INsite Magazine

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

RISK-y Film Experience at the Harn

Why settle for one film projector when you can use eight? Tonight (Nov. 3) at 7:30pm, filmmaker Roger Beebe will screen his Films for One to Eight Projectors as part of RISK Cinema season at the Harn Museum of Art. Locally, Roger is known as a UF professor of Film and Media Studies and the owner of Video Rodeo, but he has an international reputation for his experimental filmmaking. His works have been shown everywhere from the Sundance Film Festival to Times Square in New York City. His newest composition, Films for One to Eight Projectors, is a compilation of his earlier works: “The Strip Mall Trilogy,” “TB TX DANCE,” “Money Changes Everything” and “Last Light of a Dying Star.” We talked with Roger to find out what inspired him.

Your films are described as “expanded cinema.” What does that mean?
We have an imagination of the movies as a thing where you turn a projector on and you sit there and consume it. For about four decades, there’s been a certain movement that’s been called “expanded cinema,” which just means doing things that are different from that standard experience, trying to figure out what it is to renew the movie-going experience... Cinema doesn’t have to be just one thing that we’ve come to know from the multiplexes. It can be bigger than that in a lot of ways, so this is part of that tradition.

Did you always want to be an experimental filmmaker?
I started making films about 15 years ago. I was in grad school, and I sort of backed into it. My first films were more narrative and I just got tired of the hassles of making narrative films... and that’s when I really think I became an experimental filmmaker in a proper sense. It’s much more like being an artist in any other medium where it’s much more of a direct form of expression, and much more personal and immediate. I don’t have an MFA, and I didn’t go to art school, but it’s exciting discovering a form. It’s so much more rewarding.

What have been some of your cinematic influences?
If I rattle off the list, it would be a list of films that no one’s ever heard of, unfortunately. Even the most famous experimental filmmakers labor in the shadows. In some ways that’s a self-willed thing; none of these people are trying to get rich. That’s what makes experimental film a hard sell. I think people have a kind of caricature of it in their mind but have not really ever seen any of it. It’s not some scary austere, totally abstract, boring thing. It’s often very funny and pretty.

What do you feel RISK Cinema brings to the Gainesville community?
RISK Cinema is, for me, one of the greatest things that exists in this town. It is really a kind of cinema that would be totally absent otherwise. People will go out to art museums and look at abstract canvases and all sorts of modern and contemporary art. These kinds of films are exactly the equivalent of those kinds of things, but people just don’t know about them or somehow they’re not on people’s radar screens. RISK Cinema is the only place in Gainesville that’s making a case for this kind of work.

Can you describe Films for One to Eight Projectors?
The program progresses from some two- and three-projector pieces to the eight-projector pieces, [which is] the finale of the show. It’s somewhere between a normal theatrical experience and something a little bit more performative, in that there’s a sense of peril as I run from projector to projector and try to keep everything running. The subject matter varies from studies of post-modern, sprawling cities to Las Vegas to African Americans with Irish surnames to the final piece, [which] is about outer space. It’s not just a space-out experience. It works much more like a regular film; it just happens to be going through two projectors or three projectors or eight projectors.

—Allison Griner
The RISK cinema series is weekly screening at the Harn Museum showcasing up-and-coming filmmakers and the groundbreaking work they do. For more information, visit the Harn's Web site.

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