If you’ve even started to read this, you must have at least a semblance of the mental aptitude required to appreciate experimental cinema. Bravo. If you cannot recognize the profundity of dirt, leaves and dried up moths played through a projector between perforated tape, and are for some reason still reading, you may stop now. To weed out the rest of you, please know that this review regards a festival of short films playing next weekend in San Francisco, and probably never coming to a theater near you. But if you live in the Bay Area and you’re still reading, you’ve hit the jackpot.
Crossroads 2018 is an experimental film festival presented by San Francisco Cinematheque and hosted by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in association with the Canyon Cinema Foundation. Ten programs, each playing only once, will be exhibited from June 7-10 in the Phyllis Wattis Theater on the ground level of the museum. Founded in 2010, Crossroads has emerged as the west coast equivalent of TIFF’s Wavelengths.
“…if you live in the Bay Area and you’re still reading, you’ve hit the jackpot.”
I’ve watched all 683 minutes of the festival and I can tell you this: it’s exactly what you want from an experimental film festival. By and large, the work is of the highest caliber: an expanse of new thinking. “Transcendent” has to be the most overused word in film writing but whatever, that’s what cinema feels like at peak experience, and you can find that sense throughout these programs. Assuming you can’t attend the entire festival, I’ve compiled a synopsis of each program’s brightest moments to help you choose wisely:
Program 1, Friday, June 8 at 7 PM: Cymatic Sun by Lachlan Turczan opens the festival with an expanded cinema projection of water puddled on the lens of the projector. Deep tones vibrate the water into phantasmagorical patterns on the wall, imparting a sense of awe from the onset. This program, titled staring at the sun (sunstones bloom), offers a series of alien frequencies as if capturing intergalactic television transmissions. Later on, Antoinette Zwirchmayr’s House and Universe provides a utopian vision of a sun-drenched body basking riverside.
“…stunning projections at times resembling a divine ultrasound.”
Program 2, Friday, June 8 at 9:15 PM: This program, titled inside one’s self or out there in the world, is highlighted by an expanded cinema trilogy by Kerry Laitala. The multi-projector Astro Trilogy, including live sound by Wobbly, exhibits stunning projections at times resembling a divine ultrasound. Also noteworthy is Wishing Well by Sylvia Schedelbauer, which creates a series of hallucinatory states through strobing montage.
Program 3, Saturday, June 9 at 12 PM: This program starts with a gem in Ephraim Asili’s Fluid Frontiers, “the fifth and final film in the series entitled The Diaspora Suite exploring Asili’s personal relationship to the African Diaspora”. Set in Detroit and Windsor, we are shown an array of the area’s public art, including the renowned Heidelberg Project, along with a series of poems originally published by Broadside Press. Appropriately, the program is titled fluid frontiers (ain’t gonna rain no more).
Program 4, June 9 at 1:45 PM: Talena Sanders’ magnificent Reasonable Watchfulness presents a collage film on “transitioning while longing for other places and people like a fox on the run”. Antoinette Zwichmayr has two more films in this section, Venus Delta and Untitled (2012), finding moments of rapture in a head of wavy hair and a steamy body study, respectively. Alexander Stewart’s Void Vision, a standout from the festival, is a brilliant studio assembly of still lives composed of humans and lasers. sair goetz’s me and my army rounds out the program with an exceptional feminist response to A Clockwork Orange. The program is titled lines are drawn.
Program 5, June 9 at 4:30 PM: This program, inside the machine (demolition of a wall) , is highlighted by Alee Peoples’ Decoy, a throbbing archival film on the violence of the male gaze, which also marked my first time seeing a ‘dab’ (the dance gesture) used in the art world.
“…Highview, a mesmerizing 16mm quadruple projection of abstractions hand-printed and processed textual abstraction.”
Program 6, June 9 at 8 PM: Eye-catchers from program 6, titled endless nameless (chaos is the future) include Pathompon Mont Tesprateep’s Confusion is Next, a mad construction of a recording studio made of plants, microphones, and water dripping from an IV, and Simon Liu & Warren Ng’s Highview, a mesmerizing 16mm quadruple projection of abstractions hand-printed and processed textual abstraction.
Program 7, June 10 at 12 PM: Els van Riel’s Fugue, A Light’s Travelogue begins as a one-channel projection and seemingly adds several other projections while slowly revealing the surrounding environment. Corrupted night-vision footage illustrates philosopher Johnny Golding’s childhood experiences while imparting lessons on quantum physics in Aura Satz’s Entangled Nightvisions. IFO, one of three films by Kevin Jerome Everson, recounts alien sightings through delicate imagery. This program is titled edgeless things communicate.
Program 8, June 10 at 2:15 PM: Jonathan Schwartz’s The Crack-Up, named after the collection of essays by F. Scott Fitzgerald, provides sculptural compositions of glaciers, hypnotic details, ocean epics, and tender ASMR narration. Youngzoo Im’s Water/Mist/Fire/Off euphorically simulates fire in a maniacal 2-channel film that tries to convince you to pee at one point. The program is titled no other (the universe has its ways).
Program 9, June 10 at 4:15 PM: Epileptics beware – Intertropical Vision is five minutes of screeching kaleidoscopic psychosis. Meanwhile, parts 2-4 (part 1 was in program 1) of Colectivo Los ingrávidos’s The Sun Quartet provide supernatural hyper-lapse abstractions of protest in various forms. This program is titled staring at the sun (we bite the shadow).
“…an acid-dream superimposing the same camera movements over themselves…”
Program 10, June 10 at 6:30 PM: China Not China is Dianna Barrie & Richard Tuohy’s best of four films screening at the festival – an acid-dream superimposing the same camera movements over themselves many times over. Peggy Ahwesh’s The Falling Sky, one of my favorites from the festival, is a bonkers future simulation that packs just about every dystopian speculation of the future into 10 minutes. Lydia Moyer’s The Forcing (No. 2) skillfully juxtaposes flowers with revolutionary rhetoric surrounding the Ferguson protests, a “meditation on power and the longing for deliverance in contemporary America”.
The Sun Quartet, part 3: Conflagration (2017) by Colectivo Los ingrávidos