Movie Journal: Notebook

Rooftop Cinema Program Notes Coming to Madison Film Forum in June, 2018

Read 2018 Rooftop Cinema program notes by programmer James Kreul in advance of each screening at the Madison Film Forum website.

Hey, there. Long time, no see. You might have noticed I’ve been largely silent on the Madison Film Forum site the past few months, and most of the recent posts have been from Jason Fuhrman (thanks, Jason!). So what have I been up to?

Well, I’ve been putting together two projects that will change the direction of the Madison Film Forum website in the coming days and months. That direction will generally be away from reviews of recent films in theaters, and towards program notes for local film series like Cinesthesia (again, thanks Jason!), OFF THE WALL (good things coming from Simone and Max), Rooftop Cinema, and the upcoming Mills Folly Microcinema.

The first project I have to tell you about has been programming this year’s Rooftop Cinema at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, inheriting the program from series founder Tom Yoshikami. Part of my Rooftop duties will include providing program notes which I will post here a few days before each screening, starting with No Maps on My Taps in a few weeks. Rooftop Cinema screenings will be held every Friday in June, starting at sundown. You can see the full schedule at the MMoCA website.

“Hey, wait a minute,” you’re probably saying, “I know those first three series. What the heck is Mills Folly Microcinema?” Well, that’s the second project that I need to tell you about in an upcoming post. What I can tell you so far is that the Madison Arts Commission has recommended a modest but generous grant to begin a new monthly experimental film and video series to be held at the Arts + Literature Laboratory starting in July. Madison Film Forum will be the primary source for information about the Mills Folly Microcinema, including schedule announcements and program notes for individual screenings.

I’m getting ahead of myself. First things first: Please check out the schedule for Rooftop Cinema and try to catch a screening (or two, or five) in June. Help spread the word by sharing the Rooftop Cinema event pages posted at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art Facebook page. Below I’ve included the MMoCA press release for Rooftop to give you a quick overview of the series.

Then, starting in a few weeks, check back here for program notes for Rooftop Cinema, starting with the June 1 screening of No Maps on My Taps.



Fridays in June (1, 8, 15, 22, 29) • Films Begin at Sunset

MADISON, WI—The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art releases details for the thirteenth season of Rooftop Cinema, the museum’s film series featuring avant-garde and artistic films. Viewed in the museum’s Rooftop Sculpture Garden, the setting and the selections make these showings a summer favorite. Beginning at sundown (approximately 9:30 pm), this season contemplates what a long, strange trip it has been in the fifty years since 1968. Touching on the artistry of tap icons and paragons of African American culture; a reimagining of an Ojibway tale; and viewings of work by local film makers, this season of Rooftop Cinema also showcases recent experimental works and hybrid documentaries.

Season thirteen begins on June 1 with George T. Nierenberg’s 1979 portrait of three veteran tap dancers, No Maps on My Taps, which will move both your heart and your feet. She Collage and other shorts on June 8 surveys recent found footage essays and collage animations which create new meanings by transforming familiar imagery. Both films on June 15, Yippie! and Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One, were created during the summer of 1968, making them vibrant documents to revisit during Madison Reunion conference that weekend. The June 22 program delivers a selection of films from the Canyon Cinema 50 tour, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Canyon Cinema, a legendary distributor of experimental films. The season concludes on June 29 with the hybrid documentary INAATE/SE/ [it shines
 a certain way. to a certain place./it flies. falls./] in which filmmakers Adam Khalil and Zack Khalil re-imagine an ancient Ojibway story to explore how the prophecy resonates through the generations in the Ojibway tribe community in Michigan.

Rooftop Cinema is free for MMoCA members/$7 for non-members; admission begins at the lobby reception desk one hour before screen time. Camp chairs and blankets are welcome. Screenings relocate to the lecture hall if rain is predicted.

This season of MMoCA’s popular rooftop film series is curated by James Kreul, editor of the Madison Film Forum website, and programmer for the upcoming Mills Folly Microcinema series at the Arts + Literature Laboratory. Technical support is provided by Tanner Engbretsen. A program of the museum’s education department, Rooftop Cinema is generously funded by maiahaus and Venture Investors, LLC.


June 1: No Maps on My Taps (George T. Nierenberg, 1979, 59 minutes); Elemental (Elizabeth Wadium & Aaron Granat, 2017, 5 minutes)

June 8: She Collage and other shorts (Various artists, 2010-1015, 61 minutes)

June 15: Yippie! (Youth International Party, 1968, 10 minutes); Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One (William Greaves, 1968, 75 minutes)

June 22: Canyon Cinema 50 (Various artists, 1961-2012, 73 minutes)

June 29: INAATE/SE/ [it shines 
a certain way. to a certain place./it flies. falls./] (Adam Khalil and Zack Khalil, 2016, 75 minutes)


June 1: No Maps on My Taps

Filmmaker George T. Nierenberg’s recently restored portrait of three veteran tap dancers, Bunny Briggs, Chuck Green, and Harold “Sandman” Sims, helped revive interest in tap when released in 1979. The three men reflect on their lives and careers as they prepare for a performance with jazz legend Lionel Hampton. Preceded by a short dance film made locally by Elizabeth Wadium and Aaron Granat, Elemental (2017).

June 8: She Collage and other shorts

This shorts program will showcase recent found footage essays and collage animations. Kate Laine’s She Collage (2015) is a personal response to the work of collage artist Terry Braunstein, and a reflection on art-making. Hannah Piper Burns transforms the banality reality television into Outer Darkness (2015). Karen Yasinsky utilizes rotoscoping and other animation techniques to contemplate a scene from a cinema classic in Marie (2010). Caryn Cline’s techniques in Notes from the Farm (2014) include “botanicollage,’ in which organic matter is fused directly onto celluloid. Kelly Gallagher employs cut-out animation in More Dangerous Than a Thousand Rioters (2016), an experimental documentary about revolutionary Lucy Parsons. And Jesse McLean examines the mythologies found in fan culture by juxtaposing personal stories with mediated emotional memories in Magic for Beginners (2010).

June 15: Yippie! / Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One

Concurrent with MMoCA’s Far Out: The Art of the 1960s exhibition and the Madison Reunion conference weekend, this program presents two unique and vibrant documents from the summer of 1968. The short Yippie! is an “official statement” from the Youth International Party regarding protests and violence in Chicago. Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One begins with director

William Greaves filming a fictional argument in Central Park, but it soon transforms as the mutinous crew questions what Greaves aims to achieve with his project.

June 22: Canyon Cinema 50 Tour

Groundbreaking experimental film distributor Canyon Cinema, based in San Francisco, celebrated their 50th anniversary in 2017. Curator David Dinnell, visiting faculty at California Institute of the Arts, has assembled a program exploring the depth and breadth of the Canyon Cinema catalog. Featured filmmakers include Bruce Baillie, Chick Strand, Barbara Hammer, Scott Stark, and Janie Geiser. The Canyon Cinema 50 project is organized by the Canyon Cinema Foundation and supported in part by the George Lucas Family Foundation, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, National Endowment for the Arts, Owsley Brown III Foundation, the Phyllis C. Wattis Foundation, and The Fleishhacker Foundation.

June 29: INAATE/SE/ [it shines a certain way. to a certain place./it flies. falls./]

Filmmakers Adam Khalil and Zack Khalil re-imagine an ancient Ojibway story, the Seven Fires Prophecy, which both predates and predicts first contact with Europeans. A kaleidoscopic experience blending documentary, narrative, and experimental forms, INAATE/SE/ transcends linear colonized history to explore how the prophecy resonates through the generations for the Ojibway community near Sault Ste. Marie in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Published by James Kreul

James Kreul has advocated for alternative screenings of independent, international, and experimental film in Madison since the 1990s.