So I’ve done a couple dispatches now from the University of Chicago Film Studies Center’s “Troubling the Image” series. I’ve especially like the recent material that Julia Gibbs and Patrick Friel have pulled together from filmmakers and video artists around the world. As it turns out, 2016 was an especially good year for experimental cinema.
In fact, although there’s a truly embarrassing array of films I need to catch up on from 2016 (been playing too many games …), I think it’s likely the case that my favorite film from 2016 will be an experimental short: Portuguese-American filmmaker Joana Pimenta’s video An Aviation Field.
An Aviation Field was one of those things that hits me with such force that I don’t have room in my head to think about it while I’m looking at it. The end result, unfortunately, is that I don’t have much I can write about it!
What I will say is this: works like An Aviation Field are why I go to the movies. It sunk in with a sense of deep, haunting mystery. This sense of mystery was largely accomplished through the editing—what is the theme, exactly, that links these images together?—but not only through the editing. Even individual images themselves baffled me, sending me tingling for seconds on end as I tried to make sense of what was in front of me. I mean, just look at the header image for this post: what is going on there? How does the space work? Now imagine that combined with the motion of the tiny figures, which at various times seem to be human, robot, animal, or somehow all three at once.
I haven’t been this floored by a recent experimental film since Deborah Stratman’s O’er the Land in 2009, and Fern Silva’s Wayward Fronds in 2014. And I think Pimenta’s video just bested both of them.
Honestly, I do wish that I had more coherent things to say on it, but that could only happen on a second viewing. Which I dearly hope will come to pass some day.
All of this is to say: Seek this out, if you like exciting cinema. If an opportunity comes your way to catch it, don’t miss it.