It’s no secret that New Mexico has become a major Hollywood player, hosting countless film and TV shoots. But Albuquerque is also, quietly, home to one of the most respected outlets for experimental media. Gwendolyn Audrey Foster, author of Experimental Cinema The Film Reader and a writer for the online film journal Senses of Cinema just identified Albuquerque’s Experiments in Cinema as one of the top 10 experimental film festivals in the world.
Experiments in Cinema is the brainchild of Albuquerque’s Basement Films, one of the few remaining first wave micro-cinemas left in the United States. The local arts org has been supporting “underrepresented forms of media” since 1991. Each year Basement Films’ Experiments in Cinema brings the international community of “cinematic un-dependents” to Albuquerque for a film festival designed to inspire “a new generation of homegrown media activists to participate in shaping future trends of cultural representation.”
Basement Films founder/director Bryan Konefsky serves as an instructor in UNM’s Film & Digital Arts program and has lectured at colleges and universities around the world about experimental film and media. It’s under his guiding hand that Experiments in Cinema has lived long enough to produce this year’s 16th annual outing. “For years I’ve been a champion of the value of collectively getting together, in the dark, to experience a festival,” says Konefsky. “Of course all that has changed with COVID. Last year we hastily migrated our festival to an online platform, as we will this year.” EIC 16.1 takes place May 1 through 22, offering up nearly 100 films from 35 countries—all available online and free to anyone who tunes in.
Konefsky points out that, “During a ‘normal’ year, our homebase is the Guild Cinema where we attract about 500 attendees. Last year the online festival attracted 2,500 viewers from around the world.” The hope is that, by next year, EIC can return to the Guild—while also “augmenting” the in-person festival with an online component to “honor those viewing from around the world.” In addition to the eye-boggling collection of local and international art films, this year’s lineup includes Q&A sessions with artists and panel discussions with curators and scholars—all prerecorded and available for those first three weeks of May. Although all programing is free, there will be a “donate” button. All donations go to the Guild to help support the indie theater, which remains shuttered under COVID restrictions.
Each year Experiments in Cinema offers a special focus. “We have had a women’s focus, an African diaspora focus, a Cuban focus and a Serbian focus,” recalls Konefsky. “This year we invited three Indigenous curators/artists who have ties with Albuquerque to curate programs that think about the ‘state of the (moving image) art’ from an Indigenous perspective.” In addition to curating a selection of Native American experimental films, Raven Chacon, Sally Kewayosh and Marcella Ernest will engage in a panel discussion to talk about their curatorial decisions. “I think the quality of the work in these programs is on par with anything we have screened in the past,” says Konefsky. “Our hope with these special programs is not to colonize but to celebrate and hopefully inspire other artists to recognize that we screen films by people who look like them! It’s all about digging deep to support voices who have not been properly represented in past years at EIC.”
BOX: Experiments in Cinema 16.1