september 2021, arsenal cinema

“The gatekeepers exist to be overthrown.” 
Amos Vogel – Repeats and Responses

“The most important question – Where is the experimental film movement? – is the one which I wish someone could answer for me”, wrote Maya Deren in August 1946 to the filmmaker Frank Stauffacher who was preparing a program for the San Francisco Museum of Art called “Art in Cinema”. Deren, who was 29 at the time, was a reference because in 1943 she had already started showing the experimental films she made with Alexander Hammid to a select audience. A group of artists, gallerists and cineastes had already formed around the New York couple when Deren rented the Provincetown Playhouse in Greenwich Village in 1946 in order to show her entire oeuvre so far. Several hundred audience members witnessed an event now considered to have been the dawn of the American experimental film movement. Among the audience were the newly-wed Jewish liberals Amos and Marcia Vogel. He had come to the US in 1939 from Austria after escaping the Nazis whereas she was born in New York. Recalling the evening later, Amos Vogel said that it had bowled him over. “The films were fantastic, the projection was excellent and the program notes were elaborate,” he said, clearly impressed by the seriousness of Deren's endeavor.

Deren’s pioneering work in New York and Stauffacher’s Art in Cinema programs inspired the Vogels to create a permanent structure that would give experimental and non-commercial films more visibility. Cinema 16 was born and by renting the same Provincetown Playhouse, the Vogels were inscribing themselves consciously in the movement that had just begun. In November 1947, they started showing “outstanding documentary and sociological films of all nations, superior educational as well as experimental and avant-garde films” on 16mm projectors. Cinema 16 became the biggest and most significant film society in history and existed as a regular event for members and as a non-commercial distributor from 1947 to 1963.

Amos Vogel (1921–2012) would have turned 100 this year and many are taking this as an occasion to honor this pioneer of independent film culture and the film club movement. So too does our program “The gatekeepers exist to be overthrown.” Amos Vogel – Repeats and Responses, which was additionally inspired by Arsenal’s friendship with the cineaste and his wife Marcia that dated back to the institution’s founding years in the mid-1960s.

september 2021, arsenal cinema

Online discussion with Angelika Levi

As part of our programme on our streaming platform arsenal 3 an online discussion with Angelika Levi, moderated by Borjana Gaković will take place on September 21 at 6pm. It can be seen on our YouTube Channel.

september 2021, arsenal cinema

Against all odds
 – Tribute to the Japanese screenwriters Yoko Mizuki and Sumie Tanaka

Bar owners, saleswomen, secretaries, geishas, housewives, mothers, daughters; many of the films made by Mikio Naruse in the early 1950s focus on women. Women of different ages, who live in modest conditions, have difficult family set-ups or are at turning points. Women who often suffer from loneliness and struggle to earn respect, self-determination, independence and their place in a rapidly changing post-war Japan. They make for complex and sometimes contradictory protagonists, who are finely depicted with a precise and sympathetic gaze but also one that has no illusions. Many of these female characters – for example in MESHI (Repast, 1951), YAMA NO OTO (Sound of the Mountain, 1954), BANGIKU (Late Chrysanthemums, 1954) and UKIGUMO (Floating Clouds, 1955) – came to life in the screenplays and literary adaptations of the two most important female screenwriters of the time, Yoko Mizuki (1910–2003) and Sumie Tanaka (1908–2000). The two were exceptional beings in the Japanese film industry, in which for a long time, women – apart from actresses – were tolerated at best in the areas of make-up and costume. They established themselves in the early 1950s and each wrote between 30 and 40 screenplays into the 1960s, including for Kozaburo Yoshimura and Kinuyo Tanaka (Sumie Tanaka) and Tadashi Imai, Masaki Kobayashi and Kon Ichikawa (Yoko Mizuki). The start of their careers was marked by repeated collaboration with Mikio Naruse. We present eight films that represent this successful period of work, which was formative for all three participants.

september 2021, arsenal cinema

Archival Assembly #1

The festival Archival Assembly #1 marks the (temporary) conclusion of the five-year project „Archive außer sich“, a series of interdisciplinary research, presentation, and exhibition projects dealing with film cultural heritage and its archives. Participating institutions are Harun Farocki Institut, SAVVY Contemporary, pong film, silent green Film Feld Forschung, the International Short Film Festival Oberhausen, and the masters program “Film Culture: Archiving, Programming, Presentation” at the Goethe University Frankfurt. From September 1 to 8 film archives and film archival projects will meet for a public exchange. At the same time, the plan is for a festival that will take place biannually, understanding archival work – as well as the cinema – as an artistic, social, and political practice.