Friday, April 17, 2015

4/22 Divinity Gratis: The Cinematic Alchemy of Betzy Bromberg (in-person)

Marasmus  (1981)(16mm, color/sound, 24 min.)
Divinity Gratis (1996) (16mm, color/sound, 59 min.)
Ciao Bella (1978)(16mm, color/sound, 13 min.)

Betzy Bromberg, Director of the Program in Film and Video at California Institute of the Arts, has been making experimental films since 1976. Her most recent film, Voluptuous Sleep (2011), premiered at the Redcat Theater in Los Angeles and had its festival premiere at the New York Film Festival: Views From The Avant-Garde.  Voluptuous Sleep was listed as one of the Best Films for 2011 in both the New York Times (Manohla Dargis) and Indiewire (Andrea Picard).  Scott MacDonald included it in his Highlights 2012 in Lumiere Magazine ( and has published an interview with Ms. Bromberg in his most recent book, Avant-Doc: Intersections of Documentary and Avant-Garde Cinema.  Previous to becoming the Director of the Program in Film and Video California Institute of the Arts, Ms. Bromberg worked in the Hollywood special effects industry for many years as a supervisor and camerawoman for the production of optical effects in major motion pictures.  

Ms. Bromberg had a full retrospective of her films at BAFICI in 2007 Her previous film, a Darkness Swallowed (2005) screened at the Sundance Film Festival as well as the Seoul Film Festival (South Korea), the Athens International Film Festival (Greece), the Bradford International Film Festival (England), the Seattle International Film Festival (Washington), The Centro de Cultura Contemporanea de Barcelona (Spain) and most recently at Ponrepo (Prague, Czech Republic).  Ms. Bromberg’s films have shown extensively in museums, cultural venues and festivals within the United States and abroad. Most notably, her work has been presented at the Museum of Modern Art (New York City), Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the San Francisco Cinemateque, the Harvard Film Archives (Cambridge), Anthology Film Archives (New York City), the National Film Theater (London), The Vootrum Centrum (Belgium) and the Centre Georges Pompidou (France).

Marasmus  (1981) in collaboration with Laura Ewig
(16mm, color/sound, 24 min.)

 A woman’s response to technology / the jet lag of birth.

“If there are certain iconic images that represent the obscure history of the American avant-garde cinema, one of them has to be from Marasmus (1981), the extraordinary experimental film by Betzy Bromberg and Laura Ewig.  The image is of a woman’s face pressed flat, white and distorted against glass, two hands splayed on each side.  She could be pushing against an invisible boundary, or easing through a clear membrane as if being born; either way, the image exemplifies L.A.-based Bromberg’s uncanny ability for uniting a philosophical perspective and an almost mythically emotional sensitivity. Like some of the best feminist experimental work of the 1980s and ‘90s, Bromberg’s films invariably reverberate in this space in between, refusing both the cheerless material analysis of one strand of experimental production and the politically disengaged poetic investigation advocated in other camps of the avant-garde.  Instead, her films play on multiple levels, merging politics and poetry, and reveling in the resultant tensions.  With Marasmus, Bromberg merges strange and abject images of confinement and escape with a coldly technological environment, and she pits the desire for continuity and coherence against the pure pleasure of drifting through images…Bromberg’s work has plenty to teach us about formal experimentation and the magic of juxtaposition.” - Holly Willis, L.A. Weekly

Divinity Gratis (1996)
(16mm, color/sound, 59 min.)

 “An hour long and seven years in the making, Divinity Gratis locates personal experience and subjective vision in a history of the human species, culminating the technological revolutions that dominate the last years of the millennium.  References to the atomic bomb and the moon landing, often incongruous or ironic, form a grid on which movement up from primeval elements through the appearance of animals and buildings to the modern city and the worlds of contemporary science and religion, culminating in a more lyrical section in which a young woman – Bromberg herself – is introduced into a condensed recapitulation of the whole film.  Unconstrainedly eclectic and ranging freely among biological close-ups, museum dioramas, Gothic cathedrals, workers in the Los Angeles sex industries, and the Trinity Site on the White Sands Missile Range, where the first atomic bomb was tested, the imagery is almost all made over into the filmmaker’s visual idiolect, where color, texture, and camera movement provide for a sensual improvisatory montage…”  -  David James (2005) from The Most Typical Avant-Garde -History and Geography of Minor Cinemas in Los Angeles

Ciao Bella (1978)
(16mm, color/sound, 13 min.)

A personal film about love and mortality.

“Ciao Bella is a summer-in-the-city travelogue that mixes verite of Lower East Side bikers, Times Square topless dancers, and Coney Island crowds to achieve a highly charged atmosphere of manic exhibitionism and sexual raunch.”  - J. Hoberman, Art Forum