REELpoetry 2019: Review and Compendium

REEL poetry/Houston TX 2019, Houston’s first international poetry film festival, produced by Public Poetry, was impressive in its inaugural year, and already promises to be back next year, and then either annually or biannually after that. The three-day event included live poetry performances, a panel discussion, and a workshop, in addition to featuring more than fifty films, ranging from documentaries and poetry films to videos extending poetry in all directions, from calligraphy and graphic design to dance and art performances, wordless narratives, concrete poetry, and abstract animation. Rather than trying to distinguish poetry films (films of poems) from film poetry (whose lineage derives from early 20th century experimental film and the “pure cinema” of dadaists and surrealists, such as Man Ray), REELpoetry advocates a big-tent approach, preferring an expansive canon rather than a narrow one.

REELpoetry’s eclectic curatorial vision produced a diverse and lively program of 36 films, some of which have already been featured on Moving Poems, or in other poetry film festivals, but also others that highlight new voices and disparate inspirations. Most of the films are available on the web, so what follows is a compendium with links, so that you can watch them in one place. When a particular film is unavailable, a link to the filmmaker/poet’s website or social media is provided instead.

The festival itself commissioned one film, which opened the cinepoetry screenings: 7 Seas, by Kyra Clegg, based on excerpts from Emily Dickinson’s poems about bodies of water.

The festival also gave out two awards with cash prizes, the judges award, which went to The Opened Field (Helmie Stills, filmmaker; Don Bury, poet), and an audience choice award, which went to I Ate the Cosmos for Breakfast (Dan Sickles, filmmaker; Melissa Studdard, poet).

Houston is a diverse and eclectic city that is proud of its support for the arts, and both REELpoetry and Public Poetry benefit from that climate, enjoying strong community interest, institutional support, and grant funding. Media coverage for REELpoetry 2019 was impressive, including articles in the Houston Chronicle, Houston Public Media, and Arts and Culture Texas. The festival also provided lodging for poets/filmmakers who attended the event, and the schedule included times and places for mingling and sharing ideas. The inaugural festival set a high bar, and promises even better next year.

Cinepoetry festival program

7 Seas, Kyra Clegg, UK, artist and cinepoet
I could not locate 7 Seas on the web, but there are some short videos on her Vimeo page.

Shiver, Mark Niehus, Australia, filmmaker, composer, and poet
Watch on YouTube.

The Shadow, US, Jack Cochran and Pamela Falkenberg, filmmakers; Lucy English, UK, poet
Watch at Moving Poems.

Echoes, Finland, Hanna-Mari Ojala, cinepoet
Watch on Vimeo.

America Is Hiding Under My Bed, David Mai, director; Barbara West, performer; Julia Vinograd, poet
Watch on YouTube.

Mrigtrishna (Mirage), India, Rantu Chetia, director and poet
I could not locate this film on the web, nor much information about the filmmaker/poet, but I did learn that the film has shown at non-poetry film festivals, and located this brief write-up:

“Mumbai has been the city of dreams for ages. Millions, from every nook and corner of India, come here every day to try their luck in the film world of Bollywood. Only a handful gets their dreams realised though. The rest are left to face the harsh realities of life and the dilemma of their existence. The primary question that constantly hounds them is the motive of their life in Mumbai. The poem tries to portray this very existential query of the protagonist, who is a struggling actor and has left behind the joyous and playful life of the village,” said the director about the film.

Semechki, UK, Eta Dahlia, filmmaker; Iris Colomb, gestural drawings
Watch at Moving Poems.

Wishing Well, Canada, Mary McDonald, filmmaker; Penn Kemp, poet
Watch on YouTube.

Moments, UK, Brett Chapman, director and writer
Watch on Vimeo.

I Remember, US, Lisa Seidenberg, filmmaker
I could not locate I Remember on the web, but you can learn more about the filmmaker on her website.

As We Embrace, Taiwan, Amang Hung, filmmaker and poet
The runtime for the version shown at the festival is listed as 4:36; this longer version is available at Vimeo.

Turkey Teacher, US, David Mai, Director; Barbara West, performer and poet
Watch on YouTube.

14 Sentences, US, Carolyn Guinzio, filmmaker and poet
Watch on YouTube.

Scarce Shelter in the Red Storm, UA, Cindy St. Onge, multimedia artist
Watch on Vimeo.

Home, Ireland, David Knox, filmmaker; Erin Fornoff, poet
Watch on YouTube.

Body Language, US, Margo Stutts Toombs, filmmaker; Roslyn (Cookie) Wells, graphic artist; Lydia Hance, dancer and choreographer; Loueva Smith, poet
Watch on Vimeo.

Ice Fog, US, Vanessa Zimmer-Powell, filmmaker and poet
I could not locate this film on the web, but you can visit her Facebook page, check out her book, or hear her read a poem in Houston for National Poetry month.

I Ate the Cosmos for Breakfast, US, Dan Sickles, filmmaker; Melissa Studdard, poet
Watch at Moving Poems.

A Lost Penny, France, Madeleine Clair, cinepoet
Watch on YouTube.

The Names of Trees, US, Pamela Falkenberg and Jack Cochran, filmmakers; Lucy English, UK, poet
Watch on Vimeo.

Plasticnic, Canada, Fiona Tinwei Lam, producer, narrator, and writer; Tisha Deb Pillai, animator; Tinjun Niu, sound designer
Watch on Vimeo.

The Wanderers, US, Ted Fisher, filmmaker; Aoife Lysol, poet
Watch on YouTube.

Hanging, Finland, Hanna-Mari Ojala, cinepoet
Watch on YouTube.

The Opened Field, UK, Helmie Stil, filmmaker; Dom Burt, poet
Watch at Moving Poems.

America, US, Lisa Seidenberg, filmmaker; text by Gertrude Stein
Watch at Moving Poems.

Wind and Plaster, Germany, Burak Kum, filmmaker; Nazim Hikmet Ran, poet
Watch on Vimeo.

Capricorn, UK, Eta Dahlia, filmmaker; Andrey Novikov, original score; Nik Nightingale, calligraphy
I could not locate a film with this title, but you can watch three films on Dahlia’s Vimeo page.

Silicon Valley, Canada, Mary McDonald, filmmaker; Penn Kemp, poet
Watch on YouTube.

Instructions for Soldiers Back From War, US, Jed Bell, director; David Mai, cinematography and editing; Barbara West, performer; Julia Vinograd, poet
Watch on Vimeo.

New Note, US, Ally Christmas, cinepoet
Watch on Vimeo.

Aral, UK, Eta Dahlia, filmmaker and poet
This title could not be located on the web, but the filmmaker does have a Vimeo page.

Without Distortion, Australia, Mark Niehus, director, producer, composer, and poet
Watch on YouTube.

My Cloverfield, Finland, Hanna-Mari Ojala, cinepoet
Watch on YouTube.

Untitled, US, Lisa Maione
I was unable to find this film on the web, but there is a Vimeo page, a website, and an artist’s page where you can learn more about the filmmaker.

Leisure, UK, Derk Russell, cinematographer; Al Barclay, actor; A D Cooper, writer
Watch on Vimeo.

A Family Recipe That Cannot Be Followed or Written Down, US, Elaine Zhang, Director; Tiana Wang, poet
I was unable to locate the film itself on the web, but the project does have a Facebook page.

Pam Falkenberg

Pam Falkenberg

Pam Falkenberg is an independent filmmaker who received her PhD from the University of Iowa and taught at Northern Illinois University, St.Mary's College, and the University of Notre Dame. She directed the largest student film society in the US while she was at the University of Iowa, and also ran films series for the Snite Museum of Art in South Bend, IN. Her experimental film with Dan Curry, Open Territory, received an individual filmmaker grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as grants from the Center for New Television and the Indiana Arts Council. OT was screened at numerous film festivals, including the AFI Video Festival, and was nominated for a regional Emmy. Her other films include museum installations, scholarly/academic hybrid works shown at film conferences, and a documentary commissioned by the Peace Institute at the University of Notre Dame. Currently Pam makes films together with collaborator Jack Cochran under the name Outlier Moving Pictures. Pam and Jack met in graduate school and made films together when they were young. When Jack left Iowa to become a professional cinematographer working out of LA and London, Pam stayed in the Midwest, where she eventually dropped out of academia to work in visual display. The Cost of Living, their first film together after reconnecting four years ago, is based on some of Jack’s short poems, and screened at several film festivals, including the Buffalo International Film Festival and the Cornwall Film Festival, taking the award for best experimental film at the WV FILMmakers Festival in 2016. Other short poetry films have screened at the Ò Bhéal Poetry Film Festival (2016), the Juteback Poetry Film Festival (2017), the Festival Silencio (2017), the Filmpoem Festival 2017 (Lewes, East Sussex), the 6th CYCLOP Videopoetry Festival (Kyiv, Ukraine), and the 6th International Video Poetry Festival (Athens Greece). Their recently completed experimental documentary essay about the North Dakota landscape, Teddy Roosevelt and Fracking, showed out-of-competition as a work-in-progress at the WV FILMmakers Fest in 2017, and premiered at the Queens World International Film Festival in March 2018, where it was nominated for three awards and took the prize for best documentary short. Their most recent poetry films are collaborations with spoken word poet Lucy English, The Shadow and The Names of Trees, for her Book of Hours project (https://thebookofhours.org/). Pam wants to make lots of different kinds of films with Jack, but she is especially proud to have been the one who suggested that Jack’s poems should be made into films. Pam discovered Moving Poems and Moving Poems Magazine when she was looking for ways to expand the audience for Outlier’s film poems beyond traditional film festivals, whose submission categories are often infelicitous. Moving Poems and Moving Poems Magazine is the most complete and informative resource she discovered, and she quickly became a fan and follower. Pam appreciates Dave Bonta’s “big tent” approach and encyclopedic knowledge, his unimpeachable ethics, and his thorough research. She also appreciates the time and energy that Dave devotes to keeping Moving Poems the high quality resource that it is, so when Dave called for volunteers to help out a bit, she was quick to volunteer. She hopes that she can offer a bit of relief while Dave continues at the helm. You can learn more about Pam at outliermovingpictures.com, vimeo.com/outliermovingpictures, facebook.com/outliermovingpictures, twitter.com/outlierpics, twitter.com/tweetcinepoem, and instagram.com/outliermovingpictures. You can contact Pam directly at outliermovingpictures@gmail.com.