The Ann Arbor film festival, the largest and longest running experimental/avant garde film fest, now in its 51st run, has been underway this past week. Filmmaker Jon Jost is in town, by chance, and gives his thoughts on the event, the selected films, and the current so called “Avant Garde” in general. In ’89 Jost won the Ann Arbor “Best of Fest” award with his experimental essay film “Plain Talk and Common Sense (uncommon senses)”
His summation, so far, is in line with the atmosphere I had expected: a nostalgia ridden regurgitation, with nothing really new, experimental, or avant garde.
Of a program made up of eleven films, each running from 2 to 30 minutes, I have to say there wasn’t one which I would call “experimental” or “avant garde” in any meaningful sense. Each was either an exhausted re-run of films I have seen 100 times (pixillated this, smashed and mashed filmic detritus as “style,” or run-of-the-mill animation, usually a bit on the messy side.)
As I mentioned elsewhere, their denial of digital (DV) works from the onset (late 90’s) began to cement their standing as no longer a relevant event for showcasing new cinema in the experimental and avant vein. They would eventually come around in 2003 with accepting digital, but not having understood the sped up digital environment and it’s future effects, they would find themselves 5 years behind the times, missing out on previous DV videomakers who were now morphing into HD experimenters, all the while ignoring the need to re-define just what “experimental” meant in present terms. Instead, satisfying the dominating nostalgia factor seemed to be of most importance. It seems the new works championed were re-hashed nostalgia factor films, playing up the usual “film leader” intro’s, scratches – now more purposefully placed, and other re-hash techniques. Nostalgia’s a bitch to break.
Jost mentions elements of the above and reveals that the majority present at the Ann Arbor fest, are not the young and the new, but the old entering the familiar museum. Instead of the young experiencing a breeding ground for current cinematic experiments, on a level to inspire/aspire to, works of such which flutter all around various corners of the internets, they are left to await the high horse nostalgia curtain to fall, so the welcoming aboard of a redefining of avant garde in the digital environment can, finally, take place.
Here’s the link to Jon’s post – AVANT HO