many --- no longer exists.

'Gallery', (1971) 7m, dir. Ken Rudolph. What would you say if I told you that in seven minutes I can tell you everything you'll ever need to know about art? Don't bet me on this, because Rudolph can, and does.


Thursday, November 21, 1996...The Great White Hunter --- Colonialist Legacy in the early 20th Century Expedition Film

Tonight we’ll present a decidedly non-politically correct, yet fascinating look into what critic John Grierson called the first phase of film documentary, the Early Travel Film. These four early films consist of fascinating early footage, several of which are narrated by expedition leaders, including Carveth Wells, one of the best known travel lecturers in the first third of this century. The attitudes of the filmmakers depict the predominating western philosophy of the era, which is why these films are rare (most prints have been destroyed) and not shown. They are truly a link to our not-too-distant past, and should remind us that, smug as we may feel that we are more progressive than these early explorers, future generations will judge us in kind. Tonight's films include:

'Wild Men of the Kalahari' (1930) 30m, uncredited director. In one of the earliest "talking pictures" shot in western Africa, the infamous expedition leader and lecturer Dr. C. Ernest Cadle of the Cameron-Cadle expedition describes the Kung bushmen as "among the most treacherous creatures on earth".  He then "baited them as we would an animal" to gather them for camera shots, and noted their eating habits ("he doesn’t chew, but simply swallows like a dog"). Photographed by Paul Hoefler.

'Hunting in India' (1930?) 30m, uncredited director. Animal lovers and former subjects alike may want to run upstairs to the bar during the showing of this film and grumble about film festivals that insist on showing a film such as this... Sir Frederick O'Connor, the British envoy to the court of Nepal leads us on a tiger hunt with 558 men and over 100 elephants. Extremely colonialist from a narration perspective, the film depicts an era in which tigers really did terrorize the countryside, picking out tasty human morsels at whim. Trust us, this film is occasionally hilarious, and never boring. A Leslie Film.

'Blizzard on the Equator' (1929?) 30m, uncredited director. Carveth Wells was one of the most famous lecturers on the "expedition circuit", his fame being eclipsed perhaps by only Richard Halliburton, and is completely unknown today. Wells was also a prolific writer, and in fact wrote a book about the filming of this Cudahay-Massee expedition to the Ruwenzori Mountains. As with all Leslie Films, extreme difficulties were faced by the cinematographers, and we believe these were the first moving pictures ever shot of the "Mountains of the Moon". Wells' narration style is dated and silly, which makes this film a real period piece. A very special film.

'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).

"Liberace" (1955?) 10m, uncredited director. The world hasn't been the same since this self-effacing, flamboyant, funny entertainer passed away. What's this film got to do with tonight's theme? Nothing, but since we're not having a show next week (Thanksgiving), we've hired the young Liberace, who does everything but wear the pilgrim hat to warm our hearts this holiday season. If you've seen early Liberace, this will be a treat; if you haven't, you absolutely shouldn't miss this one... it's... it's... it's... so FABULOUS!


Thursday, November 14, 1996... Animation series, Program 1:'Titans of Cut-Out Animation

Popular animation processes cited in film texts commonly include painted cels, claymation, puppets, and pixillation, but rarely include the fascinating and demanding art of cut-out animation, in which paper or cardboard is cut, then meticulously positioned and shot frame-by-frame. Cut-out artists traditionally work in the world of film geared toward primary children and concern fairy tales and the like, but a great child's film is usually a great adult's film as well. This program serves as an introduction to this little-known art form, dating from Lotte Reiniger's early work with silhouettes in 1920's Germany to the Oscar-nominated short by Luzzati/Gianini (Thieving Magpie). Of special interest is the folkloric work by the little-known master Gerald McDermott. Tonight's Films include:

'Frame by Frame' (1973) 13m, dir. Burnford & Samuelson. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to differentiate between different types of animation? This film does just that, with great examples! Essential to the understanding of how an animation film is made.

'Frog Prince' (1950?) 10m, dir. Lotte Reiniger. Breathtaking fairy tale silhouettes by the famous early 20th century German animator.

'The Thieving Magpie' (1974) 10m, dir.  Emanuele Luzzati/Giulio Gianini. A rousing tribute to the Rossini opera, an Oscar nominee and Annecy winner. Cut-out film art at its best.

'Moonbeam Princess' (1967) 18m, dir. Matsue Jinbo?  The Gakken studio in Japan produced dozens of fairy tales in mixed (puppet/watercolor/cut-out) media in the 1960's. While not strictly a cut-out film due to the variety of media, 'Princess' utilizes cutouts of various kinds --- bamboo stalks, lightening bolts, arrows, and occasionally, people. This short demonstrates how cutout can be used successfully with other animation forms to create a tour-de-force of the animator's art.

'Notes on a Triangle' (1966) 5m, dir. René Jodoin. The mission of the animation group at the National Film Board of Canada was to create a Canadian "voice" under severe budget constraints. Prior to the days of computer animation, filmmaker Rene' Jodoin produced a work based on a simple cut-out triangle, spinning massive permutations of that geographic form to the tune of carousel music.

'How Death came to Earth' (1971) 15m, dir. Ishu Patel. A riotous Indian tale is told in firestorm of color. Terrific tabla soundtrack. From the National Film Board of Canada.

Four films by Gerald McDermott, the Caldecott Award-winning illustrator and author of children's books who is coincidentally an outstanding, brilliant animator. Interestingly, his initial passion was in film, and his books of the same title are generally illustrated in watercolor, not cut-outs. Today, he is unknown and unappreciated as a filmmaker. An interpreter of ethnic folk tales, his films are a riot of color and movement. Tonight we'll feature:

'Anansi the Spider' (1969) 10m, dir. Gerald McDermott.  An Ashanti legend.
'Arrow to the Sun' (1973) 12m, dir. Gerald McDermott.. A Hopi tale
'Stonecutter' (1966) 6m, dir. Gerald McDermott..  A Matisse-like Japanese story.
'Sun Flight", (1965) 4m, dir. Gerald McDermott.  The Icarus tale, and  Zellerbach Award winner for Film as Art, at the San Francisco Film Festival


Thursday, November 7, 1996... The genius of Norman McLaren

 Tonight's program is a tribute to the outstanding work of filmmaker/animator Norman McLaren.

At the behest of John Grierson, McLaren created the animation group at the National Film Board of Canada, and served as its director until his death in 1984. His work was experimental, fun, and sometimes downright strange (I'm still at a loss to explain 'Rhythmetic'). Whether painting directly on film, experimenting with slo-mo multiple images, or pixilation, he championed high-art animation in a financially austere environment. Incredibly, his entire output consists of under three total hours of film.   In spite of occasional successes (the Oscar winning "Neighbours", and film school favorite "Pas de Deux"), his work remains largely unknown. The films on this program are rarely shown today, yet constitute a major influence on world film. This can't-miss program features the following:

'The Eye Hears, the Ear Sees' (1970) 60m, dir. Gavin Millar.  This apparently is the only interview/documentary ever done of McLaren. Here, the BBC's Millar accompanies McLaren driving his VW (missing a headlight) around Montreal, and visits the lab.

'Neighbours'  (1952) 9m, dir. Norman McLaren. This is McLaren's Oscar-winning pixillation short, a metaphor for the follies of war, offereing a Canadian perspective interesting in its juxtaposition with contemporary US cold war philosophy.

'Begone Dull Care'  (1949) 10m, dir. Norman McLaren.  A handpainted film (with Eve Lambart), to the music of Oscar Peterson.

'Pas de Deux' (1967) 14m, dir. Norman McLaren.      Perhaps the most famous ballet short ever filmed; breathtaking slo-mo multiple images.

'Fiddle De Dee' (1947) 4m, dir. Norman McLaren.  A riot of hand-painted color set to Quebecois fiddle music

'Chairy Tale' (1957) 10m, dir. Norman McLaren.  Can a chair have a personality?  A psychological dance between man and chair.

'Rythmetic' (1971) 9m, dir. Norman McLaren.  McLaren and Evelyn Lambart collaborate on a cut-out animation and syntho-rhythmic lesson on mathematics. For fans of minimalist film only!


Thursday, October 31, 1996... ciné16's Inaugural Program: War Scenes

Starting our film series on Halloween begins with the challenge of coming up with something appropriate to the day, and truly, what is more horrifying than the world’s second oldest sport? Tonight, four different directors take us on a philosophical visit to the outrageous, hilarious, macabre, and poignant creature we call war. Tonight’s program will be an unforgettable experience, and, with our usual starting time of 7:00, we’ll have you on your way to your next destination by 9:00.

'Genius Man' (1970) 2m, prod. Nicholas Spargo.  An animated explanation of how art becomes war

'Silences' (1972) 13m, dir. Predrag Golubovic. A poignant tale of a good deed gone bad, a gripping exploration of the duality of the human condition.

'Joseph Schultz' (1973) 13, dir. Golubovic. We’re breaking the rule of only one Golubovic film per evening in order to provide convincing evidence of one of the truly great Montenegran directors in action. This film intersperses dramatization with actual photos from an event that took place in WWII. At first the photos seem to be cartoons and we fool ourselves into thinking they aren’t real. The story itself seems so absurd that even today the viewer has difficulty in accepting the veracity of the event. A fitting bookend to the previous film, the director examines the nobility and futility of compassion.

'Operation Cue'  (1964) 15m, uncredited director. In attempting to determine the effects of a nuclear experience on people and buildings, the Office of Civil Defense set up elaborate life-sized models out in the Sonoran desert, then showed in slo-mo how nicely everything blew up in an actual nuclear blast. In this classic document of the cold war, the filmmakers matter-of-factly report the tremendous destruction unleashed by the device. While the film appears to us today to be a quaint relic, the filmmakers were deadly serious, and depict a time --- remembered all too well by those of us who practiced under-the-desk drills in kindergarten --- in which backyard bomb shelters were de rigueur in the best neighborhoods.

'A Face of War' (1967) 70m, dir. Eugene S. Jones. Let’s follow Mike Company of the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine regiment on a search-and-kill mission. 'Face' is filmed without commentary, and constitutes what is possibly the most sobering and powerful example of war as it existed in Vietnam, complete with terrifying night firefights, medivac, and quiet walks through the village. This is an exceedingly rare showing of one of the finest documentaries ever filmed. Tonight’s ciné16 program ends here: there is no easy follow-up film to 'Face'.


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