In the first of a new series of posts with our friends at Close-Up Film Centre, RADIANT CIRCUS chats to guest curator Francesco Maria Carreri about found footage programme NEVER FOUND: ALTERNATE HISTORIES OF THE 20th CENTURY (07 to 15 NOV).
RADIANT CIRCUS exists to help people find their way to more adventurous moving pictures. What has your personal film journey been like?
[FRANCESCO MARIA CARRERI]:
My father was a cinephile so I guess I got the interest in film from him. It’s strange to look back at my time watching films in Naples as a child, throughout the years I witnessed maybe 30 cinemas closing down, now there are no more than 4 or 5 cinemas for the whole city. Perhaps that’s part of where my interest in film exhibition comes from.
I did a B.A. in filmmaking thinking that I would become a director or something like that, eventually I realized I wasn’t that interested in making films but I still loved cinema. I discovered what film programming is and it just made sense as something I could do.
You’re now studying film curation at the National Film & Television School. What does that involve?
We go through many things; we learn about film history, we learn how to set up seasons, find rights holders – we meet people who work in all kinds of areas from distribution to film writing. I guess what differentiates it from other courses is that it’s very practical, NEVER FOUND for example is part of my grad project. Of course like most other creative endeavors, programming films is not something that one has to necessarily learn at University, but I think this was the path that made the most sense for me and I’ve learned a lot.
Your programme at Close-Up features films that use the technique of found footage to retell a history of the 20th century. What interests you about collage as a documentary technique?
The use of found footage is a technique like any other, the results can be interesting or dull. One thing that fascinates me is how it seems to force filmmakers to focus on the texture of the image, wether it’s the unaltered original texture like in Ken Jacob’s PERFECT FILM or a heavily modified one like that of the decaying, tinted images of FROM THE POLE TO THE EQUATOR. And I think the textured image can tell you as much about an image as the subject on the screen.
Using found footage puts certain constraints on filmmakers, it forces them to use what is already there but I’m interested in how it also brings a great amount of freedom, look at Craig Baldwin’s SPECTRES OF THE SPECTRUM for example. It’s a low budget experimental film but it also works as a sort of blockbuster sci-fi epic, and it’s completely believable and compelling as that. Without using found-footage, Baldwin wouldn’t have been able to do that.
How did you find your way to these particular films?
I’m not sure I remember how I found the films, perhaps by reading something in an article or simply scrolling through reviews on Letterboxd. I randomly happened to watch most of them around the same time and I immediately felt that they could work well together, they had something in common that I couldn’t quite place and I decided to use them for a season.
What unites the selection of films and filmmakers in your programme?
The films are all very different from each other. The use of found-footage is the most obvious and superficial aspect that links them. They all happen to exist in this sort of undefined space between documentaries and artist moving image but that’s just a question of categorization.
It’s hard to define what connects them but what’s really interesting to me is how they all seem to share a certain critical way of looking at the past and at the images coming from it. When I started thinking of them together it felt like they could have been seen as a sort of alternative history of the 20th century. The two world wars, colonialism, the Cold War, the Palestinian question, an entire century narrated by grainy, mysterious and often confusing images.
What goes into bringing work like this to the screen? What are the challenges?
The fist challenge is to find them. With films like this it’s not always clear where to look for prints or who the rights holder are. Often renting the films is quite expensive and you’re forced to make some kind of compromise. Ideally you’d like to show everything in it’s original format, but that’s not always possible. I’m glad that at least two of the films, PERFECT FILM and FROM THE POLE TO THE EQUATOR are going to be shown in 16mm.
The other big challenge is bringing the audience to the film, that’s very hard and I’m glad that places like your website exist.
What would you say to people who might not know these films or the filmmakers? How can we get more people out of the multiplex to give these kinds of films a try?
I don’t think people have to abandon the multiplex. If they watch, say, a film like THE ROCK, and they enjoy it, that’s a good thing.
But how to get people to watch different kinds of films is another question and it’s very difficult and there are can be many answers for it. One thing I’ve been thinking about is that we don’t need to fight the idea of film as entertainment or as something that provides some kind of pleasure to the audience. I think you have to find a way to make people realize that watching, say, an experimental film or a silent film can be just as fun, compelling or exciting as watching whatever is playing in the multiplexes.
It’s a generalization but I think it would help. But really the most important thing is to make sure that places like Close-Up or RADIANT CIRCUS continue to exist and eventually people who are curious enough will find their way to different types of filmmaking.
… and that’s the meat of it.
HUNGRY FOR MORE?
- NEVER FOUND: ALTERNATE HISTORIES OF THE 20TH CENTURY screens at Close-Up Film Centre (07 to 15 NOV). Includes: OUR CENTURY + PERFECT FILM (07 NOV 20:15); FROM THE POLE TO THE EQUATOR (08 NOV 20:15); IMAGES OF THE WORLD (14 NOV 20:15); and, SPECTRES OF THE SPECTRUM (15 NOV 20:15).
- Support Close-Up by becoming a member and access a world of moving image.
- Learn more about the Film Studies, Programming and Curation Masters course at the National Film & Television School.
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Featured image: OUR CENTURY screens at Close-Up.