Fall 2006

All films shown in 16mm unless otherwise noted.


October 2 + 3, 2006 - 8PM
425 SE 3rd, #400

Helke Sander

“Three days in the life of Edda Chiemnyjewski, Berlin, March 1977. Edda works as a freelance press photographer. She earns DM 35 for each photograph published; with this money, she must support herself and her small daughter Dorothea. She is forever on the move, photographing "German parties" and meetings of the "Committee for an Indivisible Germany". She is not allowed to take the photographs she would like to take; she has to do what her clients want. [....] The director plays Edda Chiemnyjewski, the "all-round reduced personality" herself.

Her film proved a great success at the International Young Film Forum in Berlin in 1978 and is anything but a tearful lament on the situation of a woman who pays for her independence by restricting her other needs in life, her political and private interests and plans, to an absolute minimum. Helke Sander presents the everyday life of her stressed heroine with a great deal of irony and sympathy and just as much remoteness. Because Edda’s life is representative of that of most modern women, she is a figure with whom the viewer could identify if the director did not always carefully undermine any tendency towards illusionism, be it through her comments, her citations from films and literature, by inserting newspaper excerpts and radio broadcasts and above all through the pictures of Berlin, the Wall, the refuse, the piles of rubble and the graffiti.

This women’s film is simultaneously a film about Berlin, a city that is torn asunder in the same way as the heroine’s life, a life in installments. In bits, yet complete. "Because everything is complete and if you break it into parts, it will become complete again, each part for itself" - a citation from the East German author Thomas Brasch who emigrated to the west in 1976. Helke Sander manages to combine the two parts of her film - the situation of the wrecked city and the wrecked life of her heroine - in such a way as to produce a dual portrait of great stringency and concentration, a portrait in which the long sequences of ruined houses, refuse heaps and the omnipresent Wall, the short, fast extracts from Edda’s daily life never make themselves independent, always remaining linked to one another without the film losing its open experimental character.

The director ironically comments on intra-German relations in the radio extracts and pictures: official graffiti on one side, unofficial graffiti on the other; state-supported women’s associations there, the women’s movement here; the "all-round developed socialist personality" in East Germany and the all-round reduced (capitalist) personality in West Germany. She contrasts the extracts from political life with details from the Berlin "Scene", mocking what became of the generation of 1968, the people who had now arrived and become established in the art industry and public life. The technique with which she confronts views of the political and private worlds, combining set pieces and her own material, newspaper excerpts and old photographs, documentary material and staged scenes, is reminiscent of the film puzzles created by Alexander Kluge.”

(excerpts taken from an article by Annette Meyhöfer)

Born January 31, 1937, in Berlin, Helke Sander studied drama in Hamburg and German and psychology in Helsinki, Finland. After directing and acting in several theatrical productions and participating in numerous art happenings in Helsinki in the early Sixties, Sander worked as a director at Finnish TV. During her studies at the German Film and Television School in the late Sixties, Sander became very active in the students’ movement, founding the Aktionsrat sur Befreiung der Frau (Coalition for the Liberation of Women) in 1968 and co-founding the women’s group Brot und Rosen (Bread and Roses) in 1972. The speech she delivered at an autumn 1968 conference of SDS (Socialist German Students), which argued that the students’ movement reflected the sexism of its time, is widely credited as the spark that began the New German Women’s Movement. In 1974, Sander founded Frauen und Film, the first European feminist film journal. Her first feature-length film, Redupers (1977), received the Prix l’age d’or at the Brussels Film Festival in 1978. Helke Sander teaches at the School of Visual Arts in Hamburg. She also works for German TV and writes for the Berlin daily taz and for Frauen und Film. She lives in Hamburg and Berlin.

(Biography from Women Make Movies website)

More info http://www.helke-sander.de

The All-Round Reduced Personality–Outtakes
(1977, black & white/sound, 98 mins)

Magdalena Viraga by Nina Menkes

October 16 + 17, 2006 - 8PM
425 SE 3rd, #400

Magdalena Viraga

Shot in the bars and seedy hotels of East LA, this film is about the inner life of a prostitute imprisoned for killing a client. Winner of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association award for “Best Independent/Experimental Film of the Year”, Magdalena was featured in the Whitney Museum of American Art’s Biennial as well as in over 40 other film festivals worldwide. Tinka Menkes brilliantly portrays the emotionally frozen prostitute on a circular inner journey, as she battles at the walls which surround her—both material and psychic.

Magdalena Viraga by Kay Armatage

“In Magdalena Viraga, the award winning first feature from Nina Menkes, the filmmaker’s sister plays Ida, a prostitute accused of killing a client. Shot on location in the dim, reddish light of seedy hotels, bars, public baths and discos of east L.A., the film takes us on a “red sea crossing” which traverses the prisons separated by time but mingled within the film. The prison in which the film opens, the one into which Ida is dragged, manacled and brutalized by the guards, is overseen by nuns and shadows of the crucifix. The other prison--perhaps even more oppressive--is her life on the outside, in which the camera itself becomes the mirror of her incarnation, holding Ida expressionless face in merciless close-ups as she rocks back and forth under yet another client’s shoulders until the spectator feel as trapped as Ida herself. Most significantly, the prisons are fused with Ida’s mind, for she begins as a passive and uncomprehending receptacle for abuse. Slowly, however she begins to pass from her state of sterile revulsion to an acceptance of herself, which comes to constitute an interior liberation. Like the journey of those leaving Egypt for the Promised Land, Ida passage involves both spiritual growth and physical torment. The dialogue is as stylized as the images are formal, for Menkes draws on poetry of Ann Sexton, Mary Daly and Gertrude Stein for her text, and uses syncopation, overlapping, and repetition to augment the effects. This is not an easy film, for it is demanding and troubling, but it is a powerful one.”

Menkes has produced, written, directed, shot and edited her own 35mm features, working closely with her sister and creative collaborator, Tinka Menkes. Their films have shown widely in major international film festivals including Sundance, Rotterdam, Locarno, London, Viennale, San Francisco, Seattle, Cairo, Toronto as well as at La Cinematheque Francaise, The British Film Institute, the ICA in London, the Beijing Film Academy in China, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, MOCA and LACMA in Los Angeles. Menkes’ many honors include a Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, two Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, an Annenberg Foundation Independent Media Grant, an American Film Institute Independent Filmmaker Award, three Western States Regional Media Arts Fellowships and two Senior Fulbright Research Awards--one to the Middle East/North Africa, and one to India. In addition, she won a Media Arts Award from the Rockefeller Foundation for her new feature script, Heatstroke, Executive produced by Gus Van Sant and Mark Romanek.

Tom Vick, quoted from The New York Times:
"Los Angeles-based Nina Menkes blends mysticism, a powerful feminist sensibility, and a gift for composing beautiful and striking images to make complex, compelling experimental narratives that often explore the intersection between sexuality and violence. She has referred to her filmmaking as a kind of sorcery and the hallucinatory feeling of her films gives the impression that they truly have been conjured rather then written in any traditional sense. Indeed, her films never have writing credits. Menkes, who produces, directs, and shoots all of her films, instead credits herself and her sister Tinka Menkes as co-conceivers and co-editors. Tinka Menkes also stars in her sister’s films and her performances lend them a unique form of slow-burning intensity.

Nina Menkes’ first full-length feature, Magdalena Viraga, which depicts the inner life of a prostitute who murders her pimp, was made while she was still in film school. It immediately won an award from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, paving the way for the numerous other awards and grants which allow her to continue to make films so uncompromising in structure and scope that producing them through commercial means would be impossible.

While Menkes remains an underground figure, her films have garnered enthusiastic praise from critics and fellow filmmakers. She counts among her many admirers such independent film luminaries as Allison Anders and Gus Van Sant. It is perhaps ironic that Los Angeles, home of America’s gargantuan film industry, is also home to Menkes, an artist whose work so resolutely refuses to conform to commercial standards."

More info http://www.ninamenkes.com

Magdalena Viraga
(1986, color/sound, 90 mins)

The Films of Barbara Sternberg (1979-2005)

November 6 + 7, 2006 - 8PM
425 SE 3rd, #400

Barbara Sternberg

Filmmaker in attendance.

November 6, Monday, 8pm

(1979, 15 mins)
“Completed in 1979, Barbara Sternberg’s early short film Opus 40 incorporates themes and techniques that we have since come to expect in her work: a thoughtful examination of daily life and the world around us, the reworking and manipulation of images through superimpositions and split-screens, and a love and respect for the texture and beauty of film as a medium. Opus 40 is a study on the theme of repetition, which takes rhythm and music out of the material of our daily lives. It is built on a few simple elements: images of workers in a foundry, interviews with the workers about their jobs, the ambient sounds of the foundry, and excerpts from the writings of Gertrude Stein. Through their combination, these elements are transformed into a poetic meditation.

In voice-over the filmmaker asks a mould-maker of twenty-five years how he deals with the repetition of his job. The footage shows men in the foundry as they go about their work, the images appearing full-frame and then in split-screen, the same image multiplied or different images paired together. The repetition of this work is surely a horrible weight, a deadening burden. But as we continue to watch, the repeated motions of the workers become a kind of dance. The split-screen images form different patterns and combinations; the same footage is played against itself in the manner of a round. There is a timeless, even, serene quality to the scene.

The filmic devices of superimposition and multiple images are no mere trick employed to please our wandering attention spans, but integral to the structure and theme of the film. They draw our attention to other facets of repetition, its role in pattern and music. In its construction, Opus 40 is like a piece of music, a theme and variations, developing its basic statement with increasing complexity. Both image and sound build to a crescendo, the images becoming blurred, layered and distorted: the sounds a cacophony. In the closing refrain, the film returns to the quiet of the previous scenes as the voice-over intones: “This is now a description of such a way of hearing, seeing, feeling, living, loving repetition…”

We are left with an ambivalent response to the idea of repetition which hosts the dual possibilities of monotony and beauty. Sternberg suggests that each of us makes a choice at each moment of our living: that our participation in the ever-repeating rituals of life may be crushing or may offer dignity and clarity. The invitation to dance is ours to accept.

(from "Opus 40" in Like A Dream That Vanishes: The Films of Barbara Sternberg by Larissa Fan)

(1999, 41 mins)
“Like a Dream that Vanishes screened at a number of high-profile international festivals, bringing Barbara Sternberg renewed recognition. Like several other important Canadian avant-garde films—such as Jack Chambers’ The Hart of London (1970) [screened by 40 Frames in May 2006] and Philip Hoffman’s passing through/torn formations (1987), for example—it is a difficult work to sum up, offering neither a neat structure nor a single underlying idea. However, sections from an interview with the philosopher John Davis, shot the year before he died, provide a kind of conceptual anchor to which the film repeatedly returns. Davis speaks about the 18th-century Scottish philosopher David Hume’s ideas on miracles and God, and about Kurt Gödel’s incompleteness theorem. His final words in the film could be taken as its credo: “The world isn’t a very tidy place. Nature is not very tidy—it’s thought to be, but in fact, it’s pretty messy.”

Sternberg intercuts these interview fragments with fleeting images taken from everyday life—fall leaves, a teenager’s party, flowing water, children at a playground—all shot in the filmmaker’s characteristic handheld camera style. The imagery often shifts between clear representations and the materiality of the film plane, with flaring camera-roll ends and sections of pure colour and light.

What unites Sternberg’s disparate material is a concern with the temporality of all existence, a preoccupation not so much with death as with the fleetingness of every moment of experience. The themes of the film are closely tied to fundamental aspects of cinema: the image perpetually vanishes, only to be replaced, instantaneously, by another image.”

(Chris Gehman)

November 7, Tuesday, 8pm

(2002, 7 mins)
A multiplicity of diverse images–cut together rhythmically flicker with energy fire, light, life.


(2004, 10 mins)
Our busy comings and goings, on the move, working at life are pictured, but layers of images and scratched emulsion make viewing through the depths an effort. If we scratch the surface, however... Glimpses of other states suggest we can surface.


(1982, 10 mins)
“Transitions is the most obviously dream-like of Sternberg’s films. It centers, as its lone visual text tells us, on the "purgatory" between sleeping and waking, that intersection of the conscious and the unconscious most vivid for the insomniac. Superimposition is indeed the main device, allowing for a delicate but dense layering (sometimes up to four superimpositions at once) over the recurring image of a woman, dressed in white, laying down, and sitting up on a bed. This stream of the film is looped, and manipulated, sometimes superimposed over itself, with what could be called a nervous rhythm—in subtle contrast to the gentler motion of accompanying shots like a track past a snowscape, train tracks, waves at sea. Some images are disturbing, like the sudden inter-cuts to a swarm of bees—the most obviously surreal image of the film.

This urge to mimic the suspended time of insomnia is underscored by the soundtrack. It begins with the sound of wind, growing progressively louder, then fading to silence, followed in turn by a growing host of women’s whispering voices. These voices, like a number of different ripples on a pool, in turn amplify and cancel each other out; their quality as sound is as important as the weight that the meaning of the words carry. We catch snippets of sentences, some cast as a refrain ("I’ve got to go to bed"; "change, change"), some shooting through with resonant clarity. ("When I dream there are no gaps.") These musing are alternately quotidian and philosophical, fascinating for the conceit that a meditation on time can inspire a loss of our ability to order and control our experience of time.”

(Mike Zyrd)

(2005, silent, 24 mins)
A prologue excerpt from the poem "Try to praise the mutilated world" sets the mood for this film of framed contrasts: black and white, negative and positive, light and dark. Recurring images of trees root the film, unifying its segments, and suggest further twinning: (knowledge of) good and evil, ephemeral and eternal—praise and mutilation.


Toronto filmmaker Barbara Sternberg has been making films since the mid-seventies. Her films have been screened widely across Canada as well as internationally at the Pompidou Centre in Paris, Kino Arsenal in Berlin and The Museum of Modern Art in New York. Sternberg has been active in a number of fronts in Toronto, teaching at York University, working for Canadian Filmmakers’ Distribution Centre, serving on Toronto and Ontario Arts Council juries and committees, helping to organize the International Experimental Film Congress (May 1989), and is a co-founder of Pleasure Dome, an artists’ film and video exhibition group. She wrote a handbook and conducted workshops on Media Literacy for high school teachers. She is presently organizing the "Association for Film Art" (AFFA) to actively support and promote awareness and appreciation of film art.

Praise! Recent Work by Barbara Sternberg, Cinematheque Ontario program notes, Feb. 15, 2006:

“With more than thirty years of activity in film, video and other arts behind her, Barbara Sternberg has created one of the largest and most distinctive bodies of work in Canadian experimental film. Informed by feminist thought and literature (particularly Gertrude Stein and Virginia Woolf), the tradition of the personal film, and an intense engagement with the everyday, Sternberg’s films draw a world of feeling and meaning from quotidian images. As she has stated in an interview, her films tend to “work through an accumulation of the everyday, more through a glance than a look, less a controlling gaze than an observational one.” Since the completion of a series of large-scale works in the mid to late Nineties, her practice has moved away from language and extended themes to a more intense moment-to-moment engagement in filming and editing.”

More info http://www.barbarasternberg.com

The Films of Bruce Baillie

December 6 + 7, 2006
(Note location for each night's screening)

Bruce Baillie

Filmmaker in attendance.

Co-presented with Northwest Film Center
Sponsored in part by Portland State University English Department, Film Studies Minor.

Additional support provided by Masu Sushi, 406 SW 13th Ave.

"The career of Bruce Baillie has two central aspects which are also features of the whole American avant-garde film movement. First, his films are generally intensely poetic, lyrical evocations of person and places in which the subject matter is transformed by the subjective methods used to photograph it. Second, many of his films display a strong social awareness, describing attitudes critical towards, and alienated from, mainstream American society. In many cases, Baillie fuses these concerns within single films. Stylistically, Baillie’s films are characterized by moments of haunting, evanescent beauty. An object will appear with spectacular clarity, only to dissolve away an instant later. Light itself often becomes the subject, shining across the frame or reflected from objects, suggesting a level of poetry in the subject matter that lies beyond easy interpretation. Baillie combines images with other images, and images with sound, in dense, collage-like structures. Thus, many of his films cut frequently between scenes, or superimpose objects on each other. One is constantly aware of a restlessness, an instability, which seems to result from his images’ appearance and flow. It is significant, too, that many of Baillie’s films contain, or are structured as, journeys."

(Fred Camper)

December 6, 2006, Wednesday - 8PM
40 Frames - 425 SE 3rd #400

(1964, 20 mins)
Dedicated by Baillie to "the religious people who were destroyed by the civilization which evolved the Mass."

(1964, 10 mins)
The song of revolutionary hero, Valentin, sung by Jose Santollo Nasido en Santa Cruz de la Soledad; Chapala, Jalisco, Mexico.

(1965, 45 mins)
"A one-year journey through the land of incessant progress, researching those sources which have given rise twenty years later to the essential question of survival."

December 7, 2006, Thursday - 7PM
Whitsell Auditorium - 1219 SW Park Avenue

(1966, 3 mins)
"Caspar, California, old fence with red roses."

(1967, 60 mins)
"The experience of transformation between life and death, death and birth, or rebirth in four reels."

(1974, 17 mins)
"The work seems to be a sort of manual, concerning all the stuff of the cycle of life, from the most detailed mundanery to. . .God knows."

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