Beginning in the early 1960s, one of the main venues where audiences could watch underground films outside of New York City was the midnight movie screening series called Underground Cinema 12.
Underground Film History
In 1997, the Chicago Underground Film Festival held its fourth annual edition and published a four-page pull-out section in the Chicago-based political magazine Lumpen.
Jonas Mekas’s “Movie Journal” column in the Village Voice was the main organ promoting experimental and avant-garde cinema in the early 1960s. A survey of the column from that time period has shown that Mekas did not use the term “underground film” very frequently.
One of filmmaker Stan Vanderbeek’s most famous articles is “The Cinema Delimina” published in the Summer 1961 edition of Film Quarterly (vol. XIV no. 4), in which he is the first person to use the term “underground” to refer to what was then mostly referred to as “experimental cinema.”
In 1961, Shirley Clarke finished directing her first feature film and debuted The Connection at the Cannes Film Festival to much acclaim. The New York State Board of Education’s motion picture division banned the film from screening in the state.
In October 1968, the transcript of a conversation between filmmakers Shirley Clarke and Storm de Hirsch was published in the 46th issue of Film Culture magazine. Excerpts from that conversation can be read here.
Here are the screenings for December 10-30, 1970 of the Anthology Film Archives. The Anthology’s original plan was to have three screenings every night of films from their Essential Cinema Repertory Collection, so that each film in the collection would screen once every month.
The Underground Film Journal has recently uncovered that there was a previous New York Underground Film Festival — in 1970! This event is totally unconnected to the ’90-’00s era festival and featured a weeklong series of screenings in mid-October of that year, from October 12 to 19.
Continuing into 1999 at the Collective Unconscious theater space in NYC, the RBMC — co-programmed by Brian L. Frye and Bradley Eros — went on hiatus for the first week of the year, but resumed on January 12. Below is a list of screenings from then until a May 18 event that celebrated the RBMC’s first full year of existence.
After years of planning, the Anthology Film Archives first opened its doors in New York City towards the end of 1970. That opening came with great interest and fascination of how the world’s first “museum of film” was going to operate like no other theater before it.