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Filmatic Festival Looks To The Future Of Film

Event looks to the intersection of science, cinema and technology

Michael Snow's experimental 1967 film

Credit: Michael Snow

Above: Michael Snow's experimental 1967 film "Wavelength" will screen as part of the Slow Art Series at the Second Annual Filmatic Festival running this Thursday through Sunday at UCSD.


Rebecca Webb, founder, Filmatic Festival

Cy Kuchenbaker, filmmaker, "San Diego Studies"



KPBS film critic Beth Accomando previews the Second Annual Filmatic Festival at UCSD.


UCSD’s Artpower film curator Rebecca Webb wanted to create a film festival that would explore the future of film, and what the experience will be for filmmakers and filmgoers. The result was the Filmatic Festival, now in its second year.

The Filmatic Festival serves up 40 events (including panels, workshops, interactive experiences and film and video screenings) from Thursday to Sunday at multiple venues. Webb said it’s all about the intersection of science, cinema and technology as it relates to film-going.

“Today’s scientists are representing their ideas visually and communicating their ideas cinematically,” Webb said. "In turn, science and technology is feeding the way artists are expressing their ideas visually and the way our audience are experiencing this new technology and way of storytelling."

Webb is especially excited about the fact that the core of the festival will focus on faculty work at UCSD.

“There’s an incredible breadth of work going on in the intersection of science, arts, and technology and cinema, and so we are focusing on what’s happening right on campus,” Webb said.

The sidebar of programming, called Sonic Experiences, highlights a number of UCSD’s finest. Music professor Peter Otto will present “Audio Spatialization Lab: 24.”

Spatial 3D sound labs allow attendees to experience cutting edge demos of sound design and delivery, including compact beam forming arrays that are soon to be consumer products and a 24-channel surround sound system.

Qualcomm Institute composer-in-residence and UCSD professor of music Lei Liang will present new musical compositions to accompany high-resolution, multispectral scans of 12 Chinese landscape paintings by 20th-century artist Huang Binhong.

Liang is developing new concepts of sonic “shadows” and “lights” to create a musical language for orchestration and sound spatialization.

The presentation allows one to “navigate through the layers of the painting while listening to the music, and they are very harmonious together and it’s quite an extraordinary experience,” Webb said.

New Integrations in Telematics is also part of the Sonic Experiences. It showcases musicians and videographers performing live in San Diego and Zurich. Professor Mark Dresser, of the UCSD Music Department, is working with a team of people to create a concert that includes “Three Stories,” a composition by Gerry Hemingway that combines video and spoken text in an homage to filmmaker Chris Marker.

Filmatic Festival will also focus on student work, both students assisting faculty projects and also creating their own interesting work. On Friday, student films will be highlighted in the eighth annual Up and Coming Film Festival. Graduate and undergraduate work will be screened and awarded prizes, and filmgoers will have a chance to meet many of the filmmakers.

Webb was inspired to create the Filmatic Festival after a convergence of events.

First, she observed how people were watching more and more films on their phones and tablets, yet she also noticed how people still loved the communal experience of seeing a film in a darkened theater with a community of others. And then she read a New York Times article featuring filmmakers Steven Spielberg and George Lucas where they talked about the demise of the film industry and the emergence of mega blockbusters. And they said the future is about the way audiences are immersing themselves in all dimensions and that is the future.

“I thought this is really interesting,” Webb said. “I want to explore that future, that future really interests me, where is film going and what will be our experience of it for filmmakers and filmgoers. Filmmaking is really revolutionary now for the way we are telling stories.”

Filmatic Festival is also showcasing the work of former UCSD research scientist Todd Margolis. His work is called Special Treatment. It is described in the program as: “an immersive and interactive Virtual Reality installation examining the strength and persistence of memory. Inspired by the black and white image processed PHSCologram, ‘The Barracks,’ created by (art) and the Shoah Foundation, a chilling ride by train car deposits viewers in a sparsely populated camp, pieced together from original plans, photographs and other visual artifacts from Auschwitz II/Birkenau, Poland.”

The Filmatic keynote speakers will be Alex McDowell and Sergei Gepshtein. They will address the future of filmgoing and “the multiple threads that characterize visual experience in both natural and cinematic perception.”

McDowell, who has worked with Tim Burton and David Fincher, is a co-founder and the creative director of the 5D Institute, an education space for an expanding community of storytellers in industry and academia. Gepshtein is a scientist at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, trained in neurobiology, cognitive psychology, and vision science, and is involved in developing new methods of perceptual continuity for immersive environments and cinema.

Another sidebar that challenges the way we experience art is the Slow Art Series. Michael Snow’s experimental film “Wavelength” (from 1967) will be shown on 16mm.

“It’s part of our slow art series that looks at the tempo of films as well as the audience’s relationship to film and the tempo of looking because these days we’re all looking at things that go in three seconds flat and then moving on, and this asks us to participate and slow down,” Webb said.

Filmatic Festival may seem big and sprawling with 40 events over four days, but Webb said it is organized by tracts of interesting programs “that based on your taste you might find a gaming showcase really interesting or virtual reality experiences where you get to try a virtual reality headset like Oculus Rift” to narrow the focus of the festival to make choices easier.

The Measure of All Things by Sam Green

Landings at San Diego International Airport

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