Previewing the 2017 Brakhage Center Symposium

The week belongs to Stan Brakhage, a titan of experimental filmmaking and a former University of Colorado Boulder professor. For information on Brakhage’s background, see Sunday’s post. For the remainder of the week, I’ll be posting previews of Brakhage Center Symposiums past, a must-see on every spring calendar. Monday belonged to 2016, now let’s dive into 2017’s program. From Boulder Weekly Vol. 24, No. 31, “Images From the Underground.”

Many filmmakers have strode the hallowed halls of the University of Colorado Boulder: Derek Cianfrance, Dalton Trumbo, and Alex Cox are just a few, but if there is one name that towers over the rest it is the godfather of experimental cinema, Stan Brakhage.

Born in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1933, Brakhage gained notoriety and attention with works like Mothlight (1963), Dog Star Man (1964), and The Act of Seeing With One’s Own Eyes (1971) among hundreds more. Brakhage taught off and on at CU from the ’70s to his death in 2003, and the net he cast was wide. Caught in that net was CU professor Suranjan Ganguly, who has been doing his part to keep Brakhage’s innovations and legacy alive with his monthly celebration of his friend’s work, Celebrating Stan, and the yearly symposium that honors work in Brakhage’s field, the Brakhage Center symposium.

When Ganguly took over directing duties of the Brakhage Center in 2015, his goal was to diversify the works featured at the Brakhage Center, and this year’s program may mark the first truly multicultural Brakhage Center symposium thanks to the inclusion of the work of Mark LaPore.

LaPore, who passed away in 2005 at the age of 53, was a filmmaker who’s work not only combined experimental film, ethnographic documentary, diarist travel film, and lyrical autobiography, but spanned the globe from New York to Thailand, Massachusetts to Burma, Poland to Sudan, England to Sri Lanka and Italy to India.

These films: Kolkata, A Depression in the Bay of Bengal, The Five Bad Elements, The Glass System, and The Sleepers have been described by curator Mark McElhatten as “unique, a form of visual anthropology but equally about the mystery of being, and film as consciousness.” They are not easy to track down for home viewing, which makes this tribute all the more exciting for Boulder cinephiles. Filmmakers Peggy Ahwesh, Jonathan Schwartz, and Phil Solomon will all be on hand to screen and talk about LaPore’s work alongside their own. The LaPore Tribute takes place on Saturday, March 11, starting at 2 p.m.

Thanks to the LaPore’s cinematic connection with India, this year’s multicultural theme continues in strength with the Sunday program, a session of contemporary avant-garde Indian cinema curated by Shai Heredia. Heredia is traveling from India exclusively for this event, and she will present the work of Ayisha Abraham, Natasha Mendonca, Iram Ghufran, Payal Kapadia, Prantik Basu, Kush Badhwar and Priya Sen. Much like the films of LaPore, these films are nearly impossible to come by through normal means, which makes this year’s Brakhage Center symposium all the more essential.

No Brakhage Center symposium would be complete without a nod to the man himself. The symposium will open at 11:30 a.m. with Ganguly hosting Celebrating Stan: A Brakhage Screening. Ganguly has also finished editing a printed collection of Brakhage interviews—aptly titled Stan Brakhage Interviews—and will be selling and signing his books fresh off the University Press of Mississippi starting at 5:30 p.m.

The 13th annual Brakhage Center symposium is free and open to the public.