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September 24

The Essence of Cinema 16

Beginning in 1947 Cinema 16, the maverick film society directed by Amos Vogel until 1963, enlivened the New York City film scene, and in time, the national film scene, by making available to serious filmgoers a range of films that had never before been available in this country: documentaries of all kinds from around the world and a very wide range of experimental films, along with long-forgotten classics, art cinema from Europe and Asia, medical films, propaganda, many kinds of animation… Cinema 16 began with monthly presentations, but soon expanded to Wednesday evening screenings in two packed houses of 1500 people, and weekend screenings at art film theaters around the city. Cinema 16 inspired a nationwide network of film societies that imitated Vogel's programming and rented films from the Cinema 16 rental collection (Cinema 16 was among the first distributors of American and European experimental film). The HFA presents two programs of films that were of particular importance to Cinema 16 audiences, curated by Scott MacDonald, who will introduce each program, take questions afterward, and sign copies of his book, Cinema 16: Documents Toward a History of the Film Society (2002).

Monday September 24 at 7 pm

Program 1: Divided Worlds

Total running time: 99 min.

A Divided World

Directed by Arne Sucksdorff
Sweden 1948, 35mm, b/w, 10 min.

A remarkable nature film by Swedish director Arne Sucksdorff.

Blood of the Beasts

Directed by Georges Franju
France 1949, 16mm, color, 22 min.

One of Cinema 16’s most controversial presentations.





Directed by Kenneth Anger
US 1947, video, color, 15 min.

Also quite controversial, Anger’s psychodrama is probably the first openly gay film exhibited publicly in the USA.
35mm blow-up restoration by UCLA, preserved through the Avant-Garde Masters program, funded by The Film Foundation and administered by the National Film Preservation Foundation


In the Street

Directed by James Agee, Helen Levitt, Janice Loeb
US 1952, 16mm, b/w, silent, 16 min.

New York City kids at play on the street, through a hidden camera. Print courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art.

Living in a Reversed World

Directed by Dr. Pacher
US 1954, 16mm, b/w, 12 min.

A science film that, we think, was meant to be taken seriously. Print courtesy of Pennsylvania State University.

Weegee’s New York

Directed by Weegee and Amos Vogel
US ca. 1952, 16mm, color, 20 min.

A classic American City Symphony, focusing on Coney Island circa 1950 when a million people would crowd its beaches on a Sunday.

Cosmic Ray

Directed by Bruce Conner
US 1962, 16mm, b/w, 4 min.

A classic, early found-footage film, and, for better or worse, one of the instigators of MTV.

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Monday September 24 at 9:15 pm

Program 2: Private Lives

Total running time: 86 min.

Geography of the Body

Directed by Willard Maas
US 1943, 16mm, b/w, 8 min.

Poet Maas’s exploration of the human body as unknown territory.


Private Life of a Cat

Directed by Alexander Hammid and Maya Deren
US 1945, 16mm, b/w, silent, 22 min.

Rejected by the New York State Censors as “obscene”—believe it or not. Print courtesy of Swank Films.


Directed by Gregory Markopoulos
US 1947, 16mm, color, 25 min.

An experimental narrative based on Pierre Louys’ unfinished novella: “Three interrelated characteristics define Markopoulos’ style: color, rhythm, and atemporal construction. Color, rather than story, has been the emotional vehicle of his films.” - P. Adams Sitney, Visionary Film


The Room

Directed by Carmen D’Avino
US 1959, 16mm, color, 5 min.

This now underappreciated animator was a popular favorite with Cinema 16 audiences.
This film was preserved by and comes from the collection of the Academy Film Archive.


Directed by Ed Emshwiller
US 1962, 16mm, b/w, 5 min.

A meditation on mortality. Print courtesy of Canyon Cinema.


Window Water Baby Moving

Directed by Stan Brakhage
US 1959, 16mm, b/w, silent, 12 min.

Brakhage’s then-shocking paean to human creativity; Cinema 16 was its first distributor.

Begone Dull Care

Directed by Norman McLaren
US 1949, video, color, 9 min.

Canadian Norman McLaren draws and paints directly on the filmstrip, riffing with Oscar Peterson. Print courtesy of the National Film Board of Canada.



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