As for this year's ancillary events, Stan Brakhage, the U.S.'s (and arguably the world's) preeminent experimental filmmaker, will anchor a panel discussion on the state of the art of avant-garde moviemaking (Friday, Feb. 10, noon, Room 1676, MDCC's Wolfson Campus). Bruce Posner, filmmaker, curator of the Harvard Film Archive, and Bill Orcutt's predecessor as executive director of the Alliance Cinema on Miami Beach, moderates. Then, at midnight on Friday at the Alliance and midnight Saturday at the Astor Art Cinema in Coral Gables, the festival presents Spirit Stream Storm, an anthology of fifteen recent short films by the form's most intrepid innovators. These films stretch the limits of cinematic imagination; viewing them is tantamount to locking yourself in a room with a half-dozen of the greatest abstract impressionist painters of all time as they bombard you with reproductions of their work. These folks often painstakingly craft their images one frame at a time, using such low-tech methods as painting, scratching, etching, pasting, and even batiking film stock. MTV's Liquid Television seems old-fashioned and lazily paced by comparison.
Speaking of Liquid Television, Prudence Fenton, executive producer of the groundbreaking MTV show, will participate in a panel discussion, "Filmmaking and New Technology" (Friday, Feb. 10, 3:00 p.m., Room 1261, MDCC's Wolfson Campus). The panel also includes documentarian Ron Mann (Twist), who'll demonstrate his newest project, Painters Painting (based on the New York art scene from 1940-1970), on CD-ROM.
I can not close this preview of festival highlights without plugging one final panel discussion. Since I took this job, the one question I've heard a thousand times is, "What's your favorite movie?" The answer to that varies radically, based upon my mood at the time, what I've seen recently, and the perceived biases of the person doing the asking. But I can state unequivocally that the movie I have seen more times than any other is Taxi Driver. (I know, I know. I'm a sick puppy.)
Paul Shrader, the man who wrote that movie -- as well as Raging Bull, Rolling Thunder, and The Last Temptation of Christ A is going to be here for a panel on a subject I know nothing about A film criticism (Saturday, Feb. 10, 10:00 a.m., Room 2106, MDCC's Wolfson Campus). Schrader was a movie reviewer long before he sold his soul to become a screenwriter and director. He will be joined on the panel by Newsweek's David Ansen, The Nation's Stuart Klawans, and the Philadelphia Inquirer's Carrie Rickey. Heavyweights all. Harlan Jacobson, who did such a fine job of moderating last year's critics' workshop, has accepted the challenge of trying to get them all to agree on an evaluation of at least one film again this year. Look for me there; I'll be the one with the demented smile and the mohawk. The Miami Film Festival just seems to do that to me.