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2008 Revelation Film Festival: Jack Sargeant Is New Program Director

By Mike Everleth ⋅ June 19, 2008

Jack Sargeant, author of Deathtripping — the definitive book on the Cinema of Transgression (Underground Film Journal review here) — as well as a ton of other film books, is the new Program Director for the 11th annual Revelation Perth International Film Festival, which will be held this July 3-13.

While this isn’t breaking news, I — in my typical manner — only heard about it recently and then Jack contacted me about a few of the underground film goodies he’s programmed. This is the first time I’m writing about Revelation on the Underground Film Journal, but man this sounds like a great year.

First of all, Jack has programmed a Jeff Krulik retrospective — including the King of Porn movies, Obsessed With Jews, Mr. Blassie Goes to Washington and many more — which automatically means this festival has warmed my heart. But, if that weren’t excellent enough, Revelation is also screening Craig Baldwin‘s new Mock Up on Mu, Angelique Bosio’s Cinema of Transgression documentary Llik Your Idols, Karen GehresBegging Naked, the documentary on William Castle Spine Tingler!, a new documentary on William S. Burroughs called Words of Advice, the Germs biopic What We Do Is Secret and Ivan Kavanagh’s award-winning Tin Can Man. Plus, there will be a night of underground pioneer Harry Smith‘s early films screened with a live performance by experimental musician Lawrence English.

That’s only a small sampling of the films screening, most of which have played at other underground film festivals listed on the Underground Film Journal. It’s also interesting that Revelation is doing the Smith retrospective, whose name has been popping up on my radar more than usual recently, so I wonder if there’s going to be a full-scale Smith resurgence on the horizon?

I’m also planning to do a customary full Revelation official lineup post in the coming days with screening dates and times and all that jazz, so be on the lookout because there are a ton of other great films playing.

Finally, below is a mini email interview I did with Jack about his new gig. With all the big changes in the underground festival world this year, I wanted to get his thoughts on the state of things:

Underground Film Journal: How did you land this gig? Had you been wanting to do a festival for awhile?

Jack Sargeant: Richard Sowada — who started the whole thing — played a role in getting me to Brisbane Film Festival in 2000 to do a series of screenings of beat related films. Last year I worked with him putting on a season of punk films in ACMI in Melbourne. The match worked, and when the opportunity arose to curate Rev I jumped at it.

I’ve done smaller screenings at festivals over the years, I’ve curated retrospectives in Brisbane on two occasions firstly on beat film, secondly on road movies. I’ve also programmed one or two screenings at Chicago Underground, New York Underground and Melbourne Underground Film Festivals, and seasons at the Institute of Contemporary Art, London, and at the Horse Hospital, London. The difference with Rev is that there’s substantially more to programme, ostensibly the entire festival, and it’s not based around a book or lecture or whatever, it’s me searching out what I think matters ‘now’.

UFJ: Do you consider this an “underground” film festival specifically. Does that even mean anything anymore?

JS: Underground always means something. Underground film started at the beginning of cinema, and will go as long as there are people outside the mainstream trying to find a voice or articulate themselves or experiment with the medium or in some other way operate outside of the conservative mainstream. As to whether the stuff I am screening at Revelation can be said to be underground, on one level it’s not possible to say, because obviously any list is prescriptive and that is problematic, but given that, I think with films like Craig Baldwin‘s Mock Up on Mu, or LLik Your Idols by Angelique Bosio, or Tin Can Man by Ivan Kavanaugh, there’s an underground mentality. But then pretty much everything we’re screening is independently produced cinema, it’s not like we’re screening anything that’ll be on a multiplex screen or something.

Revelation’s stance has always been to support the exciting, exotic, independent and visionary, and such support by its very nature should include the underground, but then some movies that aren’t a product of the underground should nevertheless be screened if they fall into those categories, so, for example, we’re screening Redacted, which is a Brian De Palma movie, so it’s not underground, but at the same time, its a film that should get out there and be seen, so it fits.

I also think that on a personal level you want to play with people’s expectations, so people may come along expecting a certain kind of film and that should also be challenged, so we’re screening a kid’s film on the opening night. Admittedly it owes more to say Poltergeist than Disney, but you know, it’s not the obvious choice, which is why I went for it.

UFJ: Is this a one-off thing for you? Or are you planning to do this next year? Or is it up in the air?

JS: As far as I am aware I will be doing it next year, yes. I’ve certainly enjoyed putting the whole programme together and I relish the opportunity to do it again.