Curricular Support, Community Building, Interdisciplinary Glue, and Creative Growth Serum for Film and Media Studies
Contact: Nicky Tavares
This project is developing a Grinnell College Film Society. This is a weekly film series and visiting filmmaker program that directly supports new and existing film and media studies courses across disciplines and is open to the campus and greater Grinnell communities. The project fosters collaborations across disciplines and generates visibility and interest in film and media studies.
Grinnell College Film Society is proud to present Chris E. Vargas!
An evening of short moving-image works followed by a Q&A
Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2023, at 7 p.m. in Humanities and Social Studies Center, ARH Auditorium
Light refreshments will be provided.
Award-winning video maker and interdisciplinary artist Chris E. Vargas will present and discuss a series of short moving-image works that deploy humor and performance to explore the complex ways that queer and trans people negotiate spaces for themselves within historical and institutional memory. Vargas is a recipient of a 2016 Creative Capital award and a 2020 John S. Guggenheim fellowship. From 2008–13, he made, in collaboration with Greg Youmans, the web-based trans/cisgender sitcom Falling In Love … with Chris and Greg. Episodes of the series have screened at numerous film festivals and art venues, including MIX NYC, SF Camerawork, and the Tate Modern. With Eric Stanley, Vargas co-directed the movie Homotopia (2006) and its feature-length sequel Criminal Queers (2015) which have been screened at Palais de Tokyo, LACE, Centre for Contemporary Arts Glasgow, and the New Museum among other venues. Vargas is also the Executive Director of MOTHA, the Museum of Transgender Hirstory & Art, a critical and conceptual arts & hirstory institution highlighting the contributions of trans art to the cultural and political landscape. Please visit Chris E Vargas for more information.
This event co-sponsored by Film and Media Studies; Grinnell College Museum of Art; the Center for the Humanities; the Dean’s Office, Gender, Women’s and Sexuality Studies; Art History; American Studies; and Art Department.
Visitors from Earlier in The Series
Christopher Harris Film Screening + Q&A
Friday, March 11, 7 p.m., Harris Center
Award-winning Afro-surrealist filmmaker Christopher Harris will present and discuss his short films that read African American historiography through the poetics and aesthetics of experimental cinema. A moderated Q&A with Harris will follow. Takeaway treats will be provided.
Christopher Harris was born in St. Louis, MO and received his MFA in Film from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. His experimental films, video installations, and more recently, book arts, draw from and recombine the detritus of visual and sonic culture archives in startling and uncanny ways to highlight their status as fragments which, when placed side by side, refuse what Sylvia Wynter describes as the “narratively condemned status” so insistently imposed upon the Black diaspora by the absences and silences of the archive. His work meets the epistemic violence of the archive on its own terms, matching it silence for silence, rupture for rupture, and gap for gap. Working through incongruity and slippages, between sound and image, between multiple pasts and present possibilities, between notions of fact and fiction, his filmography embodies the complexities and paradoxes of Black experiences in the United States. He employs a wide variety of technical and formal approaches in his filmmaking, including manually and photo-chemically altered appropriated moving images, staged re-enactments and interrogations of documentary conventions. Harris’ films have been featured widely at festivals, museums and cinematheques from solo screenings at MoMA, Locarno, and Arsenal Berlin to group screenings at the NYFF, IFFR, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, among many others. He lives just outside of Iowa City, IA where he is the F. Wendell Miller Associate Professor and Head of Film and Video Production in the Department of Cinematic Arts at the University of Iowa.
Allison Maria Rodriguez
Wednesday, April 28, 2021, Noon–1 p.m. CT: Artist Talk
Rodriguez meeting link
Meeting number: 120 789 2782
List of Works
Legends Breathe: Where the Water Falls, 2020, Password: gg75Yw&((Ht$
Funded in part by a grant from The CreateWell Fund, Legends Breathe (an ongoing project) explores the power of creativity and the imagination in overcoming traumatic experiences. Based on interviews with different female-identified and non-binary artists about childhood fantasies that assisted them in overcoming trauma or extreme circumstances, this project speaks to a strategy and methodology of survival activated through the power of creativity. Each video, which are installed together as an interactive installation, explores these individual fantasies, highlighting their uniqueness, their commonalities, and their inherent power. One primary element evident in all the fantasies is a harvesting of strength and transcendence through a deep connection to the natural world. The work is populated by endangered species and threatened habitats, conveying a link between the trauma and healing of our planet to that of the individual.
The Strength of Very Small Things is a multi-media installation exploring the concept of universal interconnection from both a spiritual and scientific perspective – suggesting that science and spirituality can be similar approaches to knowing and understanding the world. The work focuses on the visual perception of light — specifically the Northern Lights — alongside the observation of microscopic organisms, daphnia (or water fleas), that are barely visible to the naked eye. These organisms are routinely studied as an indicator species — revealing the effects and impacts of climate change. Featuring two scientists searching through cold waters and rough arctic wind for daphnia, the installation highlights the intertwined futures of both humans and water fleas. While recognizing humanity’s negative impacts on the natural world and the crucial crossroads that we currently stand at, the work also offers hope, light, and the possibility of reconnecting to the earth through the collective strength of very small things.
This public art multi-media installation is being created as a part of Brighter Connected. Brighter Connected is a project commissioned by the Jewish Arts Collaborative which selected eight artists from diverse backgrounds to create community based art installations in vacant storefronts across the city of Boston on the themes of light, connection, and resilience in honor of Hanukkah. The Strength of Very Small Things was installed at Boston Cyberarts Gallery in Jamaica Plain, MA from Dec 9, 2020 – Jan 2, 2021. All eight projects are designed and executed with social distancing in mind and can be completely seen and experienced from outside.
In the Presence of Absence, 2020, Password: 33FtX!!9yGm%pL
In the Presence of Absence is a multi-channel video installation exploring the intimate, yet collective, experience of ecological and cultural loss embedded in contemporary reality. The piece merges two primary conceptual concerns of Rodriguez’ artistic practice: her Latinx identity and environmental conservation. It is a very personal work. Through merged representations of the hybridity of her Cuban-American identity, deceased family members, extinct animal species, and climate change, she endeavors to create a series of new pictorial spaces. These spaces are fantastical landscapes in which past and present, memory and fantasy, known and unknown, the cultural and the ecological, converge to gain simultaneous visual actualization. The work navigates between worlds and draws attention to the abyss — the lack or emptiness we encounter when we are disconnected from another species or distanced from our own culture — and the acts of appreciation and mourning that work to keep collective memory alive.
Allison Maria Rodriguez is a first-generation Cuban-American interdisciplinary artist working predominately in video installation and new media. She creates immersive experiential spaces that challenge conventional ways of knowing and understanding the world. Her work focuses extensively on climate change, species extinction, and the interconnectivity of existence. Through video, performance, digital animation, photography, drawing, collage, and installation, Rodriguez merges and blends mediums to create new pictorial spaces for aesthetic, emotional, and conceptual exploration. She uses art to communicate beyond language — to open up a space of possibility for the viewer to encounter alternative ways of connecting to the emotional realities of others.
Rodriguez’s work has been exhibited internationally, throughout the country, and extensively in the New England area, in both traditional and non-traditional art spaces. Versions of her immersive room-sized installation In the Presence of Absence have been featured at the Boston Center for the Arts (2019), the Fitchburg Art Museum (2020), and at Smack Mellon in Brooklyn, NY (2021). Her work has recently been supported by grants from The Foundation for Contemporary Arts, Red Bull Arts, The CreateWell Fund, the Boston Cultural Council, the Arlington Cultural Council, The Archie D. & Bertha H. Walker Foundation, and Assets for Artists. Recent projects include several large-scale public art video installations commissioned by Boston Cyberarts, the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority, and Illuminus Boston. Rodriguez is a grand prize winner of the Creative Climate Awards (2017) sponsored by The Human Impacts Institute for her video installation Wish You Were Here: Greetings from the Galápagos, which was also featured in solo exhibitions at the Boston Children’s Museum and The Dorchester Art Project (2018). Rodriguez was recently awarded an Earthwatch Communications Fellowship for a residency at the Churchill Northern Studies Centre in Manitoba to work on their Climate Change at the Arctic’s Edge project. In 2019 she was honored by WBUR’s The ARTery as one of The ARTery 25, a celebration of 25 millennials of color impacting Boston’s arts and culture scene.
Rodriguez received her master's of fine arts from Tufts University/The School of the Museum of Fine Arts and holds a bachelor's in language, literature, and culture from Antioch College in Ohio, obtained also through study at Oxford University in England and Kyoto Seika University in Japan. She has taught courses in art theory and media production in a variety of contexts, from universities to children’s museums. Rodriguez is also an independent curator, with exhibitions such as Awaken: Conjuring Our Tomorrow featuring Latina artists focusing on climate justice issues in their practice on view at Salem State University in 2020. She participates in artist collectives such as the CreateWell Collective Leadership Alumni Board and the Boston LGBTQIA Artists Alliance (BLAA).
My Darling Supermarket
(Brazil/Denmark, 2019, 80 minutes, In Portuguese with English subtitles)
Set within a bright, colorful supermercado in Sao Paolo, Brazil, this charming, funny documentary glides through a seemingly endless array of vibrantly designed shelves and displays, but it’s the store’s employees who take center stage. Rodrigo (in bread) discusses quantum physics and parallel universes; Santo (a forklift operator) builds video game cities; a security officer tracks possible shoplifters on closed circuit TVs (“Two suspects near the condensed milk!”); Ivan (a baker) likes to dress as Goku, a Manga character; and then there’s the artist who lovingly paints the prices. A panoply of individuals with fears, hopes, and questions about their place in the universe are celebrated in a quirky portrait that juxtaposes their idiosyncrasies with the assumed mundanity of bringing food to our table.
Tali Yankelevich is a Brazilian documentary filmmaker and editor based in São Paulo. She holds an honorary Bachelor's degree in Film & Television and a Masters in Documentary Directing from Edinburgh College of Art. Her first commissioned short, “The Perfect Fit”, about a ballet dancer and a shoemaker, was produced by BBC Scotland, won the SXGlobal short film award at SXSW (2012), and was shortlisted for an Oscar® nomination in 2013. Other works as a director includes a short called “A Girl’s Day” (2014) for the international documentary series “Why Poverty?”, sponsored by The Why Foundation. Her most recent work as an editor is the feature documentary “Cravos,” directed by Marco del Fiol which premiered at the São Paulo International Film Festival. Tali’s documentaries have screened at several renowned film festivals around the world, such as Visions du Reél, Sheffield and Tribeca.
Film Forum, established in 1970, is New York City’s leading nonprofit movie theater, dedicated to presenting the best in world film, documentaries, and American independents as well as rediscoveries and restorations of cinema classics. Continuing this mission during its temporary closure due to COVID-19 (since March 2020), Film Forum currently offers the same intellectually provocative and socially relevant programming for rental in its Virtual Cinema. For more information and to support independent cinema during this challenging time, visit Film Forum.
March 3–March 9: Asynchronous Film Screening
Wednesday, March 10, 2021, Noon–1 p.m. CT: Filmmaker Talk
Welbon meeting link
Meeting number: 120 583 8856
(2003 · 62 minutes)
A documentary historical overview of the lives and the films of African American women feature film directors from the early part of the 20th century to the early part of the 21st. Screened in over 50 film festivals and venues around the world. Winner Best Documentary African Diaspora Film Festival- Audience Award. Received the inaugural St. Louis International Film Festival – Women in Film Award. Broadcast on Starz! Encore, TVONE Sisters In Cinema
(1995, 30 minutes)
A witty and original autobiographical documentary about coming-to-terms with race, culture and self. My six-year stay in Taiwan transforms my understanding of what it means to be an African American and illuminates my connection with my Honduran-born grandmother. Winner: Silver Hugo – Chicago International Film Festival: Intercom. Winner: Best Film/Video on Matters Relating to the Black Experience – XIth Black International Cinema, Berlin. Nationally broadcast on PBS on POV.
Yvonne Welbon is an award-winning filmmaker and founder and CEO of the Chicago-based nonprofit Sisters in Cinema, inspired by her documentary of the same name, about the history of Black women feature film directors. She is a senior creative consultant at Chicken & Egg Pictures, and has produced and distributed dozens of award-winning films, including Living With Pride: Ruth Ellis @100. Welbon’s work has been broadcast on PBS, Starz/Encore, TVONE, IFC, Bravo, the Sundance Channel, BET, HBO, Netflix, iTunes and screened in over one hundred film festivals around the world. Projects in development include The Spies Who Loved Me, a thrilling exposé on surveillance which focuses on the six-years she lived in Taipei, Taiwan, and American Pride, a Black lesbian coming-of-age series set on the south-side of Chicago. She has taught at the University of Chicago, Northwestern University and chaired the Journalism & Media Studies Department at Bennett College. Raised in an Afro-Latinx Honduran household on the South Side of Chicago, Welbon holds a B.A from Vassar College, a MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, a Ph.D. from Northwestern University, and is a graduate of the American Film Institute’s Directing Workshop for Women. In 2020 she became a member of the Documentary branch of the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences.
April 7–April 13: Asynchronous Film Screening (links below)
Wednesday, April 14, 2021, Noon–1 p.m. CT: Filmmaker Talk
Snider meeting link
Meeting number: 120 833 0275
Thursday April 15, 2021, 1–4:50 p.m. CT: Filmmaking Workshop
Space is limited. Please RSVP to Ethan Nelson by March 29
Workshop Topic: “Social Justice & Experimental Cinema”
These four films span a lengthy time period! But they illustrate a trajectory of exploration with the material side of cinema. Many filmmakers work with archival footage, which now may be accessed via YouTube or other online sites. Prior to uploading, it would have been in 16mm reels, then digitized. For filmmakers working in the 1990’s, this material was handled and cut together as analogue film material. No-Zone explores a collection of forms of speech in the essay genre, including intercut archival and original film. Flight uses the strategy of contact printing, to expose slides and transparencies directly onto a “scroll” of film, with no intermediary camera. Prayer for the Torture Memos brings together images of men’s bodies with texts from the documents created by the US Office of Legal Counsel to establish torture routines. In A Small Place, the writings of people surviving solitary confinement comprise and contain the image material, drawn and touched directly on the film’s surface.
A constant source of interest and satisfaction for me is the tension between a consciousness of the surface film and an illusion of depth created by lensed images. This is part of hand-processed film, cameraless film, cameraless film in combination with lensed film, and perhaps most dramatically with stereoscopic works. Stereoscopic works take affective cinema up a notch, for sure! Dear Leader is such a film, using mismatched 3D to invite your sensory capabilities to bring together the required elements in authoritarianism. If you have the cardboard AR/VR viewer for your cell phone, please check it out.
No-zone is an essay film on the topic of landscape and mortality, in five chapters.
Flight is a silent, cameraless film in homage to my father, made from gathered material from his photographic hobbies.
This film explores the sadness and loss that accompanies moral compromise; the delicate, particular significance of the human body; and poetics as a means to articulate emotions impossible to speak in words.
A Small Place is an homage to those surviving solitary confinement, and was inspired by the testimonies shared by Sarah Shourd (et al) in the essay collection, "Hell Is A Very Small Place."
Dear Leader (2020) (Optional, if you have an VR/AR viewer) This is a stereoscopic piece about crowds and power, using retinal rivalry to combine the images. There are two different characters required for nationalism and fascism - leaders and followers.
Greta Snider is an experimental filmmaker. “I enjoy working with the film medium, and especially exploring the expressive and evidentiary qualities of the moving image. My work is more or less in the area of experimental nonfiction – I like to experiment with formal strategies, but not without some anchor in actuality. There are many ideas and events that are perhaps best addressed using experimental cinema’s tools.” Snider began making films on film, and continues to work with analogue processes (especially alternative darkroom methods) as well as digital post production and stereoscopy. Her works have screened in museums and exhibition spaces around the world where experimental cinema is seen. Greta is a professor of cinema at San Francisco State University, specializing in experimental and nonfiction film. She serves as faculty advisor to the newly established Archive
Project, collecting, researching and exhibiting films from the 50+ years of creative cinema produced by SFSU students, alums, and visiting scholars.