July 2019, arsenal cinema

Two or Three Things I Know About Latin America

ISM, ISM, 1979

The porous and shifting understanding of film forms in Latin America has continually blended with other unstable categories such as “avant-garde,” “experimental,” “militant,” “documentary,” and “Third Cinema.” Glauber Rocha, filmmaker and theorist of the cinema novo, wrote in a 1971 manifesto that “a work of revolutionary art should not only act in an immediately political way, but should also promote philosophical speculation, thus create an aesthetic of eternal human movement towards cosmic integration.” What sort of cinema might complete this tall order remained (and remains) an open question. Exploring the extensive collection of Latin American films in Arsenal’s archives, this five-part program is cross-pollinated with selections from Ism, Ism, Ism, Jesse Lerner and Luciano Piazza's previous curatorial collaboration. It aims to respond to Rocha’s call, offering some possible paths to a revolutionary, speculative cinema of “cosmic integration,” in some of its more expansive, militant, psychedelic, ironic, playful, formalist, and contemplative modes. (July 10-16)

From the time of Venezuela’s democratic consolidation, artist Jacobo Borges’ 22 DE MAYO (1969) offers a revolutionary vision through a critical montage, leaving in suspension the programmatic goals of the militant cinema of the 60s while still exploring unresolved images of social conflict. In COTORRA 2 (1976)Rolando Peña, iconic figure of Venezuela’s avant-garde, produces an impossible dialogue that takes place within the noisy scene of a construction site of the Caracas Metro, echoing the complex relationship between intellectual debates and the noise of "progress." As part of this program the curators will present the book publication “ism, ism, ism.” The evening will be hosted by b_books within their weekly series “Montagspraxis.“ (10.7.)

ORINOKO, NUEVO MUNDO(1984)is a super 8 tour de force, a feature length hybrid between documentary images and the re-creation of the passage of European conquerors in the region, based on history paintings and primary sources. It blends the vision of the colonization of Latin America as seen from a Yanomami shaman and European artists’ fascination of with the “New World.” AMÉRIKA, TERRA INCÓGNITA (1989), originally shot in Super 16mm and later blown-up to 35mm, is similarly composed as a series of tableaux vivants, reversing the perspective of European colonialism through the journey of a captive Indian taken to the Spanish court. (11.7.)

The 1969 film CARACAS: DOS O TRES COSAS (Outtakes Of An Unfinished Film), by Uruguayan author and playwright Ugo Ulive, works as an imperfect example of the kinds of experimentation that filmmakers were negotiating between fragments of quotidian experiences and the updated, unified vision of Latin America in the process of liberation. Such is also the case in LAVRA-DOR (1968), a masterful test of the boundaries of the documentary form. Santiago Alvarez’ LA HORA DE LOS HORNOS (1968), usually overshadowed by the monumental work with the same title by Fernando ‘Pino’ Solanas and Octavio Getino,isa playful newsreel that documents 1968 “El congreso cultural de La Habana”. In FOUND CUBAN MOUNTS (2010) Adriana Salazar Arroyo proposes a meditative revisitation of the early years of the Revolution through monuments in the contemporary Cuban landscape. (15.7.)

LA ZONA INTERTIDAL (1980), by the ‘Grupo Los Vagos,’ is a poetic, narrative treatment of the politically-motivated assassination of a teacher by death squad. It closes a group of films in which the political conflict takes different shapes and leads to formal exploration in the search for a grammar that provides new questions rather than answers. Puerto Rican artist Poli Marichal paints over Super 8 emulsion probing a Neo-colonial conflict in BLUES TROPICAL (1982), and Marie Louise Alemann's intimate UMBRALES (1980) choreographs a melancholic performance of queer male bodies under the last Argentinean dictatorship. In the spirit of Situationist détournement and punk pranks, Manuel Delanda’s ISM, ISM (1979) captures the filmmaker’s own interventions on Manhattan billboards and advertisements, rendered across the city with an X-Acto knife. In ESPLENDOR DO MARTÍRIO (1974), Sérgio Péo’s provocation rehearses his theory of Super 8 as a vehicle of language - which would later be materialized in his poem/manifesto "Super 8 as an Instrument of Language." (16.7.) (jl/lp)

“Ism, Ism, Ism: Experimental Cinema in Latin America” (Ismo, Ismo, Ismo: Cine experimental en América Latina) was organized by Los Angeles Filmforum as part of Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, a far-reaching and ambitious exploration of Latin American and Latino art in dialogue with Los Angeles. “Ism, Ism, Ism” surveys Latin America’s vibrant experimental production from the 1930s through today. www.ismismism.org
“Ism, Ism, Ism” is accompanied by a bilingual publication, “Ism, Ism, Ism / Ismo, Ismo, Ismo: Experimental Cinema in Latin America” (Jesse Lerner and Luciano Piazza, editors, University of California Press, 2017) placing Latino and Latin American experimental cinema within a broader dialogue that explores different periods, cultural contexts, image-making models, and considerations of these filmmakers within international cinema. The publication is available worldwide.
Lead support for “Ism, Ism, Ism” is provided through grants from the Getty Foundation. Significant additional support comes from the Andy Warhol Foundation for Visual Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts. Pacific Standard Time is an initiative of the Getty. The presenting sponsor is Bank of America.