Film Club’s Experimental Film Festival defies conventions

Tom Pilcher

After attending the Lawrence University Film Club’s Experimental Film Festival last Thursday, Feb. 25, in the Warch Campus Center Cinema, you wouldn’t know that Lawrence still does not have an official film studies major.
Right now, students interested in film studies can only get an “interdisciplinary area” in the subject or must find a way to create their own film studies major. However, based on the impressive, diverse collection of films shown at the Film Club’s festival, there is clearly considerable interest in the subject.
The festival showcased a collection of nine different student-made short films and a trailer for a horror film dubbed “Post Meridian” coming out spring term, all of which displayed a high level of creativity with the film medium.
Based on the festival’s submissions, the term “experimental” took on many different meanings for the different directors. Before showing one of his two films, Lawrence Film Club co-president Stephen Anunson categorized experimental films as films that could step outside the bounds of standard narrative-driven films and focus more on experimentation with lighting, cinematography and editing.
Anunson’s “Apparition” certainly upheld his definition of experimental film. Haunting, dissonant music, shadowy figures, no sense of traditional narrative and atypical editing all appeared in the film, creating a sense of unease and confusion in the viewer.
“Apparition” fit how I pictured most experimental films in general, but the diversity of the films really impressed me. Like the creators of many of the other films, Anunson used the visual image rather than narrative to evoke a specific mood.
However, this mood varied widely throughout the submissions. Mark Hirsch and Stephen Anunson’s music-driven “Passing” relied on the combination of Hirsch’s Phillip Glass-esque piano score and beautifully shot recurring images of movement to portray the constant passing of time in life and in the natural world.
Not all of the films tackled larger philosophical questions, though. Molly Preston’s “Good Lenses, Bad Frames” ended with an amusing clip of London’s mayor using the phrase “whiff waff” to describe ping-pong.
Sophomore Tom Coben’s “Gun 2” utilized clever editing to satirize the generic conventions of Westerns, action films and films like “The Terminator.” With almost no dialogue and lots of special effects, Coben’s film portrayed an epic showdown between members of the cross-country team, who fired invisible weapons at each other in the quad.
Micah Paisner and Maggie Waz also showed an interesting and strangely comedic film titled “Posit Experience” that featured poetry reading, the Cha-Cha slide and a life-size poster of NBA player Stephon Marbury.
Unified by the vague concept of “experimental film,” the directors at the Lawrence Film Club’s Experimental Film Festival created a range of different moods through experimentation with editing, cinematography and generic conventions.