In advance of the the 15th edition of “Views From the Avant-Garde,” taking place all weekend, a forum held Thursday at the Film Center Amphitheater explored the continuum between mainstream and experimental film, and even questioned whether a distinction between the two is really necessary.
Presented with the Film Society by New York Women in Film and Television, the forum sought to deconstruct the way we think of “avant-garde” work and how Hollywood movies are influenced by it. Jon Gartenberg, a preservationist and curator, argued that separating traditional narrative films and more experimental work imposes unnecessary limitations on the audience. He referred anecdotally to a father and son who came to a screening of experimental films that wasn’t necessarily marketed that way and left enthralled.
Sara Driver, a producer on Jim Jarmusch’s Stranger Than Paradise, echoed Gartenberg with first-hand experience. As she tried to book that film, she ran into confusion among distributors who weren’t sure how to sell it. “They couldn’t call it avant-garde because no one would see it,” she said, “so they called it ‘weird.’” Driver was also at the festival with You Are Not I, her heralded 1981 debut film that was thought to be lost in a fire but was rediscovered in Morocco in 2009. It screened after the panel at the Walter Reade Theater across the street.