December 7 – The Films of Walter Ungerer

Sunday December 7, 2008, 7:00 pm

At the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood

Los Angeles Filmforum presents
The Films of Walter Ungerer
Walter Ungerer in attendance!

Walter Ungerer is a longtime filmmaker and artist of international reputation, beginning with the underground film scene of New York City in the early 1960s, continuing through to his own experimental short films and features in Vermont and Maine. In the 1990s he moved to video in his explorations of light, space and technology. In the last few years Ungerer has begun to use an inexpensive digital still camera to create his projects; today he remains a prominent figure in the experimental media scene.

Despite all of this, Ungerer is still all too little known here on the West Coast. Join us as we catch up with his work from the past decade. Filmforum is delighted to host him on his first visit to LA since 1981, when we screened his film The House Without Steps! This evening will also mark the West Coast premieres of his new newest from 2008:

The Salt Shaker and the Moon (2008, 13 mins)
Inalienable (2008, 7:45 mins) The political climate in the United States and how the public perceives our government is reflected on the bumper stickers that decorate our cars and trucks. The material for this film, stills of bumper stickers, was shot over a two-year period throughout the Northeast, then edited just before the recent national presidential election.
Such as it Is (2007, 11:47 mins) The film is divided into four parts and four themes: the underground; city and glass; field of silkweeds; fog and the ocean. Each theme has its separate identity, yet they are not separate. Much like the essential elements of Ancient Greece, air, earth, fire and water, were joined in the universe, so too, these four themes are unified through computer manipulation and abstraction of imagery.
Syracuse International Film & Video Festival 2007

12-7-08-91-le-grand91 Le Grand (2005, 19 mins) 91 Le Grand is a four months study of the movement of light through a space in Ungerer’s home in Maine. The camera simply records, programmed to take still pictures between intervals of being shut down. More than anything else, it is a meditation in time, space and place.

12-7-08-the-awakeningThe Awakening (2002, 9:45 mins) The film parallels the short treatise The Awakening of Faith by Asvaghosha which provides a comprehensive summary of the essentials of Mahayana Buddhism. That treatise discusses the question of how man can transcend his finite state and participate in the life of the infinite while still remaining in the midst of the phenome.

Kingsbury Beach (1996, 6:21 mins) Digital stills and video footage of a child on a beach in Cape Cod, Massachusetts are manipulated and obscured to create a nostalgic atmosphere of remembrances. The Amiga computer has now been replaced by the Macintosh. The editing program is the Media 100.

12-7-08the-windowThe Window (1996, 3:13 mins) An interior space is described as a cell of confinement from the outside world. Only a window offers escape. This is an Amiga computer generated film.

Ungerer was born in Harlem, New York City in 1935 of German immigrants. He studied art and architecture at Pratt Institute, receiving a BFA degree in 1958. He then went on to Columbia University, where he received an MA and PD in 1964. In 2005 Ungerer received a PhD in Media Arts from Sacramento University. Simultaneously, with his educational studies, Ungerer worked as a freelance cameraperson and editor. He turned to independent personal filmmaking in 1964, after returning from Nigeria, where he was the cinematographer for a television “special”. Between 1964 and 1969 he produced five films: The Tasmanian Devil (1964), Meet Me, Jesus (1966), A Lion’s Tale (1968), Introduction To Oobieland (1969), and Ubi Est Terram Oobiae? (1969). In ‘69 he moved to Vermont and a teaching position at Goddard College. He had been teaching film production at Columbia University. In 1976 he formed Dark Horse Films, Inc. a Montpelier, Vermont non-profit company under which he produced four features: The Animal (1976), The House Without Steps (1979), The Winter There Was Very Little Snow (1982), and Leaving The Harbor (1992).

Then came a long period of exploration with the computer, using the computer to not only edit but to create the entire film without the use of a camera. This period produced Birds 2/93 (1993), Anna’s Amazing Moving Animals (1994), Relatives In X, Y, & Z (1996), The Window (1997), Kingsbury Beach (1999) and Untitled 2.1 (2001); all short films no longer than ten minutes long. These works rekindled Ungerer’s passion for drawing and painting. They gave him the opportunity to hone his creative eye and his acute visual sense. They also offered him, once again, the experience of putting colors and shapes on a real surface; missed since the days of being an artist student and young artist painting or drawing on newsprint paper or canvas.

In 2001 Ungerer returned to documentary filmmaking to produce and all this madness (2002), a film about the September 11, 2001 attack on the NY World Trade Center. Once before he had made a film based on political motivation, and his criticism of American government policies. Keeping Things Whole (1974) was an interview docudrama that recorded people’s views of the Viet Nam War; at the same time weaving in a fictional story about a young man about to be drafted. and all this madness is a more straightforward investigation into the causes of the 9/11 attack.

Down The Road
(2005), one of Ungerer’s more recent films, is very much autobiographical, though not totally a documentary. Through interviews with friends of Ungerer, it searches for reasons for the collapse of his eighteen-year marriage. It Includes clips from his earlier films as well as old “home movie” clips of better times (as when the camera plays hide-and-seek with his three year old daughter). This material is woven together in the form of a tapestry of memories and present day occurrences to give (more than anything else), an impression of the media artist’s life. The film was included in the 2005 Syracuse International Film Festival and the 2005 Athens International Film Festival.

91 Le Grand is a four months study of the movement of light through a space in Ungerer’s home in Maine. The camera simply records, programmed to take still pictures between intervals of being shut down. More than anything else, it is a meditation in time, space and place. An outgrowth of 91 Le Grand is a video installation titled Inside-Outside. Using two projectors, it incorporates the photographs of Ungerer’s partner Dianna Rust and 91 Le Grand, to illuminate a series of hanging curtains in an interior space. It was installed at the Space Gallery, Portland, Maine in 2005; and is now on exhibit at the Brattleboro Museum of Art, Brattleboro, Vermont. Additional venues are now under investigation.

In July and August of 2006 retrospectives of Ungerer’s computer works were at the Alamo Theater, Bucksport, Maine; and Farnsworth Art Museum, Rockland, Maine. That year additional retrospectives occurred in Kiel, Hamburg and several other northern Germany cities, culminating in a November tour to the area by Ungerer.

With fifty years of filmmaking, video, computer, and media experience; Ungerer’s works have been shown at festivals and competitions throughout the world including the Florence International Film Festival, Florence, Italy; the Tours International Film Festival, Tours, France; the Athens International Film Festival (Best Feature Film for The Animal, Merit Award for The House Without Steps, and 91 Le Grand included); the Houston International Film Festival (Bronze Award for The Winter There Was Very Little Snow); Atlantic Film and Video Festival, NS, Canada (Critics’ Choice Award for The Winter There Was Very Little Snow) and the Black Maria Film Festival (Jurors’ Award for Leaving The Harbor and 91 Le Grand). He has also been honored with special exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, New York City; Everson Museum, Syracuse, New York; Filmmuseum, Amsterdam, Holland; the Athens Film Society, Athens, Greece; the Hong Kong Cultural Centre, Kowloon, Hong Kong; and the Fleming Museum, Burlington, Vermont. Among other grants and awards, he has received an American Film Institute Independent Filmmaker grant in 1977, and a National Endowment for the Arts Media grant in 1983. He has also been the recipient of several Vermont Council on the Arts fellowship awards.

For more see

Please note that Walter Ungerer will have another screening with different work at the Echo Park Film Center on December 4, 2008 at 8:00 pm. Ungerer will also be in attendance at this show. Admission $5.
Echo Park Film Center
1200 N. Alvarado Street LA CA 90026
(213) 484-8846


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