Alternative Projections: Experimental Film in Los Angeles, Screening 16


Some experimental films draw on traditional notions of documentary and ethnographic film, but manipulate them with an increased emphasis on media specificity and concerns over how media works convey meaning and “truth” in non-fiction. On January 21, we featured a program of films by filmmakers based in Los Angeles. This show, however, will show films looking at Los Angeles by artists who weren’t here for the long haul — visitors to our balmy climes. What truths about the city are these non-Angeleños able to see, and how do they express them? This show, however, will show films looking at Los Angeles by artists who weren’t here for the long haul — they were just visitors to our balmy climes. What truths about the city are these non-Angeleños able to see, and how do they express them? Featuring films by three superlative artists: Robert Nelson, David Lamelas, and Ben Van Meter.

This screening is dedicated to Robert Nelson, whom we lost this January.

Screening (Subject to change):
The Desert People, by David Lamelas (1974, 16mm, color, sound, 48 min.) 16mm print from London special for this screening, courtesy of LUX

David Lamelas describes it as “a study on American film production”. The Desert People begins like a classic road-movie. The setting is completely familiar to us: a car crossing the desert with a group of people traveling on board. But as soon as the narration begins, it is interrupted by documentary-style interviews. Passing in this way from one film genre to another, Lamelas manages to blur the boundary between fact and fiction.

Me & Bruce & Art, by Ben Van Meter (1968, 16mm, color, sound, 6min.) In 1968, Bay Area filmmakers and Canyon Cinema co-founders Ben Van Meter and Bruce Conner were invited to L.A. to talk about Underground Film on the Art Linkletter Show.

Special Warning, by Robert Nelson (1999, 16mm, b/w & color, sound, 5.5min.) Robert Nelson’s final completed film was developed from material he had shot in the early 1970s in Southern California while teaching at Cal Arts. “Special Warning is like a poem more than a narrative or story. It suggests states of isolation, barrenness, sexual guilt and sin, but even these punishing afflictions can have a humorous aspect when accompanied by horns.” (RAN)

Suite California Stops & Passes Part 1: Tijuana to Hollywood Via Death Valley, by Robert Nelson (1972-76/2004, 16mm, b/w & color, sound, 46min.) “The first of a series of films addressing the California landscape and experience, incorporating diaristic, documentary and fictional material.” (Mark Webber) “…a funky odyssey into both Nelson’s personal history and that of his state. It has a quality of playfulness as Nelson experiments with varying juxtapositions of sounds and images. It is a carefully structured, painstaking work of much beauty and emotional impact that reaffirms Robert Nelson’s gifts as a very personal, very venturesome filmmaker.” (Kevin Thomas)

Alternative Projections: Experimental Film in Los Angeles, 1945-1980 will feature over 24 shows between October 2011 and May 2012. Alternative Projections is Filmforum’s exploration of the community of filmmakers, artists, curators and programmers who contributed to the creation and presentation of experimental film and video in Southern California in the postwar era. Film series curated by Adam Hyman and Mark Toscano, with additional contributions by David James, Christine Panushka, Jerri Allyn, Rani Singh, Abraham Ferrer, Terry Cannon, Ben Caldwell, Stephanie Sapienza, Amy Halpern, and more.

Alternative Projections: Experimental Film in Los Angeles, 1945-1980 is part of Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. 1945-1980. This unprecedented collaboration, initiated by the Getty, brings together more than sixty cultural institutions from across Southern California for six months beginning October 2011 to tell the story of the birth of the L.A. art scene. Pacific Standard Time is an initiative of the Getty. The presenting sponsor is Bank of America.

Primary funding for Alternative Projections was provided by the Getty Foundation, with additional support from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. This screening series is supported, in part, by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles County Arts Commission; and the Department of Cultural Affairs, City of Los Angeles. Special support provided by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Additional support generously provided by American Cinematheque.

Our website at contains oral histories, articles, and a searchable database with individuals, films, organizations, and exhibitions, and archival content. This is the first database of its kind and will give scholars and the public a much richer understanding of art production in Los Angeles for years to come. The contents of the screening series can also be found there.

Saturday February 4, 2012, 8:00 pm
Los Angeles Filmforum presents
Echo Park Film Center, 1200 N Alvarado St. (@ Sunset Blvd.)
Los Angeles, CA. 90026 | (213) 484 – 8846 |

Tickets: $10 general, $6 students/seniors; free for Filmforum members
Available on Brown Paper Tickets at

Coming Soon to Los Angeles Filmforum:
Feb 4, 8:00 – Alternative Projections: Outsiders Observe Los Angeles (at the Echo Park Film Center)
Feb 12, 7:30 – Alternative Projections: Sex Roles & Rules: Gender, Liberation, and Sexuality (at the Egyptian)
Feb 15, 8:00 – Alternative Projections: Rock & Roll Experiments (at Cinefamily)
Feb 19, 4:00 – Alternative Projections: Performance & Media (at the Egyptian)

Los Angeles Filmforum is the city’s longest-running organization screening experimental and avant-garde film and video art, documentaries, and experimental animation. 2012 is our 37th year
Memberships available, $70 single or $105 dual
Contact us at


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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