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Underground Film Timeline: Phase 4 Complete

Underground Film Timeline

It’s been awhile since I promoted the Underground Film Journal’s Underground Film Timeline, but I finally finished inputting all the data culled from my secondary reference source, David Curtis’ book Experimental Cinema. Since it’s been so long between updates, I’ll provide some background info on what this project is again.

The Underground Film Timeline is a year-by-year list of every significant film and event in underground film history from 1909 to, currently, 1970. I’m pulling data to include in the timeline strictly from books, not from other websites. The first book I referenced was Sheldon Renan’s An Introduction to the American Underground Film and the second book, as I wrote above, is Curtis’ Experimental Cinema.

In certain instances, data from both books do not agree with each other. The books mostly contradict each other regarding the completion years for specific films, usually giving dates that are a year or two off. Since I only have the two books to go by and don’t have a tie-breaker in play yet, I just input films by one source and made a note that the other one had different info.

Both books were originally published just a few years apart — Renan’s in ’67 and Curtis’ in ’71 — so that’s why the timeline currently only goes up to 1970. However, Experimental Cinema did fill out the last few years of the Sixties and I got to add some new filmmaker names to the timeline, like Michael Snow and Yoko Ono, as well as include later works by filmmakers like Andy Warhol and Paul Sharits.

As for why I’m only using books as reference sources, I view this stage of the timeline — which will be a very long stage at this rate — as building a base from which I can grow. I’ll see what the consensus is from these printed sources, then move on to reliable websites and, perhaps, periodicals.

Phase 5 of the timeline will involve me adding data from yet another book. This time, though, I’m going a more modern route that will bring the timeline up into the ’90s. That book is Jack Sargeant’s wonderful history of the Cinema of Transgression movement, Deathtripping: The Extreme Underground.

Sargeant does include some background info to the ’80s transgression movement, so he does write about some ’60s and ’70s films. However, the timeline will most likely jump from 1970 to ’78 or ’79 as the Seventies are an overlooked, mostly “lost” period of underground film history. Luckily, though, a few years ago I produced an Underground Yearbook series based on the ’70s that fills in the gaps even though for that project I stuck just to online sources.

No comprehensive history of underground film from the early 1900s to the present exists as of yet, but hopefully the Timeline project is working towards creating one.

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