Plante Life

Ed Halter on Cinemad: Almanac 2009

Left: Cover of Cinemad: Almanac 2009. Right: Bruce Conner, Valse Triste, 1977, still from a black-and-white film, 5 minutes.

A DECADE AGO, Cinemad was one of a small handful of publications chronicling new directions in visionary filmmaking—defined in the broadest sense by that staple-bound Xerox zine as anything on the fringes of independent cinema that struck the fancy of intrepid editor and writer Mike Plante. He espoused an unruly blend of sensibilities, equally indebted to the avant-garde and to the VCR-era cult, using little more justification than his own tastes to frame generously chatty interviews with artists and off-the-cuff videotape reviews. A few years back, Cinemad shed its paper identity, transmuting into a website and then a blog, while Plante became a programmer for Sundance.

Now, Plante has released what one hopes to be the first in a series of DVD compilations, Cinemad: Almanac 2009, which comes with a thick booklet of director chats reprinted from the original journal. Almanac includes works from years past by some Cinemad favorites, like Stephanie Barber’s 16-mm letters, notes (2000), a collage of lost communications told in found texts and photos; Kevin Jerome Everson’s Midwest tornado interlude Pictures from Dorothy (2003); James Fotopoulos’s distressed Brakhage-cum-Romero enigma The Sun (2000); and an excerpt from Jennifer Reeves’s penetrating post-9/11 interior drama The Time We Killed (2004). Deborah Stratman contributes something of a triptych: two atmospheric found-footage videos and a discerningly shot study of a fellow filmmaker’s home, The Magician’s House (2007); Stratman’s works are situated on the other end of the emotional spectrum from quasi-inappropriate appropriators Animal Charm’s Edge-TV with Animal Charm (2008), a montage of ’90s video wrongness punctuated by a tragically absurd segment from the talking-animal drama Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (1992). Though the DVD era has recently been a boon to those engaged in reviving classic experimental fare, the Almanac instead focuses on exhibiting some of the most compelling contemporary artists—a welcome curatorial project that continues where Cinemad left off.

Cinemad: Almanac 2009 is now available through Microcinema International. For more details, click ||here|.