Jeff Shriver has passed your name onto us as someone who might be particularly
interested in advance notice of The First Bisbee Underground Film Festival,
a free outdoor event which we have received a permit to put on in Brewery
Gulch's City Park this summer on the evenings of June 25, 26, and 27.
Last winter we bought a house on Opera Drive in Old Bisbee. A day trip
to Bisbee around Christmas time convinced us that Bisbee was a town that
really moved us with its beauty, eccentricity, and fascinating history.
We also realized that a full move was not possible as tied as we are to
teaching, artmaking, etc. in San Francisco so we decided that initially
Bisbee would be a place to spend part of the year. During our frequent
walks down the gulch, our imagination was captured by City Park as a possible
setting for a Film Festival. It seemed like "a readymade", with
its central location, concrete shell, and sense of enclosed openness.
Film: Mainstream vs Underground
When most people think about cinema they think about what is available
to them in movie theaters and at their local video store. We are at a
time when, unless you are living in a major American city with eclectic
venues for all kinds of interests, it is unlikely that you will see anything
outside of the latest roster of films cranked out of the Hollywood studio
system. Yet historically, in the United States and Europe, there are thousands
of examples of films which have been marginalized by economics, wonderful
thoughtful experimental films made on shoestring budgets which because
of their short length, unconventional subject matter, radical aesthetics,
or unprogrammability, sadly never get seen by people who would delight
in them greatly. Mainstream Cinema evolves in a gigantic invisible and
celebrity studded studio system, millions of dollars and miles away from
us; Underground Cinema exists in our midst. Mainstream Cinema happens
in dark, well swept institutional "Theaters" in the company
of strangers. Underground Cinema happens in the company of friends, programmed
by artists and film lovers in any available/locally inspiring space. Mainstream
Cinema happens in towns and cities which can afford to sustain it. Bisbee,
like many small towns in the country, obviously does not fit the demographic
for a firstrun theatre. But the flip side of this is Bisbee's potential
readiness for another approach to film viewing, which is where we come
Our Vision for this Summer and Beyond
We are very curious about bringing film to an entirely new place. We want
the first Bisbee underground film festival to combine the fun and sociability
of a local gathering with the excitement and education of the film viewings.
Embedded in all of this is the optimism of initiating projects at a grass
roots level so that they may gather up momentum in the future as well.
Do we want Bisbee to be another Telluride or Sundance? No, not really:
these festivals were exciting and new in their beginning years; now they
have become shopping grounds for industry people at the expense of a lot
of inventiveness and sincere unselfconscious experimentation. Perhaps
this festival in years to come will become a small Southwest destination.
For the time being, we are very happy to just get it going and learn from
the feedback that we get.
With the exception of the large screen which The Central School Project
is letting us use, we're uhauling everything there from San Francisco.
This includes a powerful 16mm. arc projector, elements of a PA System,
microphones, a second projector, a video projector for installations,
posters, a large handpainted festival banner, silkscreened T-shirts, and
printed matter to be handed out at the film shows. We're also bringing
the small Italian pump organ from our Cinema to be used for silent film
accompaniment. As we're new to Bisbee, we're pretty much relying on our
own funds for this first summer. Recently, 2 philanthropic funds awarded
us a total of $500 which we'll use to put up the musicians and to have
an opening night reception in June.
Silent Film LIVE w/ Howe Gelb
We are thrilled that the Tucson based musician, Howe Gelb has agreed to
accompany silent films on the first two nights. Howe will be composing
original soundtracks for the influential proto-surrealist serial film,
"Juve vs. Fantomas"(1913) and the classic first William S. Hart
Western, "The Bargain"(1914). Howe is a stalwart of the Southwestern
sonic-landscape; With his own unique idiom which combines country, rock
and improvisation, he is the creative force behind Giant Sand and The
Band of Blacky Ranchette. He will be bringing his small "rig"
of guitar, tape samples, pump organ & piano to City Park for this
event. This cine/musical collaboration with the Bisbee Underground Film
Festival will be a one of a kind confection under the warm June sky.
Nights of Films- Themes and History
While each evening has a theme (see calendar and descriptions), within
any program there is a cross-historical selection of films which range
from the turn of the century to the present. As film historians, we recognize
dynamic veins of influence and inspiration from one genre and generation
to the next. And in a town such as Bisbee, which is living with the constant
reminder of it's own history, we believe that our approach to combining
the old with the new as part of a "living history" is a shoe
Rebecca Barten and David Sherman
May 15, 1999