The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

April 20, 2007

My Lost Films

I made films from 1969-1993; most of them were carried by Canyon Cinema in
San Francisco. The films are all mast prints; I didn't copy them, but
showed the originals, since I wanted to use what little funds I had to
produce more. They were shown periodically at Millennium in New York, and
occasionally elsewhere, but they've never been part of the film community;
as a result, they've hardly been shown. Canyon Cinema returned them after
the board voted against handling masters, which could be damaged during a
screening of course. They were then placed at the Filmmakers Coop here in
NY, where they've remained on the shelf for fifteen years; I doubt anyone
has rented or seen them. I don't know their condition at this point; many
of the 16mm ones had mag stripe sound on them, which is susceptible to

They were featured prominently in the 1992 Canyon Cinema catalog, just
before Canyon changed its mind about handling them. (I should add that my
videos have been available at times from places like Printed Matter or Art
Metropole, but these can be duplicated.) I'm saddened that they remain
unscreened - there are probably 15-24 hours worth. There are a large
number of them; for a while, when I was teaching at UCLA, I made a film
every week, mostly 16mm black and white sound, imitating the older silent
film production strategies and rates. For me the films broke a lot of new
ground - not least, in optical/magnetic soundtrack experimentation, but
they're quiet, moot on that point.

So I recently found a copy of the 1992 catalog and xeroxed the six pages
that describe my work. I am forced to think of the pages themselves as a
new film, made from the silence of the old; they read as a narrative of
concerns, experimentations, confusions, and theory-work changing over a
twenty-year period (although to be fair, most were made between 1980 and
1992). The image URLs are given below. Read the texts, imagine watching
the films, and maybe in some absurd future, they'll come to life again.

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