Mike Plante's Xeroxed film zine Cinemad, devoted to interviews with filmmakers on the fringe, began popping up on the racks of independent bookstores in 1998. Late to a field that was already going bust or transitioning to glossy mags or the internet, Plante abandoned the printed zine in 2001 and has since published online intermittently at iblamesociety.com, as well as for other publishers. In commemoration of the tenth (or eleventh) anniversary of Cinemad's founding, Microcinema is releasing Cinemad: Almanac 2009, a DVD anthology of shorts from filmmakers featured in Cinemad, along with a 60-page booklet of reprinted interviews.
Letters, Notes by Stephanie Barber
Cinemad: Almanac 2009 features sixteen segments from thirteen filmmakers. It's an eclectic mix of shorts and excerpts in 16mm, 35mm, and video formats, in color, b&w, and sepia, sometimes silent, created between 1978 and 2008, ranging from 44 seconds to eleven minutes, comprising and sometimes blurring fiction and non-fiction. Other than being from filmmakers that appeared in Cinemad there's no professed commonality in the programming, yet an elegiac note does run through it. This underlying tone appears in the works of non-fiction through meditations on death and memory (Lot 63, Grave C by Sam Green), the final words of a doomed Cosmonaut (Motion Studies #3: Gravity by Jake Mahaffy), the juxtaposition of abandoned photos and correspondence (Letters, Notes by Stephanie Barber), decayed nitrate films of silent-screen actors long dead (Light is Calling by Bill Morrison), sepia-toned reels of lost small-town life (Valse Triste by Bruce Conner), forlorn meditations on environment, social isolation, emptiness and irrationality (Edge-TV with Animal Charm by Animal Charm, Pictures from Dorothy by Kevin Jerome Everson, and three shorts by Deborah Stratman); and in fiction through several segments on love lost, unfulfilled, or enigmatic (Above Below by Cam Archer, The Sun by James Fotopoulos, and The Time We Killed by Jennifer Reeves, and Viscera by Leighton Pierce), snake-oil Ponzi-schemers (Wellness by Jake Mahaffy), and a coming apocalypse (War by Jake Mahaffy).
War (trailer) by Jake Mahaffy
Totaling 78 minutes, the sixteen shorts or excerpts break down as follows:
- Edge-TV with Animal Charm by Animal Charm (2008, 3 min. video)
- Above Below by Cam Archer (2008, 4 min. 16mm)
- Letters, Notes by Stephanie Barber (2000, 4 min. 16mm)
- Valse Triste by Bruce Conner (1978, 5 min. 16mm)
- Pictures from Dorothy by Kevin Jerome Everson (2003, 6 min. 35mm)
- The Sun by James Fotopoulos (2000, 3 min. 16mm)
- Lot 63, Grave C by Sam Green (2006, 10 min. video)
- War (trailer) by Jake Mahaffy (2004, 1 min. 35mm)
- Wellness (trailer) by Jake Mahaffy (2007, 3 min. 35mm)
- Motion Studies #3: Gravity by Jake Mahaffy (2004, 3 min. 35mm)
- Light is Calling by Bill Morrison (2004, 8 min. 35mm)
- Viscera by Leighton Pierce (2004-2005, 11 min. video)
- The Time We Killed by Jennifer Reeves (2004, 6 min. 16mm)
- How Among the Frozen Words by Deborah Stratman (2005, 1 min. video)
- It Will Die Out in the Mind by Deborah Stratman (2006, 4 min. video)
- The Magician's House by Deborah Stratman (2007, 6 min. 16mm)
The shorts and excerpts included in Cinemad: Almanac 2009 vary in native image quality, but the DVD transfer by Microcinema looks well done. Some of the shorts appear full-frame while others are window-boxed, but all appear to be in their original aspect ratios.
As with image, the 2.0 DD audio varies in quality but generally sounds strong with no problems likely attributable to the DVD transfer. Subtitles are not offered on this release.
As noted above, this release includes a 60-page booklet of interviews conducted by Mike Plante with the various filmmakers. These interviews predate the selection of films for this collection, and do not address these films specifically. The style of interview is relaxed, and there appears to have been no effort to update the text or clean up the editing between the original publication and this reprint, nevertheless this makes for an enjoyable and informative extra.
The shorts and excerpts included in Cinemad: Almanac 2009 share, at some level, an elegiac tone, but are widely diverse in subject matter, style, and quality. While this anthology will not appeal to a general audience, for fans of obscure films Cinemad: Almanac 2009 provides a welcome opportunity to catch up with some favorite filmmakers and to explore other talents.
The Time We Killed by Jennifer Reeves