LA Filmforum Presents: filmmaker Bill Brand, May 15


Master filmmaker Bill Brand comes to Los Angeles to present work by others during the Orphan Film Symposium West, which Filmforum co-presents on May 13 & 14, and he comes to us on the 15th with his own extraordinary films. All the films explore landscape and the body to express a broad variety of themes including industrial production, medicine, travel and family history.  Quiet explorations of exterior spaces that unveil more than is apparent. Brand has been making films for four decades now, and was previously hosted at Filmforum back in the 1980s!  Every film except “Coalfields” is a Los Angeles premiere!

For over four decades Bill Brand has been an artist, educator, activist and film preservationist.  His experimental and documentary films, videos and installations have exhibited extensively in the US and abroad in museums, microcinemas, and on television since the early 1970’s. They have been featured at major film festivals including the Berlin Film Festival and New Directors/ New Films Festival and are written about in cinema history books and in articles by Erik Barnouw, David James, Janet Maslin, Paul Arthur, J. Hoberman, B. Ruby Rich, and Noel Carroll, among others. His famous 1980 public artwork, Masstransiscope, a mural in a NYC subway tunnel that is animated by the movement of passing trains, is in the permanent collection of the MTA Arts for Transit program. In 1973 he founded Chicago Filmmakers, the showcase and workshop and served on the Board of Directors of the Collective for Living Cinema in New York City.  He is currently a trustee of the Flaherty Seminar and an advisor to the Orphan Film Symposium. Since 1976 he has operated BB Optics, an optical printing service specializing in archival preservation of small gauge films and films by artists. In 2006 he was named an Anthology Film Archives film preservation honoree and given a month long retrospective to celebrate BB Optics’ 30th anniversary. He is currently Professor of Film and Photography at Hampshire College and since 2005 has also taught film preservation in the graduate Moving Image Archiving and Preservation program at New York University.
“Susie’s Ghost” (2011, 7 min, 16mm or HD Quicktime)
in collaboration with Ruthie Marantz
Los Angeles Premiere!
When filming, I was mourning the loss of my older sister and my photography and the performance of collaborator Ruthie Marantz express a diffuse sense of loss. Is she looking for something or someone? Is she really there? Is she really gone? The film was shot in downtown Manhattan before the housing bubble burst.  Construction mania had not yet obliterated the last traces of the manufacturing district I’d moved to 35 years earlier.  That too has passed.

“Suite” (1996-2003, 30 minutes, DVCAM or SD Quicktime)
Los Angeles Premiere!
This is a suite of five short videos that address personal and family history, in part, dealing with the implications of being the only sibling of five not to have inherited Polycystic Kidney Disease, an incurable disorder.  In these works, the body is a site both of beauty and abjection. 
“Swan’s Island” (2005, 5 min, 16mm)
Co-directed by Katy Martin
Los Angeles Premiere!
This film explores gesture in painting, and how that relates to the hand held camera.  Katy Martin paints on her own body, and Bill Brand captures the painted figure and its trace.  In its choreography, “Swan’s Island” is a duet.  The person filming and the person filmed are moving as one, and yet they are separate, each an island.  Seeing and being seen are inextricably bound with emotions of love and loss, longing, and a sense of place.

“Sicómoro” (2011, 5 min, HD Quicktime)
Text by Carolina Noblega
Los Angeles Premiere!
A meditation on travel and home revealed through ornate doors and other architectural details from Ciudad Vieja in Montevideo, Uruguay and a letter to a friend.

“Coalfields” (1984, 39 min., 16mm)
Poetry by Kimiko Hahn, Music by Earl Howard
This film unites political and social content with a radically idiosyncratic avant-garde film language.  Primarily a landscape, the film is shot in the mining hollows and river valleys of West Virginia.  It centers on the story of Fred Carter, coal miner and black lung activist. Although the film grows out of a concrete situation, it is not simply a social documentary. Instead it is a personal and visual essay that addresses political and personal forces as landscape.   The pictures are broken up by abstract shapes that, through optical printing, collage several simultaneous viewpoints into complex patterns of color, shape and motion.  The images work with the highly charged poetry of Kimiko Hahn and the music of Earl Howard to develop themes of coal mining, industrial and artistic production, love, separation, struggle, sadness and hope.
Los Angeles Filmforum is the city’s longest-running organization screening experimental and avant-garde film and video art, documentaries, and experimental animation.  2011 is our 36th year.

This screening series is supported, in part, by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles County Arts Commission; the Department of Cultural Affairs, City of Los Angeles; and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Additional support generously provided by American Cinematheque.

The Spielberg Theater at the Egyptian
6712 Hollywood Blvd. (at Las Palmas), Los Angeles CA 90028

More information at  
Admission $10 general, $6 students/seniors, free for Filmforum members
Advance ticket purchase available through Brown Paper Tickets:

Parking is now easiest at the Hollywood & Highland complex. Bring your ticket for validation. Parking is $2 for 4 hours with validation. Enter that complex on Highland or Hollywood. The theater is 1.5 blocks east.


About Author

Robin Menken

Robin Menken Robin Menken lives in Los Angeles. She was the Artistic Director of the Second City Workshops, taught at UC Berkeley, USC, Barcelona\'s Ateneu and the Esalin Institute. She was Roberto Rossellini\'s assistant, and worked with Yevgeny Vevteshenku, Glauber Rocha and Eugene Ionesco. She sold numerous screenplays and wrote the OBIE winning The FTA SHow (touring with Jane Fonda, Donald Sutherland and Ben Vereen.) She was a programming consultant and Special Events co-ordinator for numerous film festivals, including the SF, Rio, Havana and N.Y Film Festivals. Her first news outlet was the historic East Village Other.

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