Los Angeles Filmforum
1626 N. Wilcox St. #155
Los Angeles CA 90028
Founded in 1975, Los Angeles Filmforum promotes a greater understanding of media art, and the role of the artists and curators who create and present it, by providing a forum for independently produced, noncommercial work which has little opportunity of reaching the general public. Filmforum is currently the longest-running venue in Southern California dedicated exclusively to the ongoing, non-commercial exhibition of independent, experimental, and progressive cinema.
Filmforum facilitates cross-cultural dialogue by collaborating with diverse arts organizations, both local and from around the globe. This geographically-diverse, multi-site programming encourages shared audiences among arts organizations. By bringing alternative media from around the world into local communities as well as bringing work from those communities to locations in the greater Los Angeles area, Filmforum encourages national and international dialogue.
Filmforum encourages the production of diverse independent media art by providing the inspiration, models, and information necessary for the production and distribution of new work. This is accomplished through post-screening Q&As, screenings and special events, and our fiscal sponsorship program. These activities stimulate dialogue between social and professional networks of media artists.
Filmforum understands the challenges associated with raising awareness of, and providing access to, historical media. By creating resources that provide points of access to historical content, Filmforum takes an active role in archiving and curating independent media. In addition, Filmforum aims to promote a viable distribution and exhibition infrastructure for independent work in the face of the radical changes currently affecting the media environment.
EXECUTIVE and ARTISTIC DIRECTOR: Adam Hyman
ASSOCIATE PROGRAMMERS: Madison Brookshire, Jheanelle Brown, Kate Brown, Mark Toscano
PACIFIC STANDARD TIME L.A./L.A PROJECT COORDINATOR: Brenda Contreras
VOLUNTEERS: Dana Duff, Ennuri Jo, Ethan Stockwell, James W. Presley, Jared Hutchinson, John O'Neill, Katarina Fabic, Kate Lain, Kelly Donahey, Lyra Hill, Matthew Anderson, Mike Carrig, Minu Jun, Nicholas Gitomer, Paul Andrade, Richard Davis, Sophia Wagner-Serrano, and more!!
PROGRAMMERS, FESTIVAL OF (IN)APPROPRIATION: Jamie Baron, Greg Cohen & Lauren Berliner
PUBLICITY: Adam Hyman
When Filmforum’s first screening took place in an Altadena living room in November of 1975, organized by Terry Cannon, alternative media was at one of its aesthetic, technological, and social high points. Bruce Baillie, Stan Brakhage, James Broughton, Joseph Cornell, Chick Strand, Sara Katherine Arledge, and James Whitney, to name a few, were expanding the boundaries of film. Nam June Paik was exploring the first video synthesizer and multi-media had emerged from the relative primitivity of the 1960s, spawning a whole new interdisciplinary genre. A few visionary prophets were predicting such absurdities as shopping via television and videophones and, lurking in sci-fi cellars and the darker corners of academe, a handful of closeted geeks were whispering words like “cyberspace.”
Since then, Filmforum has chronicled changes in social attitude towards the medium and society’s media-vision of itself. Those changes have been reflected in media-makers’ concepts of their art as a social force, evolving from purist aesthetics into today’s media, with the power to make and promulgate images shaping the future of our society. On the Information Superhighway, media is at the forefront between pluralistic, free access to the tools of information dissemination and profit-motivated commercial exploitation by multi-national conglomerates.
Filmforum continues as the longest-running showcase for independent, experimental and progressive moving-image art in Southern California. Filmforum presents and supports work by artists in all stages of their careers. Filmforum has shifted its primary venues through the years, moving from Pasadena to downtown Los Angeles to Hollywood to Westwood and back to Hollywood. It currently screens 30-40 programs per year at our primary venue, the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, most with the filmmakers in attendance, and co-presents several other shows at other venues.
Filmforum has given the world, national, or local premieres of almost every significant experimental/personal, non-commercial film of the last three decades. Many went on to garner national or international attention, such as:
• Jon Moritsugu’s Der Elvis
• Nina Menkes’ Queen of Diamonds
• Greg Araki’s Totally F***ed Up
• Betzy Bromberg’s Body Politic: God Melts Bad Meat
• Stan Brakhage’s controversial narrative, Faustfilm
• James Broughhton’s Devotions
• Abigail Childs’ Mayhem
• Ernie Gehr’s Signal: Germany on the Air
• Todd Haynes’ breakthrough Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story
• Jonas Mekas’ He Stands in the Desert Counting…”
... to name only a few. New works by these artists are presented whenever possible, along with works by contemporary media artists whose aesthetic grows from or comments on their work. Most of these premieres were attended by the filmmakers who discussed their work with the audience.
Show for the Eyes, from 1982, the first international mail art film project, reassembling short films from many of the world’s most prominent makers into two now-legendary 90 minute films, one in super 8, one in 16mm.
Another significant series from Filmforum’s early years was El Ojo Apasionado, a month-long showcase for alternative film by Mexican and Mexican-American artists. It was among the first festivals bringing together Latino artists in a forum elucidating the common threads of a culture in flux.
In spring 1993 Filmforum and the Getty Center presented Urban Activism: Notions of a New L.A., a city-wide series of screenings and panel discussions about the process of rebuilding the city, from the perspectives of community leaders and under-recognized voices.
In fall 1993, Filmforum produced Dirty Movies: A Peak at the Underground from the 60’s to the 90’s. This series of rarely seen films and videos were enormously popular, attracting a large audience of newcomers to contemporary media arts and its historical antecedents.
Filmforum’s major festival in winter 1994, Scratching the Belly of the Beast: Cutting-Edge Media in Los Angeles, 1922-94, was an unprecedented celebration of the rich tradition of alternative media in Southern California. Including 27 evenings of screenings, tributes, and roundtable discussions over seven weeks, this city-wide festival was guest-curated by a diverse committee and co-presented by the Getty Center for the History of Art and the humanities, the Central Library, LA Municipal Gallery, MOCA, UCLA, and Beyond Baroque. The festival’s catalog included key historical and critical essays, providing the first substantial study of the role of alternative media in the capital of the commercial film and entertainment industry.
In 1997, Filmforum received a special award from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association for its role in exhibiting experimental films.
Programming over the last few years has included eclectic series of historical and contemporary work, with many in-person presentations by local and visiting artists. Some of our major recent accomplishments include several shows introduced by David James in conjunction with his important book The Most Typical Avant-Garde: Geography and History of Minor Cinemas in Los Angeles; a tribute to the late artist Nam June Paik, held at LACMA and co-presented with the Korean Cultural Center; and three nights of the documentary work of world-renowned Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski.
In 2008, Filmforum received a grant from the Getty Foundation as part of the Getty’s Pacific Standard Time: Art in LA 1945-1980 initiative. Filmforum is researching the history of experimental film in Los Angeles from that period, conducting many oral histories, organizing a symposium in 2010, and curating a series of screenings of works both well-known and long-forgotten. Please visit our blog to read more about the progress of this project.
Highlights of the 2008-09 season include the sold-out North American premiere of Driving Men, the newest work internationally acclaimed and Los Angeles-based video artist Susan Mogul; experimental animation by Robert Breer; two programs of animated documentaries; rare visits to Los Angeles by less-known filmmakers from the east coast such as Coleen Fitzgibbon, Ted Lyman and Walter Ungerer; and three screenings of video art by Southern California video artists Allan Sekula, Jordan Biren, and Bruce & Norman Yonemoto in conjunction with the Getty’s exhibition California Video. We also held the first West Coast version of the Orphan Film Symposium, a program featuring ‘orphaned’ works such as 1920’s newsreels, forgotten video art, and other ephemeral films and video. Over the 2009-2010 seasons, we are hosting the first complete retrospective in Los Angeles of the films of Yvonne Rainer, as well as two shows with Ken Jacobs, and the second evening of our Festival of (In)appropriation: Contemporary Found Footage Filmmaking.
In 2011 and the first half of 2012, Filmforum focused on its major project “Alternative Projections: Experimental Film in Los Angeles, 1945-1980,” part of Pacific Standard Time. For Alternative Projections, we had 28 differently programmed shows (32 screenings), and developed an elaborate website with oral histories, a database of films and filmmakers. A book with essays and historical documents is being published in 2015. Please visit the Alternative Projections website for more.
After the conclusion of “Alternative Projections” Filmforum shifted its focus to contemporary work and hosted filmmakers Sarah Christman from New York, Lori Felker from Chicago, David Gatten from North Carolina, Rose Lowder from France, John Smith from England, Gunvor Nelson from Sweden, and a selection of up and coming filmmakers for the 2012 Festival of (In)appropriation. Since 2012, Filmforum has presented a bi-monthly series of screenings at the Museum of Contemporary Art that explored thematic connections between the museum’s art exhibitions and experimental media. Filmforum recently programmed four exhibitions of films about Los Angeles architecture with filmmakers Baylis Glasscock, Thom Andersen, Laura Kraning and Clay Dean in person. Also in 2013, Filmforum hosted filmmakers Phil Solomon and Mike Kuchar and participated in a major retrospective of the works of documentarian Jean Rouch.
In 2014 we continued programming a variety of contemporary work, and strove to increase the number of filmmakers visiting from elsewhere. We hosted Richard Tuohy and Diana Barrie from Australia, Makino Takashi from Japan, Karen Yasinsky from Baltimore, Mary Helena Clark from San Francisco, J.P. Sniadecki from New York, Jesse McLean from Iowa, Melika Bass from Chicago, and Duke & Battersby from upstate New York, regularly coordinating their visits with other institutions such as Cal Arts (for workshops with students) and other screening venues. We continued in 2015 with contemporary work from around the world, visiting artists, a retrospective series of the filmmaker Harun Farocki with the Goethe-Institut Los Angeles, and a series of polar-related film evenings with the Velaslavasay Panorama. Some of the featured filmmakers were Vera Brunner-Sung, Robert Gardner, Joe Gibbons, and Stephanie Barber, Ephraim Asili (from New York), Hope Tucker (from Massachusetts), Mike Hoolboom (from Toronto), Eva Marie Rødbro (from Denmark), David Domingo (from Spain), and Palme D’Or winner Apichatpong Weerasethakul (from Thailand).
Weerasethakul’s appearance was the first in a series called a Survey of International Film Artists, supported by the Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts. We brought a total of ten filmmakers from other countries to Southern California for screenings, workshops, and classroom appearances. The artists have all had extensive careers, and most of them have not had in-person screenings in Los Angeles previously. Other filmmakers presented in this series included Helga Fanderl (Germany), Sergei Loznitsa (Ukraine), Joost Rekveld (Netherlands), Shumona Goel & Shai Heredia (India). In Fall late 2017 and early 2018 we brought Claudio Caldini (Argentina) and Juan Carlos Alom (Cuba) to LA as part of our series Ism Ism Ism, discussed later.
In March of 2015, Filmforum was instrumental in publishing the book Alternative Projections: Experimental Film in Los Angeles, 1945-1980, a groundbreaking anthology that features papers from a conference on postwar avant-garde filmmaking in Los Angeles sponsored by Filmforum, the Getty Foundation, and the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts.
In the last year, we contributed to Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA with our major project called Ism, Ism, Ism: Experimental Film in Latin America. Between Sept 2017 and Jan 2018 we held 38 screenings and events throughout the County, bringing many guests to Los Angeles, and created a substantial new bilingual catalogue, the first of its kind in English on the topic. A subset of the series is now touring, with screenings thus far in Berkeley, New York, Buenos Aires, Madrid, and more being added in multiple venues in the Americas.
In 2018, Filmforum hosted such filmmakers as Ute Aurand (from Berlin), Karen Yasinsky (Baltimore), Claudio Caldini (Argentina); Juan Carlos Alom (Cuba); Alexandra Cuesta (Ecuador), Robert Beavers (Berlin), Daichi Saito (Montreal); Amir George (Chicago); Fernando Llanas (Mexico), and RaMell Ross (New York). In 2019 we hosted, among others, Malcolm LeGrice, Jim Finn, Babette Mangolte, Ariana Gerstein, Kevin Jerome Everson, Wheeler Winston Dixon, Travis Wilkerson, Marielle Nitoslawska, Gariné Torossian Irene Lustzig, Makino Takashi, Erin Marie Espelie, tribute shows to Phil Solomon, Robert Todd, Jonas Mekas, a touring program from L’Abominable in Paris, a show of the films of Sara Kathryn Arledge in conjunction with an exhibition of her paintings at the Armory Center for the Arts, and a presentation of Teo Hernandez’s film Salome with live music by Dorian Wood. This array of makers and approaches to filmmaking continues in 2020, our 45th year!
Filmforum is also one of the only low-budget non-profit arts presenters that guarantees an honorarium to every artist, regardless of attendance.
NOTE - We are not related to Film Forum in New York, nor to Northwest Film Forum in Seattle, two other excellent venues that screen alternative work.