Home The Washington Diplomat May 2014 Eastern European Experimental Cinema

Eastern European Experimental Cinema


Also See: Repertory Notes

The Soviet Union’s suppression of political freedom didn’t fully stifle the cinematic creativity in the former Eastern Bloc, where film and video makers made independent and experimental work on their own terms. To honor that tradition, the National Gallery, along with the embassies of Poland, Croatia and Serbia, present the series “Artists, Amateurs, Alternative Spaces: Experimental Cinema in Eastern Europe, 1960-1990” featuring the following screenings in May:

Balázs Béla Studio (Budapest)

Sat., May 3, 3:30 p.m.

Established in 1959, the Balázs Béla Studio is known for producing films by such directors as István Szabó and Béla Tarr. Much less known is the studio’s support from the early 1960s to the 1970s of experimental films ranging from cinéma vérité documentaries to structuralist and abstract works made not only by professional filmmakers, but also by artists, writers and sociologists (total running time is 110 minutes).

City Scene / Country Scene

Sat., May 10, 1 p.m.

Though in some countries, such as Romania and the U.S.S.R., the state exercised tight control over public space, in places such as Poland, Hungary and the former Yugoslavia, even amateur filmmakers could take their cameras to the streets. This selection of short films showcases works that use Ljubljana, Belgrade, Budapest, Łódź, Berlin and Tallinn as protagonist, backdrop or site of encounters (total running time is 110 minutes).

Workshop of the Film Form and Beyond: Shorts from 1970s Poland

Sat., May 17, 2 p.m.

The Enthusiasts Archive – Polish Amateur Films

Sat., May 17, 4 p.m.

“Workshop of the Film Form” examines how an established Polish avant-garde cinematic tradition continued under Socialist rule in Warsaw, Kraków, Poznań and especially Łódź, where the National Film School made it possible in the 1970s for a whole generation of young filmmakers and artists to investigate film’s formal conventions (total running time is 75 minutes).

Artists Marysia Lewandowska and Neil Cummings created the Enthusiasts Archive in 2004, collecting the legacy of Poland’s popular amateur film clubs, a selection of which is screened (total running time is 50 minutes).

Experimental Film in Croatia and Serbia

Sat., May 24, 4 p.m.

In the 1960s and 1970s, the former Yugoslavia saw a burst of experimental filmmaking thanks to a network of state-supported amateur film clubs, competitions, film publications and international events. This selection of short films presents some of the most innovative and influential works made at the largest amateur film clubs in the Serbian capital of Belgrade and the Croatian cities of Zagreb and Split (total running time 90 minutes).

Repertory Notes

“Martin Scorsese Presents: Masterpieces of Polish Cinema”

Co-presented by the American Film Institute (AFI) Silver Theatre and the National Gallery of Art, the series “Martin Scorsese Presents: Masterpieces of Polish Cinema” (through June 29) features pristine restored prints of Polish classics.

(301) 495-6700, www.afi.com/silver
(202) 842-6799, www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/calendar/film-programs.html

“Independent Reality: The Films of Jan Němec”

Co-presented by the American Film Institute (AFI) Silver Theatre and the National Gallery of Art, the retrospective “Independent Reality: The Films of Jan Němec” (through June 29) looks back at works by the seminal but lesser-seen Czech New Wave filmmaker.

(301) 495-6700, www.afi.com/silver
(202) 842-6799, www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/calendar/film-programs.html

National Gallery of Art

Presented with assistance from the embassies of Poland, Croatia and Serbia, the series “Artists, Amateurs, Alternative Spaces: Experimental Cinema in Eastern Europe, 1960-1990” (through June 14) looks at seldom-seen work by avant-garde filmmakers in the former Eastern Bloc during the Cold War.

Produced in conjunction with the exhibition “Garry Winogrand,” the film series “On the Street” (through June 15) showcases cinéma vérite works about the streets of New York City. The first three films unspool at the American University’s Malsi Doyle and Michael Forman Theater.

(202) 842-6799, www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/calendar/film-programs.html

American Film Institute (AFI) Silver Theatre

The film series “Studio Ghibli Encore” (through July 2) presents classic anime films. The retrospective “Charlie Chaplin: The Tramp Turns 100” (through June 29) commemorates the 100th birthday of the beloved British filmmaker-actor. The series “Shakespeare Cinema, Part I” (through June 29) presents major cinematic adaptations from works by the iconic English playwright. The retrospective “Jane Fonda AFI Life Achievement Award Retrospective” (through June 25) honors the American leading lady. And the retrospective “Burt Lancaster, Part 2” (through July 2) continues AFI Silver’s review of the American movie star’s career.

(301) 495-6700, www.afi.com/silver

Freer Gallery of Art

The Sackler exhibit “Kiyochika: Master of the Night” (through July 27) includes a number of accompanying films: “Night and the City” (Fri., May 2, 7 p.m.); “Lost in Translation” (Sun., May 4, 2 p.m.); “Friday Night” (Sun., May 11, 1 p.m.); “Night and Day” (Sun., May 11, 3 p.m.); and “Naked” (Fri., May 16, 7 p.m.).

The program “Tea and a Movie: ‘Rikyu'” offers a pre-screening tea tasting (Sun., May 18, 1 p.m.) before the film (3 p.m.), introduced by “Chigusa and the Art of Tea” exhibit curator Louise Cort.

During “Meet the Filmmaker: An Evening with Charles Lim Li Yong” (Fri., May 30, 7 p.m.), Singaporean sailor-turned-filmmaker Yong introduces and discusses a number of his shorts, including selections from his “Sea States” project.

(202) 357-2700, www.asia.si.edu/events/films.asp


The series “Film|Neu Presents” (through July 7) continues with the best of new films in the German language.

(202) 289-1200, www.goethe.de/ins/us/was/ver/enindex.htm

About the Author

Ky N. Nguyen is the film reviewer of The Washington Diplomat.