Looking back at Toy Camera Film Festival


PXL THIS 20 (The 20th Annual Toy Camera Film Festival) featuring Pixelvision films made with the Fisher-Price PXL-2000 camcorder, were screened on  May 19, 2011 (8:00 PM) at the Echo Park Film Center. PXL THIS 20  is one of LA’S  oldest continuous film festivals.

The PXL-2000 is a plastic toy video camera made by Fisher-Price in the 1980s.  With it’s fixed focus aspherical lens and lower frame rate it produces low-resolution pixelated black and white images reminiscent of the super 8 images favored by avant garde artists in the 70’s. The  PXL-2000 came into it’s own in the avant garde scene in the early 90’s, after a grant by the Rockefeller Foundation was awarded to Sadie Benning for her early lesbian-identified Pixelvision videos shot on the PXL 2000. Sadie’ father, the avant garde filmmaker James Benning, gave her the tot camera with which she became identified.

The PXL-2000 has a history of use in overground films and music videos (Sonic Youth)  Richard Linklater shot the performance art sequence in “Slackers” on the camera. Michael Almereyda used running POV scenes in his post modern Vampire movie “Nadja”, shot a feature “Another Girl Another Planet”  and his 1993 short “Aliens” on the unit and Ethan Hawke (Hamlet) shot a video diary shown in his urban contempo “Hamlet.”

The event was presented by Gerry Fialka, Los Angeles’ preeminent underground film curator. Fialka’s famed DOCUMENTAL series (Unurban Gallery) and the 7 DUDLEY CINEMA series, with their intimate salon ambiance, have presented an ambitious mix of current and historical avant garde classics and oddities, enriching the cinematic dialogue in LA for several decades. He organized interactive workshops for the Ann Arbor Film Festivals (2006- 2007) as well  as UCLA and MIT. One of the last channels of inspired McCluhanesque convergence and synthesis, Fialko continues to embody the omniverous, questing curiosity and joyous subversiveness of the 60’s cultural renaissance.

Fialka launched the renowned Marshall McLuhan-Finnegans Wake Reading Club at the Venice Public Library 1995. Fialka, who worked for Filmex in it’s glory years, is Frank Zappa’s archivist. Fialco has interviewed many of LA’s over and underground artists in his itinerant  one -on -one interview series MESS (Media Ecology Soul Sessions).

The very democratic PXL celebrates creativity from kids and moving image professionals, all discovering ways to exploit the camera’s intense black and white (often artifact ridden) images. As Fialko explains, the uncurated fest celebrates “cinema povera” moving image art, evoking Marcel Duchamp’s axiom “Poor tools require better skills.”     Past PXL THIS participants have included Lee Ranaldo (Sonic Youth), Chris Metzler (Fishbone & Salton Sea documentaries), James & Sadie Benning, Joe Gibbons, Cecilia Dougherty, Peggy Ahwesh, Jesse Drew, Margie Strosser and Michael Almereyda.

GOOD GRIEF –  Lisa Marr & Paolo Davanzo, 2m
(Charlie Brown redux.)

SPILTERACY – Mary Jane Shoultz, 4m  (Ruminations of split between media and literacy, left and right brain, soul and mind.)

SPOON & PACKET – Philip Marion, 12m ( A faux TV pilot produced by a spoon and a sugar packet with attitude.)

AND THEY PLAYED & THEY PLAYED & THEY PLAYED – Gwyneth & Geoff Seelinger, 5m ( Father Seelinger and his four-year old daughter look at the joy of doll play.)

TROG ALLEY – Will Erokan, 6m (A hallucinatory tale.)

ARROYO SECO RIVER SONG – Nicole & Michael Possert, 4m
(The history of the Arroyo Seco in song. Starring George Willis.)

DEAD MAN’S CLOTHES – Terri Sarris & Frank Pahl, 3m
(A thrift shop find inspires a Noir in song.)

MONK – Nick Newlin, 4m (Accordian stylings of a tune by Thelonious Monk.)

GLITCH – Terri Sarris, 3m (A moody pixilated abstraction.)

(A swnging duet between legendary local barrelhouse singer Wiliams and musicologist piano virtuoso Brad Kaye;)

SLOW DRAW Elric Kane, 7m (A beautiful ethereal reverie. My favorite!)

(A conversation between rear projected KIng Kukule and his “live” companion perform a musical stand up in a post modern deconstructed ventriloquism act. )

BEACH DAY, LIGHT PLAY- Geoff Seelinger, 3m (An ecstatic pixilated beach day, graphically and emotionally satisfying.)

HEY YOU IN THE FUTURE – Jonathan Menchin, 4m
(A hipster singer/accordian player tells it like it was)

7 DUDLEY – Rex Butters, 3m* (A poem summons the famed boho gathering place which closed in 2008. “There was no stage at Sponto’s, only performers all…poetry both golden and tin…confusing congregation of chords, dark dada…hyper inspired multi levelled conversation.. the voice of the community..shakees off greed’s grip on Venice if only for a night.. a temporary autonomous zone…holy ground…lucky for us who were there.”)

OIL KILLS – L. M. Sabo, 2m  (A great political protest piece.)

PROJECTION/EJECTION – David Sherman – 3m
(A graphically interesting first person recount of SF boho event.)
ROXY RUBICON EPISODE 5 – Eli Elliott, 6m
(In this Pop satire, Roxy discovers a time traveling energy vortex inside a dollar store and begins her journey back to the year 2050)

SEE NOTE – Joe Nucci, 6m (The 4th episode in Nucci’s trilogy/musician,  limo-driver Nucci recounts jobs chauffeuring Kim Basinger, Smokey Robinson and James Ellroy.

ROUNDS – Clifford Novey, 6m (Beautiful geometric visual imagery)

BEST LAVA VIEW RIGHT HERE – Doug Ing, 4m (A visit to the lava flow field.)

FERTILE GROUND CORPORATE SLUG – Bryan Konefsky, 4m (Features Investigative reporter Greg Palast and media scholar Gene Youngblood, author of the landmark book on experimental cinema,”Expanded Cinema)

PYTHAGORAS AS POET – Robin Carter, 5m
(Carter mourns the loss of direct experience. “The poet was the archive of the tribe”, then came the alphabet and “The body and soul of the collective mind collapsed to abstract phonetic simple for the single eye.”

PARALLEL WORLDER – Gerry Fialka, 10m*
(“there s one kinda blues and that occurs between male and female, high and low…I’m talking about the blues now, you talking about monkey junk.. that means two people supposed to be in love, when one or the other deceives the other through their love” (Son House) Found images and found sound mash up to illustrate the trials of jealousy and sexual deceit.)

For information about Fialko’s ongoing film series visit (www.81x.com/7dudley/cinema)


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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