Previewing the 2016 Brakhage Center Symposium

To borrow a line from French filmmaker and critic Jean-Luc Godard, “Cinema is everywhere.” And from March 4-6, cinema is indeed everywhere in Boulder. Around Boulder, Longmont, and Broomfield, the Boulder International Film Festival screens over 50 features, documentaries, and shorts from all over the world, covering a plethora of cinematic tastes. The International Film Series is playing one of the true masterpieces of the horror genre, 1922’s Nosferatu, and the Boedecker is screening Matthew Barney’s six-hour operatic art film, River of Fundament. But for the truly cinematic adventurous, the University of Colorado Boulder is hosting the 2016 Brakhage Symposium, screening more than 20 experimental works that will confront and subvert viewers’ very notions of cinema.

Former CU professor Stan Brakhage was an experimental filmmaker of pure abstraction, yet his effect on cinematic narrative is palpable. Fellow professor and friend Dr. Suranjan Ganguly is the director of the Stan Brakhage Center at CU. Since 2005, the center has hosted a symposium that not only honors Brakhage but also exhibits the type of works Brakhage helped pioneer.

This year’s symposium is a tribute to George Kuchar, a filmmaker whose short, no-budget works are campy, witty, and whimsical. Writing in 2006, media theorist Gene Youngblood describes the underground director’s work as, “transgressive and subversive—transgressive sexually (he’s among the pioneers of queer and camp cinema) and in its scatological breach of decorum; subversive in its zero-budget triumph over commodity cinema, the triumph of amateur over professional.”

Drawing between the years 1964 and 1994 the symposium will screen 11 of Kuchar’s works as well as Jennifer Kroot’s documentary, It Came From Kuchar, which will play Saturday morning and provide historical context for understanding Kuchar’s aesthetic.

Kuchar’s twin, Michael Kuchar, will attend a Sunday afternoon panel discussion about his brother’s work as well as present his own creations (March 5, 7:30 p.m.). Actress Donna Kerness, who appears in Lust for Ecstasy and Hold Me While I’m Naked, will be on hand March 6 to present both movies and participate in the Kuchar panel. As will video artist and editor of The George Kuchar Reader, Andrew Lampert, City College of San Francisco professor Denah Johnston and filmmaker Nancy Andrews.

How the image makes its way to the screen is just as important as what that image is. Kuchar found many different ways to morph and change the shape of things to come. It’s cinema on the wild side, the kind that challenges and confronts.

The above articles first appeared in the pages of Boulder Weekly Vol. 23, No. 31, Brakhage Center Symposium to honor George Kuchar.