Subversive Cinema

"This is not a contest," Abel Klainbaum says good-naturedly. As festival director of the Alliance for Media Arts's (Anti) Film Festival, he should know. Now in its sixth year, the fest showcases the work of local, national, and (in some instances) international avant-garde and experimental filmmakers in a hodgepodge of formats: Super8, 16-millimeter, 35-millimeter, digital, video, and 8-millimeter. All less than fifteen minutes in length. Almost all made on a next-to-zero budget.

"This is about as far away from commercial and mainstream filmmaking as you'll ever get," notes Joanne Butcher, executive director of the Alliance for Media Arts, the Miami Beach-based nonprofit film- and videomaking collective. "Certainly we have a lot of fun, but on the other hand it really is about that experimental melting pot that all of us here come from, the thing that is really at the root of the Alliance aesthetic. This is our one little time to remember what we're really about. Art for art's sake, as opposed to worrying about paying the bills."

The festival's four different programs, including an all-night film fest showcasing the work of director Stanley Kubrick and comedian Cantinflas this Saturday, and an all-animation segment on Thursday, May 6, unspool at the Alliance Cinema. Among its twentysome works: Tony Gault's ten-minute Tabernacle, showing intricate closeups of microorganisms buzzing hither and yon accompanied by a voice reading from a biology textbook; Michael Zaragoza's ten-minute The Ascension, which re-creates a murder scene; and Paul Berry's "completely guerrilla style" (Klainbaum's description) A Fool Lost in Time, all six minutes of it. This past year the Alliance, with exaggerated ceremony, presented local guy Berry with a pounder bag of M&M's to commemorate his participation in each year's (Anti) Fest. "A Lifetime Achievement Award," Klainbaum kids.

Back in 1994 the Alliance's Mark Boswell brainstormed the inaugural (Anti) Fest, booking the Colony Theater for the cinematic clambake. "The reason it was called the (Anti) Film Festival," Butcher explains, "was it was programmed during the Miami Film Festival" that first year. "The whole point was no prizes, no parties, just film. We only showed work made by Alliance members -- and remember, we were less than six months old at the time -- and we still screened three and one-half hours of work. That represented how much people wanted to make film. And it was at least two hours too long. After a couple of years we decided to make it a national event."

The festival relocated to the Alliance Cinema, and, not insignificantly, began to exercise some selectivity in programming. "We're not letting in anything unless it's really, really high level," Butcher points out. "We just don't have to."

According to Klainbaum approximately one-third of this year's nearly 50 entries were submitted by artists in the Miami area. Alliance members paid $20 for the privilege, nonmembers $25. Klainbaum, aided by Alliance members Sergio Giral and Graham Lambkin, sifted through the entries, attempting to discern the film wheat from the chaff. (Not to put too fine a point on it, but, hmmm, Klainbaum's three-minute Apple Pickin' and Giral's four-minute Eggun made the cut.)

Despite disclaimers regarding a "contest," the (Anti) Festival does award "prizes," with film and video stock, Alliance memberships, and Beanie Babies (better than gold!) given to "winners" determined by the judges -- Klainbaum, Giral, and Lambkin. "The prizes are not really prizes," Klainbaum insists. "They're little awards that say, 'Make some more stuff, kids.' The thing is to encourage. We provide a screen, which is a nice thing, and then we provide some more film for next year."

-- Michael Yockel

The (Anti) Film Festival begins at 8:00 p.m. Friday, April 30, at Alliance Cinema, 927 Lincoln Rd, Miami Beach. Tickets cost $8; an all-festival pass costs $25. Call 305-531-8504 or see "Calendar Events," page 49, for details.

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Michael Yockel