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12 Films to be Preserved through Avant-Garde Masters Grants

Named to the National Film Registry in 2019, Gunvor Nelson’s My Name is Oona (1969) will be preserved by the Pacific Film Archive.
Two films from the avant-garde film renaissance of the late ’90s, Peggy Ahwesh’s Nocturne (1998) and Jesse Lerner’s Ruins (1999), join ten shorts made by Bay Area women artists to be preserved through the 2020 Avant-Garde Masters Grants, awarded by The Film Foundation and the National Film Preservation Foundation.

UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive will preserve ten films that were distributed by the Bay Area–based Serious Business Company (SBC), an independent film distribution company founded by Freude (1942–2009), operating from 1972 to 1984. Among them is Gunvor Nelson’s masterpiece My Name is Oona (1969). Named to the National Film Registry in 2019, this portrait of the artist’s daughter uses a repetitive soundtrack and rhythmic editing to capture the joyful chaos of childhood. Also distributed by SBC and slated for preservation are Alice Anne Parker’s I Change I Am the Same (1969), a playful critique of clothing and gender roles, four films exploring domesticity and the artistic life made by Freude, Josie Winship’s animated Bird Lady vs. the Galloping Gonads (1976), Karen Johnson’s Orange (1970), and Judith Wardwell’s satirical take on America’s sanitation obsession, Plastic Blag (1968).

Peggy Ahwesh’s Nocturne evokes gothic literature and horror film history, weaving stark black-and-white imagery with footage taken with a PixelVision video camera. The dreamlike narrative mixes text and spoken word to create a minimalist psychological horror film. Anthology Film Archives is supervising the preservation and will premiere the new print as part of a Peggy Ahwesh retrospective alongside other films preserved through NFPF programs.

XFR Collective will oversee the preservation of Jesse Lerner’s feature-length collage essay Ruins. Mostly comprised of archival footage, Ruins is a mischievous melding of fact and fiction that takes on the trappings of traditional museums. It explores the way history is constructed by official means and pokes holes in those narratives with wit and bite.

Now in its 18th year, Avant-Garde Masters was created by The Film Foundation and the NFPF to save films significant to the development of the avant-garde in America. Funding is generously provided by the Hobson/Lucas Family Foundation. The grants have preserved 200 works by 78 artists, including Kenneth Anger, Shirley Clarke, Bruce Conner, Joseph Cornell, Oskar Fischinger, Hollis Frampton, Barbara Hammer, Ernie Gehr, George and Mike Kuchar, and Carolee Schneemann. A full list of films preserved through the program can be found here.

Tags: NFPF grants, avant-garde

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