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AVANT GARDE FILMS
If one considers "the arts" as representing or giving form to a diverse and some times eccentric number of message systems, then one must admit that any number of particular message systems are relevant to particular audiences. In film, it might be the mass audience of a Hollywood blockbuster or the very specialized, niche audience one has come to expect for something more experimental. In both cases - when well done - the "messages" present the fantasies, nightmares, myths and legends of particular tribes. Whether the message is framed in conventional, formulistic dramatic grammar or in a more esoteric and rarified form of expression, the transmission of meaning occurs filmically in both content and form.
The films that have been selected for inclusion in this section are by no means conventional dramatic narratives - some of them may not even be "stories" as we commonly understand the word - but each in its way is a message from a tribe, addressed to another tribe, which the filmmaker hopes to contact or connect with so as to initiate that viewer into the wonders, terrors, complexities and dreams of the film-maker's invisible world, a world that stands behind and perhaps within the world we actually see.
In most avant garde or experimental films, the emphasis is on "film as metaphor" - as a visual rather than as a storytelling medium - in which the visual image and succession of images and sounds in time are experienced and viewed as active processes of revelation and discovery, rather than as a lifeless record of worked out and well-established notions and ideas.
In most cases, the avant-garde film is not made by a committee or a team hired for the occasion by a third party, but by one, passionate individual who almost always also photographs and edits it. The avant garde film is not tailored to a market, nor does its life evolve for the mere purpose of making a profit. One might say that the avant garde film is driven by a need for self-expression, however idiosyncratic. But perhaps something else is closer to the truth - namely, the transformation of the filmmaker by way of an active engagement with those images swimming just beneath the surface of consciousness. The musician, John Cage, spoke of this when he spoke of experimental music and its composition as having more to do with self-alteration than it does with self-expression. (See Cage doco in the documentaries section of The Screening Room).