Experimental film. A genre of mystery and depth beyond the normal scope of film. The very title can conjure images of black and white images, of strange, fantastical objects filmed for expressing the mind of the director and for opening the mind of the audience. Unlike most films, experimental film will rarely have a story line and usually is meant to invoke a singular thought or idea.
Pip Chodorov is one of thousands of experimental film directors who will go beyond the norm in order to create his own personal form of film creativity. Chodorov is part of the experimental film society called avant-garde, which in French means “ahead of the crowd.”
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Chodorov has been making films since he was a child and was exposed to art all of his life. He has contributed much to the experimental film community by providing films. He has also presented the works of other experimental artists and has helped foundations for experimental filmmaking.
On Wednesday, April 20, Keene State College screened Chodorov’s first main documentary titled “Free Radicals: A History of Experimental Films.”
Chodorov regretted to the audience that the film had to be shown on digital format. He told the audience he prefers his films to be shown directly from the original film on a projector. KSC also hosted Chodorov to screen his own film and to answer questions for the audience.
The film was a part of the series “Filming the World,” announced by Assistant Professor of film Irina Leimbacher. “It was a part of a whole series of film makers who came from different traditions, in terms of the other films, mostly different cultural traditions, in this case (Chodorov’s background) also different cultural tradition but not geo-cultural but aesthetic cultural.”
Professor Leimbacher said she wanted the audience to feel “inspired” to film their own original works after watching Chodorov’s film. The film, as suggested by the title, is about the history of experimental filmmaking starting from its early days during the post WWI era.
“Free Radicals” also featured experimental films being made in Germany during the WWII era.
The film also went in depth into the counterculture’s influence on experimental film using footage from old film co-ops in communes.
It also featured rare interviews with filmmakers and featured films that have not, and possibly never will, reach the widespread venue of mass digital media.
Andy Warhol, Robert Breer, and Jonas Mekas, just to name a few, are some of the experimental filmmakers featured in interviews in the film.
The film was named for a short film by experimental filmmaker Len Lye titled “Free Radicals,” which was featured in the film.
The short is an animation made by scratching the film in order to create lines of illusion and three dimensional graphics.
The film was also set to African drumbeats for music.
“Free Radicals” also goes in depth into Chodorov’s own personal history of his filmmaking and history of being a director.
At the end of the film, Chodorov gave reality to the situations of currently well known experimental filmmakers. He even had one scene about how filmmakers sometimes struggle in order to pursue their art in the current media world.
However, he also gave a message of hope for the futures of filmmakers and wanted even more films to be produced.
Chodorov later gave his opinion on the relationship between Hollywood and experimental film saying, “Traditionally, Hollywood and ad agencies stole ideas from the avant-garde and there have been really classic examples.”
Chodorov gave one example of Hollywood “stealing” ideas from experimental films saying, “For example, one filmmaker shot a very poetic image of a plastic bag being picked up by the wind and floating around and this was taken up by Hollywood. There is all sorts of examples like that.”
At the end of the screening, Chodorov opened the floor to the audience for questions and answers.
It was during this time when he went more in depth about his filmmaking experience. He said, “When I was in college I didn’t study in film because the department wasn’t so good.”
Chodorov also said, “The professors, the teachers, who taught the class made fewer films than I made.” Chodorov talked to the audience about his early film career.
Chodorov said he later studied in France, where he joined a group that specialized in film making.
“It was while I was there that I got involved with this film co-operative, called ‘Light Film,’ and I ended up just volunteering and finally they hired me and then worked there for seven years.”
Chodorov was also asked by an audience member if documentary filmmaking was his favorite genre of film after creating “Free Radicals.” Chodorov responded saying, “It’s kind of fun, but I don’t know, the films that I make just for myself are like the ones that are in this film like, I don’t know, are shot spontaneously.”
Several classes from the film department were invited to the screening of “Free Radicals.”
KSC freshman Gregory Chamese said, “I’m in Irina’s class and that I was thinking on doing something experimental, avant-garde and this totally inspired me. So now I’m going to stay up all night crumpling up papers. I thought it was great.”
He also said, “I still don’t know much about it [experimental films]but something like this is really interesting and educational I guess at the same time.”
KSC adjunct professor of film studies Ted White commented on the film saying, “It hit a lot of personal notes because when I was young I studied experimental film making in film school and that was my sort of turn on to what I was going to do in life.”
Ryan Loredo can be contacted at email@example.com