Now that the dust has settled on my admittedly ambitious Philly film-themed festival, I thought I’d take a few minutes to reflect upon my 24 day odyssey that was the first annual Cinedelphia Film Festival. But let’s quickly address the most common post-festival question that I’ve received: Will the CFF return in 2014? Sure, why not, this year’s installment was a big success and I have an endless supply of programming ideas. It may change a bit in both format and content, but I encourage that kind of organic maturation, it’ll prevent the CFF from becoming just another annual cookie cutter film festival. So with that said, let’s go through a quick recap of the entire event from the viewpoint of your fair programmer, you can download a pdf copy of the program guide here if you’d like to follow along…
As many readers know, in addition to Cinedelphia.com I also run all aspects of the Philadelphia Mausoleum of Contemporary Art (PhilaMOCA, an inherited name that I still feel sounds like a coffee shop, we usually refer to it as the Mausoleum). Last year I conceived a weekly Tuesday night series, Tuesday Tune-Out, which features a live performance from a different local musician every week followed by a film screening of their choosing. And every month features a different guest curator. The series has received a great deal of accolades and a truly impressive list of guest curators, I’d been eager to curate it myself so I had the CFF take it over for the month of April…
Tuesday, April 2 was a pre-festival kick-off of sorts featuring one of my local faves, Sweatheart, who performed covers of select songs from the Valley Girl soundtrack during the film’s halfway point (we paused the film, they performed, and the film resumed). Tons of fun, here’s footage of them performing two wacky Sparks covers (more on my favorite band later)…
Thursday, April 4 was the CFF’s official opening night, I’d hoped to hold the first program at the International House since I first conceived the whole Festival idea. We go way back: the first film I saw at the I-House was Sick: The Life & Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist back in October of 1997 while I was a freshman at Drexel U. Since then I’ve had some of my own work screened there (Otaku Unite! in 2004 as part of the Philly Film Fest, my first Video Pirates short in July of 2012), I’ve programmed the work of others there (Go Forward! with a live performance from The Captains in 2007, TV Carnage in 2011), and I’ve watched literally hundreds of films there. It’s our city’s most valuable resource for worthwhile film and for the CFF program I basically told them that they had free reign over what it would entail as long as it was related to the venue’s history in some way. So the programming gang selected a bunch of fun and interesting 16mm short films that the I-House originally screened as part of a series back in 1979. Details here, some really cool and weird things, the work of Sally Cruikshank will always frighten me.
Friday, April 5 was held at Freeman’s auction house at 18th and Chestnut. The walls were covered in vintage posters and art (including an original Lichtenstein and Haring) and visitors were greeted by a photograph of Marilyn Monroe that had recently sold for $10K. Secret Cinema put together a great program of Philly-related 16mm shorts, a “best of” culled from previous SC Philly-related programs that included the memorable The Story of Bubblegum and Philadelphia With Love. The place was packed, standing room only, and one of the employees told me that they don’t usually get that kind of crowd for their auctions. I should also mention that SC’s Jay Schwartz began the program, at my request, with an updated version of his History of Secret Cinema presentation, a great play-by-play of his 21 years worth of film exhibition. A great evening, thanks Jay and Silvia and Freeman’s!
Saturday, April 6 was an exhausting day, but one of the best of the Fest. Ambler’s Stoogeum hosted a morning program dedicated to the life of Philly-born Stooge Larry Fine featuring an engaging and comprehensive talk by Stoogeum founder Gary Lassin, great fun. The room was packed with some Stooge impersonators in attendance as well as author Jim Pauley (The Three Stooges: Hollywood Filming Locations) who I saw speak at the International House just a few months previous as part of a Secret Cinema program.
PhilaMOCA hosted two programs that night, both of which were labor intensive in the months leading up to the event. In my free time I do a video-based comedy show called Video Pirates, basically I compile humorous clips from archaic video formats and present them with live commentary. So the first program that night was a Video Pirates presentation of a public access show from the mid-80s, The Scott and Gary Show. I hosted while special guests Scott and Gary reflected upon clips from their classic show, which featured early television appearances by the likes of the Beastie Boys, Half Japanese, and Butthole Surfers. Heavy Metal Parking Lot director Jeff Krulik, who introduced me to the show and had a hand in its original airing, was in attendance as were Baltimore’s The Beatoes who reunited for a special episode recreation complete with a set built by myself and the PhilaMOCA gang. Tons of fun, it ran kinda late, but that allowed the crowd who were showing up for the Video Pirates: Philadelphia program the opportunity to catch The Beatoes’ live set (they played their classic “Mad Dog 20/20” twice, at my shouted request).
Photos below are by Jesse Brittell:
Video Pirates: Philadelphia was a two hour presentation of Philly-related clips hosted by yours truly. Highlights included: a summary of the Showcase Comics-produced Comic Book Pajama Party, some vintage KYW3 TV spots, an in-depth look at local indie film The Demo Crew, a loving tribute to Randall “Tex” Cobb, and a retrospective of the TNT Amusements infomercials with special surprise guest Todd Tuckey in attendance. Great crowd and everyone seemed to have a good time, including some of my family members who made their first trip to PhilaMOCA for it. Afterwards we danced and hula hooped long into the night.
Sunday, April 7 featured a double feature of the locally produced ’80s indie horror films Girls School Screamers and Blades, an idea I’d held onto for a long time. The former is a fun slasher film, the latter concerns a killer lawnmower machine that stalks a south Jersey golf course. GSS Writer/Director John P. Finnegan, Blades Director/Co-Writer Thomas Rondinella, and Blades Producer/Co-Writer William Pace were all in attendance for some spirited introductions and a lengthy post-Blades Q&A, which was a ton of fun. Here’s a blog called Screen Invasion’s take on the evening.
Photos by Arin Sang-urai.
Monday, April 8 featured a video tour of Philly-shot films by local film writer/personality Irv Slifkin (Movies Unlimited, Filmadelphia). Selections included clips from some obscure gems including David and Lisa (1962), Disk-O-Tek Holiday (1966), and this amazing scene from 1982’s The Soldier:
Tuesday, April 9, the second of the Tuesday Tune-Outs, featured the World Premiere of 21st Century Classical Music followed by a live performance by the film’s subjects, local theremin-led chamber orchestra the Divine Hand Ensemble. Another one of my local faves, Divine Hand’s previous appearance at PhilaMOCA was for the performance of an original live score to The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) that I hosted this past December. Good turnout and a fun evening, here’s a CBS Philly preview of the event.
Photos by Arin Sang-urai.
Wednesday, April 10 was an unintentionally Asian-themed evening that featured a Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival presentation of an indie music-oriented film called The Crumbles (surprisingly not made by a teenage girl, but by a rather sincere San Francisco-based filmmaker who was in attendance for the screening) followed by an Unknown Japan-presented screening of the fantastic Massacre Gun (1967), a film chosen and hosted by friend Marc Walkow (too many Japanese film-related activities to mention) who gave a lengthy and detailed introduction to the Nikkatsu action genre. And in case you’re not in the know, Unknown Japan is a biannual series of rare Japanese films that I curate, co-presented by the Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia. Massacre Gun was the 31st film in the series, which will return for another six weeks this August.
Thursday, April 11 marked Exhumed Films‘ first visit to PhilaMOCA, the first of many to come (announcement soon…). They screened The Mutations (1974) on 16mm and EF members Joseph A. Gervasi and Dan Fraga participated in a pre-screening Q&A hosted by The Colonial Theatre’s Nick Lombardo, tons of fun. Screen Invasion has a great write up of the event; the gorgeous poster to the left is by Justin Miller.
Friday, April 12 was back at the International House for a 35mm screening of the bonkers 1971 crime film The Burglars. Cinedelphia contributor/local film writer Samm Deighan conceived the idea for a David Goodis-themed evening (Goodis was a Philly-born crime author) and she hosted a panel of local Goodis admirers that I put together that included Ed Pettit (Philly Poe Guy), Steven Rea (Inquirer film critic), Lou Boxer (NoirCon), and writer Duane Swierczynski (I’m a big fan of his comic book work). This was another one of my favorite evenings of the CFF and I highly recommend that film lovers of the bizarre check out The Burglars, which features a ton of memorable scenes including one involving a Clapper that had the audience cheering. BTW, that’s I-House projectionist extraordinaire Robert Cargni prepping the film for the evening.
I’ve programmed screenings in a variety of strange and unique venues over the years, but my all-time favorite has to be the Saturday, April 13 screening of Video Violence: Redux Deluxe at Ardmore’s Viva Video!, the Philadelphia area’s last remaining video store outlet. We held it in the shop’s dark and dingy basement, which, as Video Violence director Gary P. Cohen pointed out, was exactly like the one that they shot some of the film’s murder scenes in. “We’re all gonna die!” screamed one attendee upon entering the room; “There’s a dead mouse in the corner behind me,” I observed during my introduction to the screening. VHS stalwarts Lunchmeat and Horror Boobs were in attendance for the festivities as was director Cohen and the film’s co-writer Paul Kaye. And Viva Video!’s Miguel Gomez passed around a giant platter of cookies during the screening, which just added to the wonderful strangeness of it all. Toooons of fun! And yeah, I brought all of the screening equipment out there as well as an air mover that dried up the damp floor a bit, I’m a hands-on programmer. Huge thanks to Miguel for being such an enthusiastic host!
Photos by Arin Sang-urai.
That last photo is of Bernadette Frawley, the CFF intern who took care of a bunch of the film bookings, but is perhaps most appreciated as the individual who got Herr’s to sponsor the Festival with 50+ cases of product that we’re still working our way through today.
I’m going to cut it off here for now, I’ll cover the final two weeks of the CFF in Part 2, which will include lots more photos, videos, and rambles.