If a film festival that lasts all year and has no fixed venue or program sounds weird to you, that's because it is.
If an experimental film festival that lasts all year, has no fixed venue or program, features the works of internationally acclaimed experimental filmmakers like Kenneth Anger, Hans Richter, Stan Brakhage, Standish Lawder and Robert Schaller, and calls Colorado Springs home sounds incredibly weird to you, that's because it is. Really weird.
Whaddya gonna do? It is, after all, experimental cinema. And this is, after all, Colorado Springs, home to anomalies like Storme Aerison (the she-male cheerleader at Coronado High School in the early '90s), The Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame, Focus on the Family, and Elvira -- Mistress of the Dark!
Such inherent cultural oddities and contradictions, and the challenges they present, are part of what The International Experimental Film Festival (TIE) founder Chris May loves about his hometown of Colorado Springs.
"There's a huge dynamic here that's really interesting -- the extremes between the right and the left. People in Telluride giggled when I told them I was moving TIE here, but then said: 'Hey, that would be cool,'" said May. "But one of the great things about bringing TIE here is that avant-garde film is really subversive. It subverts narrative and it also presents social, political and philosophical concerns in startling ways." "So we hope [TIE] will create more cultural dialogue that's above and beyond West Side Story."
Having just relocated TIE from its two-year home in Telluride earlier this year, May was, however, nervous about the festival's prospects in a town that has a less-than-stellar recent history in funding and support for the arts.
"When the festival was in Telluride, about 60 percent to 65 percent of the attendees were Colorado Springs folks. So it just made sense for us to move here. But when we got here we started to get nervous because we thought: Maybe Colorado Springs people are just used to travelling!"
Feeling the burnout of the recent move and two years at the helm of TIE, May almost left his brain-child in the hands of the local corporate board he established after the move, and considered returning to Argentina where he lived in '95 and '96. But an increasing amount of community interest -- coupled with an infusion of donations of both money and equipment thanks to the board -- caused him to reconsider.
On Oct. 9, TIE announced that the University of California at Santa Cruz had donated "an entire film studio worth of film technology, equipment and resources." Included in the donation were four 16mm and 35mm flatbeds, several movie studio lights, two electronic tripods worth $35,000 each, sound editing equipment, studio sound recording equipment and lots of accessories.
TIE is currently looking for an inexpensive location in which to set up a studio so that they can begin making it available to filmmakers. TIE also hopes to expand their mission of teaching filmmaking classes to at-risk youth with a program called "Youth, Light, and Motion," which they taught for the first time during the FutureSelf program at the Business of Art Center this year.
While TIE has already hosted a smattering of events at various venues around town, Springs film buffs can look forward to an increased frequency of screenings and workshops beginning this weekend.
From Oct. 24 to 27, TIE hosts "Filmmaking Camp: Hand Processing" at the Manitou Center for Photography where students will learn how to shoot, process, develop and edit their own Super 8 and 16mm films.
On Saturday night, Oct. 27, at the Max Kade Theater at Colorado College, the students will have a chance to screen their films at "Emulsive Trepidation: A World of Hand-Processed Films," the world's only hand-processed film fest that includes films from Canada, France, Singapore and many cities around the United States.
Among the highlights will be a screening of What These Ashes Wanted, a new film by Philip Hoffman, one of the most renowned "diary" filmmakers.
Also appearing to screen a new film this Sunday will be San Franciscobased artist Robert Schaller, whose most daring work was a film about Malaysian puppetry that he projected onto a large Japanese kite in the sky.
On Halloween night, TIE will be presenting the U.S. premiere of Subconscious Cruelty by Canadian filmmaker Karim Hussein at the Starz Film Center in Denver. The film is considered incredibly controversial for its disturbing and explicit depictions of what May could only say are "philosophical explorations of religion, family and politics." Because TIE makes it a policy to never allow theaters to pre-screen films for content, they were unable to find a venue willing to show the film in Colorado Springs.
And on Nov. 16, TIE and the Fine Arts Center will present "Dada Film: Hans Richter and the Early Avant-Garde." Hosted by Denver-based filmmaker and avant-garde film historian Standish Lawder, the presentation is the kind of event one could only expect to see at New York's Museum of Modern Art.
"For Colorado Springs to grow it needs to concentrate on what's unique," said May. "We shouldn't just be trying to have things that big cities have, but to bring out the uniqueness of this place."