New Maps of the New World:  The Short Films of Roger Beebe


EAST COAST TOUR--SEPT/OCT 2007
(dates/venues)

 


"[Beebe's films] implicitly and explicitly evoke the work of Robert Frank, Garry Winogrand and Lee Friedlander, all photographers of the atomic age whose Western photographs captured the banalities, cruelties and beauties of imperial America."

--David Fellerath, The Independent Weekly

 

"[Beebe] sets out to observe, as any good artist would, what's out there.  It's really quite lovely.  He's got a sensitive eye to the environment and a good sense of humor about it too."                                                                             --Jonathan Miller, WBEZ-Chicago

 

"Beebe's work is goofy, startling, and important."      --Daniel Kraus, Wilmington Encore

 

 


DIRECTOR BIO

Roger Beebe is a professor of film and media studies at the University of Florida.  His work has been shown around the globe at such unlikely venues as McMurdo Station in Antarctica and the CBS Jumbotron in Times Square and at more likely ones such as the Museum of Modern Art and the Pacific Film Archive as well as at countless festivals including Ann Arbor, NY Underground, the Images Festival, EMAF (the European Media Arts Festival), and Rotterdam.  From 1997-2000 he ran Flicker, a bi-monthly festival of small gauge film in Chapel Hill, NC, and he is currently artistic director of FLEX, the Florida Experimental Film/Video Festival.


 




INFORMATION ON INDIVIDUAL FILMS

(all films directed, shot, and edited by Roger Beebe)

 

TB TX DANCE

original format:  16mm

TRT 2 min. 30 sec.

2006

 

synopsis

The background of the image is made of patterns of dots directly laser printed on clear leader.  That background also doubles as an optical soundtrack with different pitches created by the different density of dots.  The dots were inspired by the stockings Toni Basil ("Antonia Christina Basilotta") wore in Bruce Conner's "Breakaway" in 1966, which also serves as the source footage for the dancer in the film.  Toni Basil herself is a source of inspiration for all 30-somethings who haven't yet made enough of their lives.  (She was 39 when "Mickey" was a hit in 1982.) 

 

This film was commissioned at Cinematexas in 2005 over a meal of pulled pork and peach cobbler.  This film is also known as "32.37" (the price of that meal).

 

From the Lunchfilm series: curator Mike Plante has lunch with a filmmaker and then gets a film for the cost of the lunch in trade. Some rules are written on a napkin. Here are the rules for this commission: Reference dance. Reference Texas. Have an autograph in it. Mention Toni Basil.

 

screening history

"TB TX DANCE" premiered at Cinematexas in October 2006 and has since screened at Sundance, the Pacific Film Archives, the Animation World's Fair in Chicago, NY Underground, the PDX Festival, etc.

 

 

S A V E

directed, shot, and edited by Roger Beebe

TRT 5 min.

16mm

2006

 

synopsis

A disused gas station offers a curious imperative to passersby: "SAVE."  A riddle posed in the form of architecture:  what is there to save?  One more installment in the history of Americans pointing their cameras at gas stations; an attempt to figure out something about where we've been, where we're headed, and what's been left behind.

 

The first part of "S A V E" was edited entirely in camera.

 

screening history

As a work-in-progress, "S A V E" screened at Ocularis in early Nov. 2005 and another version screened at the Echo Park Film Center and all around the Heartland on a 27-day tour in Sept./Oct. 2005.  The finished version, completed in January 2006, has screened at Chicago Underground, Antimatter, the Dallas Video Festival, the PDX Festival as well as at curated shows in Berlin, London, Poznan (Poland), San Francisco, etc.  It was awarded Best Experimental at 2006 Chicago Underground Film Festival.

 

reviews

"In his most recent project, an elegant, elegiac film called "S A V E," Beebe considers an abandoned gas station from a multitude of perspectives. "SAVE" is the name of the derelict establishment, and the titular sign is the kind of urban landscape feature we've learned to ignore as we drive through disused commercial districts. But in Beebe's film, the "SAVE" sign acquires the dignity one ordinarily would assign to an old poplar tree, struggling for life against the ravages of time and the elements." --David Fellerath, The Independent Weekly

 

 

(rock/hard place)

TRT 6 min. 15 sec.

16mm

2005

 

synopsis

Morro Bay, California is a small coastal tourist town known mostly for the Morro Rock, a volcanic plug that sits at the mouth of the Bay.  In all the postcards of Morro Bay, the image is framed so that you can't tell that just beyond the edge of the postcard, maybe a few hundred yards from the Rock, is a gargantuan power plant with three towering smokestacks.  This film tries to restore the power plant to the frame, so that we can start thinking about what the juxtaposition of these two massive objects might mean.

 

screening history

This film premiered as a work-in-process in the Invitational at the PDX Film Festival. Since then, it has screened several dozen times around North America in Los Angeles, Buffalo, Houston, Calgary, Washington, DC, Chicago, etc.  It was also shown as an installation at the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival in Ithaca, NY and made its international premiere in May at the European Media Arts Festival in Osnabrück, Germany.  It has received several festival prizes including the Alice Guy Blaché Award for Celebration of Film at the 29th Humboldt International Short Film Festival.

 

 

Famous Irish Americans

TRT 8 min.

digital video

2003

 

synopsis

Who's your favorite Irish American?  Georgia O'Keefe?  William McKinley?  Sandra Day O'Connor?  How about Shaquille O'Neal?  This videotape is a secret history of some of our most overlooked Irish-American citizens; a hyperflat exploration of race, America, and the limits of binary thought.

 

 

screening history

Since completion in March 2003, Famous Irish Americans has screened at more than three dozen festivals and other venues including the Museum of Modern Art, Cinematexas, and NY Underground.  It has won a half-dozen awards including the 2004 Paul Robeson Award (experimental category) at the Newark Black Film Festival, an Honorable Mention at the University Film and Video Association Juried Screenings, and 3rd Prize (Director's Citation) at the Black Maria Film/Video Festival.

 

reviews

"There just aren't enough films out there like Roger Beebe's 'Famous Irish Americans,' a graphic lecture insisting that black celebrities with Irish last names really are Irish."                                                                                                                          --Kimberly Chun, SF Bay Guardian

"Original and compelling."       --Gary Dowell, Dallas Morning News

 

 

Composition in Red & Yellow

original format:  super 8

TRT 3 min.

2002

 

synopsis

In America's time of national crisis, who can we turn to?  Look to the Golden Arches, my friend.

 

Composition in Red & Yellow is the first installment of a new trilogy of sequels to The Strip Mall Trilogy (2001).  When shooting that film, an assistant manager at McDonald's had me escorted off the premises by a muscle-bound heavy.  This is my revenge.

 

 

screening history

Composition in Red & Yellow premiered in September 2002 and has since screened at more than 30 festivals on 3 continents including Rotterdam, Antimatter, the Brrrr! Super 8 Festival in Barcelona and NY Underground.  It received the award for Best Small Gauge Film at MicroCineFest and an Honorable Mention at the US Super 8 Film Festival.

 

reviews

"Astoundingly hilarious" --Matthew Holota, Artvoice (Buffalo)

 

**** (of 5) --Rory Aronsky, Film Threat

 

 

A Woman, A Mirror

choreographed by Sara L. Smith

TRT 15 min.

16mm

2001

 

synopsis

This is NOT a "dance film."  As its subtitle says, it is a "Portrait of a Girl, Abstracted and Containing Moments of Reflection on the Relationship of Women to Air Transportation."   It combines disparate elements--images of Women in the Air Force from WWII, dance movement, a speech given by Amelia Earhart, illustrations of flight maneuvers--to explore the connections between different discourses of gendered technology.

 

choreographer bio

Sara L. Smith  is an independent choreographer and teacher, with and M.F.A from Sarah Lawrence and a B.A. in Fine Arts and Dance from Hampshire College. Her choreography has been performed around New York City (including St. Mark's Church and the Brooklyn Academy of Music) and in North Carolina, and at Hollins University in Virginia.

 

screening history

Since premiering at Ann Arbor, "A Woman, A Mirror" has screened at more than twenty festivals across North America, including Antimatter and Ladyfest Los Angeles.  It received an Honorable Mention at the 2002 University Film and Video Association Juried Screenings.

 

reviews

"Essential viewing for anyone interested in true visual experimentation."                                                                                                                          --John Citrone, Folio Weekly (Jacksonville)

 

"This beautiful film intersperses Smith's sophisticated choreography of simple jumps, walks, runs, and exchanges of weight, performed by 5 young women, with ballroom dancing diagrams, air transportation charts, and images of Amelia Earhart and other women from the early days of mechanical flight. The soundtrack mixes Marlene Dietrich with the drone of prop planes, soundbites from Earhart on the role of women in aviation, and occasional sync sound sequences which allow us to hear the heavy thud of the dancers' weighted jumps.

 

The film addresses gender in an elliptical, poetic manner. Undoubtedly, many more young women choose to study dance than aviation, but the film makes clear that both pursuits demand serious, committed work and the ability to gain control over the basic physics of motion. The images reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend of mine in college, in which I asked her how her life would be different if she had been born male. "Not very different," she said, "except I might have been an animal behavior scientist instead of a choreographer." In her mind these two concerns were closely linked; indeed, in subsequent years she has become a noted choreographer whose work is inspired by bird migration patterns. Yet these two different life choices would have made enormous differences in her income, social status, and ultimately her worldview. The women in Smith's choreographic world of straight arm tilts and banking turns look like potential aviatrixes who have been piloted into the dance studio.

Dietrich's "Falling in Love Again" creates an ironic counterpoint. Even as the diva protests her helplessness in the hands of a man, she remains an icon of crossdressing nonconformism. Midway through the film, the dancers apply lipstick and trade in their men's white shirts for pretty pink ballet practice skirts (not that their movement becomes any more balletic). Which is more transgressive, a rather butch woman in ballet clothes, or a glamorous, feminine woman in a tuxedo, or flying an airplane?

The dance sequences are filmed in what are clearly dance studios in an academic setting, with the lighting instruments in plain view. Beebe frames the movement beautifully, creating dynamic compositions of light, space, and movement. The always static camera serves to flatten the dance sections, relating them to the dance diagrams with their faceless figures and disembodied footprints. These diagrams, by contrast, are animated with a whirling motion which effectively creates a sensation of turbulence and flight. In one highly effective sequence, Beebe superimposes images of the dancers simply walking towards and away from the camera, creating a complex and interesting visual rhythm.

...

The ballroom diagrams, with their faceless figures of Man and Woman, are an example of an abstraction which is intended to delineate a sexual hierarchy. By contrast, the dancers, young women with baby dyke haircuts, are obviously unafraid of crossing gender boundaries, and they seem to feel a kinship with Earhart and her early attempts to literally raise the status of women. The final sequence, in which a circle of dancers cross fades into a group photo of the Women's Air Corps posed around a plane, is exemplary of this film's poetic, evocative power."   --David Finkelstein, Film Threat

 

 

The Strip Mall Trilogy

TRT 9 min.

super 8

2001

 

synopsis

The Strip Mall Trilogy is a series of three city symphonies that attempt to liberate color, sound, and form from the sprawling consumerist landscape of postmodern America.  Part 1, "Green Means Go," presents fragments of color over a musique concrete soundtrack composed of sounds recorded at the strip mall.  Part 2, "The Abecedaire," wrestles (and later plays) with alphabetic form extracted and abstracted from the signs of commerce of which they are normally a part.  Part 3, "X-formations," tries to argue that there is, in fact, beauty after strip malls.  Let's hope so.

 

The film was shot on super 8 and, with the exception of a few sequences in part 2, was edited entirely in camera.

 

screening history

The Strip Mall Trilogy has been screened around the globe from New York to Rotterdam and from San Francisco to Beirut.  It has won more than a dozen awards at festivals including MicroCineFest, the US Super 8 Film Festival, Extremely Shorts IV in Houston, TX, and the Juried Screenings of the University Film and Video Association.

 

reviews

"How is an artist to respond to strip malls, those soul-deadening blights which seem to have destroyed 90% of the American landscape? Beebe responds by taking his Super 8 camera and aggressively, even desperately creating beauty from the ugliness. In Part One, he creates a rapid fire barrage of images, each lasting only a frame or two, of license plates, signs, car doors, speed bumps, etc. He uses sheer speed to try and blast out of the stifling commercialism of the mall and create a sense of liberation. It is accompanied by a loop made of sound samples from the mall, and the film is what Aguado's "Push" should have been: a transformation of everyday commercial images, made by an artist with a strong visual and musical sensibility.

Part Two attempts to rebel against the coercive ubiquitousness of signage in the mall by breaking the signs down into their individual letters. Beebe goes through the entire alphabet repeatedly, sometimes rapidly and sometimes leisurely, using his camera to dehypnotize himself from the commercial mantras and rediscover color and form. The music, a child's rendition of "The Alphabet Song" accompanied by an electric guitar, is a liberating and enjoyable counterpart to the images.

In Part Three Beebe enters a Zen state, and is able, with serene calmness, to create a beautiful sequence of abstract color and form out of sights from the mall; grates, parking spaces, bricks, advertisements, and fire hydrants. He has actually managed to bust apart the mind-controlling code of relentlessly commercial space and reconfigure it into a landscape of beautiful colors and forms. It is a remarkable piece of Super 8 alchemy."             --David Finkelstein, Film Threat

"One piece of visual poetry is the Strip Mall Trilogy....Three shorts which total 9 minutes that contain what I am convinced is more cuts than in all of Requiem for a Dream, and yet is still effective in its delivery....it really is effective and real, honest poetry."            --Ain't It Cool News

 


contact:

Roger Beebe

4008 Turlington Hall

Gainesville, FL 32611-7310

rogerbb@english.ufl.edu

phone:  352.271.4265