F.I.L.M. Series

All events are free and the public is cordially invited.

Unless otherwise indicated, events are scheduled for Sunday afternoons at 2 in the Bradford Auditorium—Room 125, in the Kirner-Johnson Building. Events run between one and three hours.

This series is made possible by the office of the Dean of the Faculty, by the generous support of the Kirkland Endowment, and by the Experimental Television Center re-grant program.

Events are curated by Scott MacDonald, with help from Heather Johnsen and Bret Olsen.

Spring 2017 Schedule

Unless otherwise indicated, events are scheduled for Sunday afternoons at 2:00 in the Bradford Auditorium—Room 125, in the Kirner-Johnson Building.

Sunday, January 29

Brett Story, in person, with The Prison in Twelve Landscapes (2016)

“I have worked with prisoners and on criminal justice issues, in Canada and the USA, for over a decade as an activist, journalist, artist and academic. I have long thought about how such coercive structures have come to be so normalized within our social landscapes. No country in the world has a prison population as vast as the United States, and yet for many people imagining a world with fewer prisons feels like an impossible task. As a filmmaker with a geographer’s eye, I spend a lot of time considering the relationship between where we are, what we see, and how we think. While films that bring us inside penitentiaries to convey the humanity of those incarcerated can have important stories to tell, I can’t help but feel the limitations of a cinema whose highest aspiration is simply to evoke sympathy. I want the imagery to do more, and wonder if seeing prisons differently might be key to thinking about prisons differently”—director’s statement.

“An ingenious, prismatic approach” with “a consistent formal beauty”—Variety

Sunday, February 2

Charlie Chaplin’s The Adventurer (1915) and The Kid (1921)

One of Chaplin’s canonical Mutual 2-reelers (20 minutes), The Adventurer shows the Little Tramp on the run from the police and pretty much everyone else, but not too busy to save women from drowning, kicking bad guys in the rear—and inspiring much of the history of the American animated cartoon! In The Kid, Chaplin’s short feature (65 minutes), the Tramp finds an abandoned child and the result is not only “a smile and perhaps a tear,” but one of the quintessential American comedies, accompanied by Chaplin’s original score. Co-starring Jackie Coogan.

Sunday, February 12

Buster Keaton’s The General (1926)

The “Great Stone Face” (he never smiled in the films he directed) and master stunt comedian, Buster Keaton plays Johnny Gray, a locomotive engineer in the Civil War South. When his train, “The General,” is stolen by Union spies, Johnny (and Keaton) give chase, risking life and limb to demonstrate how funny overcoming danger can be.

The General is accompanied by the music of F.I.L.M. favorite, the Alloy Orchestra. 70 minutes.

Sunday, February 19

Two Tars (1928) and The Music Box (1932) with Laurel and Hardy

Classic cinema’s greatest comedy duo, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy weathered the change from silent to sound film more effectively than any other comedians. Two Tars (“tar” is slang for sailor) demonstrates how a simple traffic jam can become comedy chaos when these two tars are involved. In The Music Box Stan and Ollie are hired to move a player piano up the longest flight of stairs in town—John Cage would have enjoyed the “music” they make and so will you!  65 minutes.

Sunday, February 26

Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times (1935)

Perhaps his greatest feature, Modern Times was Chaplin’s first foray into sound film (he had resisted sound since he felt, with good reason, that he had perfected silent comedy). The Tramp finds himself part of the Great Depression, tightening nuts (and going nuts) on a factory assembly line, falling in love, roller skating himself into danger, going to jail and, at long last, speaking—in Chaplin’s satire of the tyranny of film-industrial production. Accompanied by Chaplin’s own music (including his song, “Smile”). 90 minutes.

Sunday, March 5

Film Scholar Jacqueline Stewart will join us to explore the career of pioneer filmmaker Spencer Williams.

Dr. Stewart is a graduate of the University of Chicago where she now teaches film history with the Department of Cinema and Media Studies, serves as director of Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry, and curates Black Cinema House. She is author of Migrating to the Movies: Cinema and Black Urban Modernity (University of California Press, 2005) and co-author of LA Rebellion: Creating a New Black Cinema (University of California Press, 2015).

Spencer Williams had a long and diverse career in American media, from his bit part in Buster Keaton’s Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1927) to his starring role as Andy in the TV show Amos ‘n Andy—though he is best known to cineastes for Blood of Jesus (1941), his lovely “race film” (a film with an all-Black cast distributed to the network of African-American theaters in the apartheid America of the 1920s-1940s).

Sunday, April 2

Yance Ford ’94, in person, with Strong Island (2016)

In 1992, Yance Ford was a sophomore at Hamilton College when her brother William was murdered. “My brother’s death picked up my life and put it down somewhere else,” Ford told Scott Macaulay of Filmmaker Magazine, “I had an image of myself…as a working artist, and when he died, all of that changed.” By her senior year, Ford decided she wanted to make a film about her brother’s death; 25 years later, Strong Island is that film. In the interim between Ford’s graduation from Hamilton and the completion of her first feature film, Ford worked in and around the documentary film business, becoming in 2002 a series producer for POV, television’s longest running showcase for independent documentaries. Strong Island (the title is a reference to African American enclaves on Long Island) is a visually distinctive, emotionally intimate contribution to the genre of personal documentary.


Sunday, April 9

“A Roll for Peter Hutton”

When Peter Hutton died on June 25, 2016, we lost a great and influential film artist (and frequent F.I.L.M. guest)—documentary filmmaker Ken Burns has called Hutton “a national treasure.” In the wake of his passing, several of Hutton’s students and colleagues collaborated on “A Roll for Peter,” inviting filmmakers to submit a roll of film in his honor. The resulting anthology, which includes mini-films by filmmakers from across the country and around the world (including past F.I.L.M. guests David Gatten, Jennifer Reeves, and Lynn Sachs) will be screened this afternoon, along with Study of a River (1997), the Hutton film that was added to the Library of Congress’s National Film Registry in 2011.


Sunday, April 16

Ernst Karel, in person, with sound works

Sound wizard Ernst Karel has been the sonic brains and ears behind the recent spate of remarkable nonfiction films produced by Harvard’s Sensory Ethnography Lab (Leviathan, Manakamana, The Iron Ministry, Foreign Parts…). Karel makes electroacoustic music and experimental nonfiction sound works for multichannel installation and performance. His sound installations (in collaboration with Helen Mirra) have been exhibited at Culturgest, Lisbon; KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin; Audiorama, Stockholm; MIT’s List Visual Arts Center; and in the 2012 Sao Paulo Bienal. Ernst will present two sound works—yes, we’ll listen to them together in the darkened theater--and talk with us about his work as a sound artist.

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