In celebration of the city of Binghamton’s central role in the development of avant-garde cinema in the 20th century, the Art Mission & Theater in Downtown Binghamton, in collaboration with Santino DeAngelo, ‘13, and Martin Murray, ‘14, of art collective FancyBoys Creative, hosted the Binghamton Babylon Film Festival.
The five-day festival commenced on Wednesday, Oct. 12, with a keynote address from Scott MacDonald, a cinematic historian and the author of the book “Binghamton Babylon: Voices from the Cinema Department 1967-1977.” This book inspired Santino DeAngelo, an master’s in fine arts candidate at Columbia University, to start the film festival.
“I was riding the subway one evening when I saw this man reading a book,” DeAngelo said. “And being from the area, I had no idea what it was about. So I asked the man, and once he told me all about it, I decided that we had to hold a film festival about it. We just had to.”
DeAngelo then contacted MacDonald, who agreed to come in to kick it off, and with the help of the staff of the Art Mission & Theater, they got to planning the festival.
Avant-garde cinema, also called experimental film, refers to films that don’t follow the traditional narrative cinematic technique. Rebecca Sheriff, the director of the Art Mission & Theater, explained that avant-garde was chosen as the genre for the festival because of the unique role that Binghamton has had in creating such films.
“I don’t think a lot of people are aware that the university at that time had a big influence on where avant-garde actually ended up going today,” Sheriff said.
Over the next three days, there were screenings of some of newest avant-garde films. Films from all over, as well as outside of the country were shown, including some from Los Angeles, Brazil and the city of Binghamton. The genres were diverse, varying from comedy, to science fiction and heart-warming takes on growing up.
Twenty-seven films were selected for the festival in all, each ranging in length from three to 15 minutes. Screenings took place in five hour-long blocks, with 10-minute breaks in between.
This was the first year of the Binghamton Babylon Film Festival, but Sheriff confirms that it will be held again next fall.
“Next year it’s going to be an even bigger festival,” Sheriff said. “We’re going to start accepting submissions in January, so there’ll be a lot more time to work on things for that.”
DeAngelo shared that he was pleased with the positive reactions he had been getting from festival-goers.
“There was a woman who came up to me right after the screenings ended the other day and we got talking about the films for a whole half-hour,” DeAngelo said. “She loved it.”
The film festival exposes viewers to films different than the ones that they are used to, and this helps them not only watch something different but also expand their horizons.
“My hopes for this weekend are just to get people acquainted with this festival, get people acquainted with the Art Mission Theatre and come in and learn a little bit more about filmmaking and understand movies kind of a little bit differently than you would if you were just going to a Regal …” Sheriff said.
The festival concluded on Sunday with the Rod Serling Film Festival.