On Monday the 13th I was lucky enough to attend two screenings that exemplified all that Underground Film exhibition should be. The first screening was the second installment in Shooting Wall’s Views From The Underground series held at PhilaMoca. There were a number of filmmakers in attendance, including host Joshua Martin and featured director Marc Dickerson. And as always it was Dickerson’s offering that was the most unique.
Dickerson continues his interest in absurdist insular cultures and outsiders with his latest feature Not The End Of The World (2013). Where his previous film to show at Views From The Underground last year, Raptor (2012), manifested a quick almost music video approach to format, Not The End Of The World is imbued with a mature assurance, moving at a confident pace that invites the audience to inhabit his fictitious world. But what is most important about Marc Dickerson’s films is their fresh modernity and their strict allegiance to the comedy genre. Few contemporary filmmakers that I know of who work in Philadelphia endeavor to align each of their productions with one particular style, instead opting for the classic qualifications one associates with Andrew Sarris’ concept of auteurism. Yet, it is this constant shifting of formalist styles that has become Dickerson’s most recognizable feature. But it is the fact that Dickerson sticks to broad comedy that is amazing. It is a cliché for a reason that all underground films and filmmakers take themselves too seriously and are wrapped in elitist pretension. Dickerson exhibits none of this, instead his films rejoice in the act of creating only to destroy through satire those facets of our society and our own individual being that remain contradictions in all of us.
The second screening was in the courtyard of an apartment building just off Juniper on Rodman. The film being shown was Emma Arrick’s Staring At Walls, a film I produced earlier this year. Kelsey Ludwig (who provided Arrick with songs for her film) organized the screening herself (projecting the film onto a barren wall), and managed to get a turnout equal to that at the Shooting Wall event. What was unique about this experience was its assault on much of the audience’s apprehensions. Staring At Walls is an emotional film to begin with, but Ludwig organized a live dance routine before hand that set the atmosphere to be more like a party then a formal presentation of the cinema. Her guerrilla approach prompted a friend of mine to ask me if such screenings were regular at this venue. They are not characteristic of Ludwig’s events.
But that seems to be the problem in Philadelphia. There’s no overall sense of communal creativity nor camaraderie between a majority of the local film talent. Organizations such as Shooting Wall do an excellent job to promote this kind of approach yet their example seems to go ignored by those who would benefit the most by it. If the fine arts can have “pop-up shows” why can’t the film community have pop-up screenings?