About 10 days ago, multidisciplinary artist Kate Lain started a simple Google spreadsheet called “Cabin Fever” in the hopes of gathering links to experimental films she could send to her students once classes were moved online due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Lain divided her “playlist” into sections, such as “For when you need to laugh or smile,” “For when you wanna sing & dance,” and even “For when you just want to scream or break something.” As she explained to Hyperallergic, these categories are “based on moods one might be experiencing while being cooped up.”
In less than two weeks, Lain’s spreadsheet has grown to include hundreds of experimental films and artists’ moving image works from around the world, complete with content warnings where appropriate and a password option for artists who prefer some layer of security.
Likewise, many artists and filmmakers have taken it upon themselves to remove passwords from their collections of work on Vimeo and elsewhere. From Beatriz Santiago Muñoz to Sky Hopinka to Alexandra Cuesta, it’s been heartening to me as a moving image curator to see a range of experimental filmmakers make their work publicly available. And while worrying in the long term, the fact that even some festivals have moved entirely online has offered a little glimmer of light at the end of a tunnel of bad TV, especially as many arthouse cinemas have closed for the immediate future.
In the spirit of “Cabin Fever” and cognizant of the fact that one can only watch so much Netflix in a given month, a few colleagues and I reached out to artists, filmmakers, and Hyperallergic contributors to assemble a list of what we’ve been sharing and encountering across our networks. Gathered here are both films recently made free and some older gems, just because.
While it’s thrilling to see such a robust selection of experimental films available with just an internet connection, it’s worth noting that there are many very good reasons some artists have elected not to put their work online. Like a lot of art, experimental films can be expensive to make, but unlike paintings and sculptures, time-based media is not much sought after by moneyed collectors. This means that screening opportunities or distribution deals offer some of the only ways these artists can be compensated for their labor. As a filmmaker whom I deeply respect recently reminded me, not every artist can afford to make their work freely available. The choice is personal.
All of this is to say that if you plan to do a deep dive into the links below or films found elsewhere, please consider donating directly to the artists. (This especially applies to artists with disabilities and chronic illnesses, who have long been making work while managing varying levels of confinement, limited mobility, and a historic lack of institutional support, well before our current moment of “social distancing.”) If you work for an institution or otherwise have a platform, consider inviting some of these artists for a paid screening in the future so they can share their work and earn a living. Because at the end of the day, no one should have to work for free.
CABIN FEVER: Coping with COVID-19 playlist of online experimental films & videos
(Initiated and maintained by Kate Lain)
Note: Due to an overwhelming response, Lain has made her playlist view-only. Folks interested in adding their work to the list should send an email to [email protected].
After the 42nd edition of the notable French festival was cancelled, they partnered with Mediapart to make 13 films from this year’s program available online. See here for a few additional streaming options via their website.
“Collectif Jeune Cinéma — founded in 1971, promotes visual experimental practices including distribution of experimental cinema, regular monthly screenings and the yearly Different and Experimental Cinema Festival of Paris. CJC’s catalogue includes more than 1300 films from more than 350 filmmakers, and still counting …” —Collectif Jeune Cinéma
IDFA (International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam) Collection
Viewers can now access almost 200 titles from the prestigious festival’s collection (more titles are available to those based in the Netherlands).
The National Film Board of Canada’s database of cinema by Indigenous filmmakers, spanning 1968 to 2018.
Karina Skvirsky Aguilera
The Perilous Journey of Maria Rosa Palacios: “… a 30-minute performance based video about my Great-Grandmother’s journey from Chota to Guayaquil in 1906 to work as a domestic. The video brings attention to Palacios whose station in life made it impossible for her to be remembered in the history books. Maria Rosa Palacios was an Afro-Ecuadorian and descendant of slaves.” —KSA
Catalina Jordan Alvarez
Sound Spring, Seq. #6: The School and The Home: Part of a larger project, for which Alvarez conducted audio interviews with residents of Yellow Spring, Ohio, and later synced their recording with footage of the village. This excerpt traces the community’s “long and mixed history of civil rights struggles. Some residents trace their roots six generations to the Conway Colony — formerly enslaved people who were helped to settle here by the abolitionist son of their slaver. Antioch College is one of the most liberal liberal art schools in the country. Due to financial turmoil, its once 2,500 students today number 100 and empty buildings abound. Its illustrious alumni include Coretta Scott King, who eventually transferred, as she wasn’t able to carry out her internships where she wanted to because of the color of her skin.” —CJA
The Little Green Gym: “From the age of nine I grew up in the Cumberland Plateau region of Tennessee, a place I once thought had nothing to offer me. But after living four years in New York City, and four years in Berlin, I came back to explore this area of the Appalachian mountains. Beersheba Springs was one of those places I’d been told was special on the plateau ….” —CJA
PACO: “Paco is a character my brother and I played in our childhood. He is based on men on the street, who would call me ‘linda.’ I cast my neighbors and partner — all non-professional actors — to interact with Paco. ” —CJA
Journey to the Cosmic Womb Part 1 & 2: A fantastical short focused on race and adoption, based on the filmmaker’s own experiences.
“An interdisciplinary artist working with video, installation and photography, [Collins’s] work draws from from documentary and research based practices to reconsider relationships between media and systemic violence through a queer feminist lens.” — AC
You can find some of her films here.
“Alexandra Cuesta is a filmmaker and visual artist who lives and works between the United States and Ecuador, her country of origin. Her films and videos combine experimental film traditions, documentary practices, and visual anthropology.” —AC
You can find her work on Vimeo.
Afronauts: A luminous short which renders the story of the Zambian Space Program as a dreamlike work of speculative fiction. Afronauts contemplates the larger ramifications of launching the Black body into space against the backdrop of the independence movements taking place across the African continent in the 1960s.
Read more about Bodomo’s project, which she is expanding into a feature, here.
America Is Exhausted: “a portrait in contrasts, between public hysteria fueled by a certain politician, and the lone black artist at home in his surroundings.” —ÁF
Breaking: In this video performance, [Grullón] adopted the role of fictional United Nations representative, Jaklin Caal Maquin, named after a 4-year-old Guatemalan girl who died of the flu at a US migrant detention center in December 2018.” —AG (Read Laura Raicovich’s take on it here.)
Surge: “Using a Hollywood trailer format and news montage in this video, viewers confront business-as-usual attitudes against communities demanding system change in the face of climate crisis.” —AG
Hyperallergic’s Laura Raicovich writes more about her work here.
Hillerbrand + Magsamen
The collaborative artistic team of Hillerbrand-Magsamen draws upon the rich Fluxus practice of incorporating humor, performance, video and everyday objects by expanding their personal family life into a contemporary art conversation about family dynamics, suburban life and American consumer excess. This new kind of “suburban fluxus” generates work that documents and re-contextualizes their objects and possessions of self, family and culture, the role of the camera in contemporary art and challenging presumptions of the everyday. — H + M
Hopinka’s work often explores the interconnectedness of myth, heritage, and language. His recent feature malni — towards the ocean, towards the shore is particularly stunning for its exploration of storytelling via Chinuk Wawa, an indigenous language spoken in what is now called the Pacific Northwest.
You can malni, along with several of Hopinka’s shorts here.
Hyperallergic’s Ela Bittencourt writes more about malni here.
Open Your Eyes: “… an experimental video based on memory and trauma. I explore a nonlinear narrative that reflects the outer self contrasted with inner thoughts. Scenes cut between still photographs and domestic interiors. The hypnotic ticking of a clock provides a soundbed that secures the audience within the filmic space yet also creates a sense of anxiety.” —AH
“Ulysses Jenkins’s video and media work is remarkable for its fusion of forms to conjure vibrant expressions of how image, sound and cultural iconography inform representation. Beginning as a painter and muralist, Jenkins was introduced to video just as the first consumer cameras were made available to individuals, and he quickly seized upon the television technology as a means to broadcast alternative depictions of African and Native American cultures — his own heritage — citing the catalyst of Melvin Van Peebles’s Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song (1971) and its call to black filmmakers to control their subject-hood by controlling the media depicting them.” — Electronic Arts Intermix
Access his films on Vimeo.
Don’t Go Back to Sleep: “… a haunted experimental narrative feature that operates primarily as a metaphor for the violence of the state and resulting citizen trauma … Shot in Kansas City, Missouri, in newly built homes left vacant and unfinished in the economic crash, Don’t Go Back to Sleep follows roving groups of frontline emergency workers adrift in nearly empty, end-times urban and suburban landscapes.” — SK
Adam and Zack Khalil
INAATE/SE/ [it shines a certain way. to a certain place./it flies. falls./: Based on the ancient Anishinaabe Seven Fires Prophecy, which both predates and predicts the arrival of Europeans. This film blends documentary, narrative, and experimental elements to explore the resonance of the prophecy through generations in the filmmakers’ Ojibway community in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
Hyperallergic’s Allison Meier writes more about INAATE/SE here.
Adam and Zack Khalil, and Jackson Polys
The Violence of a Civilization without Secrets reflects on the innate violence of museum archives and the relegation of human beings to artifacts via considerations of the case — and consequences — of the “discovery” of the “Kennewick Man,” a prehistoric Paleo-American man whose remains were found in Kennewick, Washington, in 1996.
“Kite, aka Suzanne Kite, is an Oglála Lakȟóta performance artist, visual artist, and composer … Kite’s scholarship and practice highlight contemporary Lakota epistemologies through research-creation, computational media, and performance. Her performances, compositions, sculptures and sound installations showcase the use of experimentation in new media and digital technologies that touch on issues such as nonhuman and human intelligence, the ethics of extractive technologies, and software design.” —Kite
Access her work on Vimeo.
“Penny Lane’s first feature length documentary, OUR NIXON, world premiered at Rotterdam, had its North American premiere at SXSW, won the Ken Burns Award for “Best of the Festival” at Ann Arbor, and was selected as the Closing Night Film at New Directors/New Films. Her second feature documentary, NUTS!, world premiered at Sundance 2016 where it won a Special Jury Prize. And yes, Penny Lane is her real name.” —PL
Access her work on Vimeo here.
Lin + Lam (Lana Lin and H. Lan Thao Lam)
“Inspired by a particular site, historical incident, or political issue, Lin + Lam (Lana Lin and H. Lan Thao Lam) collect research in the form of interviews, archival materials, and found objects. Their collaboration brings together their backgrounds in architecture, photography, sculpture, installation and time-based media. Their work has been exhibited at international venues including the Museum of Modern Art, New Museum, The Kitchen, and the Queens Museum, New York, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, Arko Arts Center (Korean Arts Council,) Seoul, the Oberhausen Short Film Festival, Germany, and the 3rd Guangzhou Triennial, China.” —Lin + Lam
Access their work on Vimeo here.
“Jodie Mack is an experimental animator … Combining the formal techniques and structures of abstract/absolute animation with those of cinematic genres, her handmade films use collage to explore the relationship between graphic cinema and storytelling, the tension between form and meaning.” —JM
Access her work on Vimeo.
The Green Fog: “… a scene-by-scene recreation of [Alfred Hitchcock’s] Vertigo, made entirely of footage from other movies that take place in San Francisco. There’s an especially funny montage right at the climax of the movie that uses Chuck Norris clips.” —Carman Tse
“ZION activates movements, and sights/sites resonant to the long history of Black settlements in New York City, including Seneca Village, a 19th century Black community eradicated to make way for the development of Central Park. At large, Modisakeng’s practice excavates forgotten histories breathing life into stories that often parallel contemporary issues across the Global African Diaspora. He lifts the dust from the bones of history. He lifts the veil from our eyes. He makes us witnesses … [ZION] marks the absences and the conflicts that have caused the forced migration of millions casting them into a life of refuge.” —Niama Safia Sandy
Mobilize: “Guided expertly by those who live on the land and driven by the pulse of the natural world, Caroline Monnet’s Mobilize takes us on an exhilarating journey from the far north to the urban south. Over every landscape, in all conditions, everyday life flows with strength, skill and extreme competence.” —National Film Board
Creatura Dada: “Six powerful native women gather up to celebrate a new beginning and the end of the world as we know it.” —CM
IKWE: “An experimental film that weaves the intimate thoughts of one woman (Ikwé) with the teachings of her grandmother, the Moon, creating a surreal narrative experience that communicates the power of thought and personal reflection.” —CM
Beatriz Santiago Muñoz
A prolific film and video-maker, Muñoz’s work focuses on the contradictions of the post-colonial Caribbean. Her stunning films draw on elements of ethnography, experimental filmmaking practices, and theater to tease out local histories, myths, and materialities.
You can find much of her recent work here (password: elfuturo).
Hyperallergic’s Monica Uszerowicz writes more about her work here.
Medusa and The Abyss: Notions of belonging and the ethics of travel are questioned through female rite and ritual, pointing at the pervasive and contradictory presence of history and myth in present-day Sicily. —FP
notes from the kingdom of the sick: notes from the kingdom of the sick examines subjective time and temporal isolation from the confines of a waiting room and represents the filmmaker’s experience as a young woman living with breast cancer, unable to be a “productive” member of society. —FP
6×18.78Upoad: Sometimes we all need a little support to get through our to do lists. Peacock’s short infuses some humor into the humdrum.
Amygdalia (password: amygdaliainspring): “A non-fictional poem on belonging, estrangement and home, narrated by five women who are perceived, seen or feeling as “foreigners” in Greece.” —CP
Gutk’odau (Yellow): “This experimental documentary short combines audio captured from Kiowa Tribe language lessons with breathtaking shots of the Great Plains.” —Seattle International Film Festival
Mourning Letters: “… a testimony to its narrator’s grief over the death of a former lover. As the name would suggest the story unfolds through the oration of four letters originally written as a therapeutic exercise by Remenchik. Through film stills, screenshots of MOCA TV clips, and images copped from an ex-boyfriend’s solo show in Chelsea, the piece uses a devastating personal loss as a metaphor for shared cultural and historical traumas.” —JM
Lyrics on the Paper: “we travel with the notions and the emotions……..” —JR
Saint Rise: “In August 2017, Lebanon looks with mixed feeling at a giant statue of Saint Charbel as it is transported and erected on the highest mountaintop in Faraya … This saint is now being heralded by conservative religious media as a healer of the Coronavirus, and people are flocking to take soil from the burial place. The film is about the interactions of the people with the giant statue during its transport, and also about the contracting company [Beirut International Marine Industry and Commerce S.A.R.L], which is known for outlandish engineering proposals.” —BS
Reasonable Watchfulness: “A diary film; transitions while longing for other places and people, like a fox on the run.” —TS
Between my flesh and the world’s fingers: “Mary MacLane, the Wild Woman of Butte, Montana, published her diaries in 1902 and 1917. As an out queer and proto-feminist at the turn of the century, MacLane became notorious upon the publication of her 1902 diary, I Await the Devil’s Coming. She was whisked away from the industrial hellscape of her copper mining Montana hometown to a life in the public eye as an author, journalist, female film pioneer and always a provocateur — sending up social norms throughout her career, with a special focus on staid notions about women and sexuality. Between my flesh and the world’s fingers is an experimental essay and diary film primarily based on her published diaries and her film work …” —TS
“Kelly Sears uses experimental animation techniques to create hybrid works that draw on narrative and documentary elements. She transforms an extensive trove of source materials, such as first aid handbooks, chronicles of space exploration, presidential and military newsreels, 35 millimeter photography manuals, aerobic and yoga guides, archival films, high school yearbooks, and disaster survival guidebooks, into new instructional and advisory texts that may lead the viewer astray and disoriented. Through these animations, we see glean bits of history that are recognizable but unsteady.” —KS
Stream her work on Vimeo here.
Good Stock on the Dimension Floor: “a 53-minute digital film in 35 parts, reimagines the traditional opera to pose a central question: ‘What happens to the black body when it is haunted by a ‘blackness’ outside of it?’ The spoken, chanted, sung, and screamed libretto explores the consequences of centuries of global racial strife that are thrust upon on those born of African descent.” —U Chicago Arts
Full Circle: “… about the struggle for life and the indifference of nature and thus fairly relevant to what is happening at the moment.” —SS
Ida Western Exile: “The film is ur-quarantine, about isolation, making customer support phone calls for community, and gathering rations to disappear.” —CS
Watermarks: “In Richmond, Virginia, Confederate monuments obscure the buried traumas of the slave trade along the James River. The river’s line traces a history that remains invisible. Hand-developed 16mm film and unconventional sound design unearth a buried world, questioning how the past has been recorded or suppressed.” —SS
Nucas de Tarkovsky (Tarkovsky’s Napes): “A video essay about one of Tarkovsky’s key shots, the inner crisis and the doubts and thoughts about faith and form.” —PT
Jasy Porã: “The daily life of the guarani village Jasy Porã (Beautiful Moon), more specifically of their children, who are part of a choir. They show an innate wisdom of living in harmony and serenity with the environment. [This film reflects on] temporality, the musicality of nature and men mixed, in the jungle of Iguazu, Argentina.” —PT
Александр (Alexander): “A poetic interpretation about the life of Alexander: a priest that founded a motorcycle club …” —PT
小寨 (The Last Small Village): A day with the Yao people, [focused on] their work, rituals, and routine in the early spring of Xiaozhai. The culture and the contrast between the ancient and the modern in the rice terraces of Longji, China. —PT
Woman Walking: “[this short] dissects the experience of a woman walking alone by isolating her from her surroundings and juxtaposing two perspectives of the same action. From behind, we witness her seemingly confident stride. From the front, we see her tense reactions to surrounding noises as she clutches her purse and phone. The woman is simultaneously objectified and humanized through contending camera positions.” —BT
“Rikkí Wright is a photographer and filmmaker based in Los Angeles, CA. Her work explores notions of community and sisterhood, especially among women of color, and looks at the way a community can mold or expand our ideas of femininity and masculinity, strength and beauty.” —RW
Stream her film A Ritual of Sisterhood here.