Filmmakers Tessa-Hughes Freeland and Ela Troyano founded the New York Film Festival Downtown in 1984. In the program for the second annual edition in 1985, they laid out the need for such an event: “Most films made in this society fall into two categories: those financed and marketed commercially, and their counterparts in the arts […]
Underground Film History
Jonas Mekas (1922 – 2019) accomplished much in his long life. And that’s not just in the realm of underground film! Mekas practically lived a lifetime under Nazi rule before reluctantly coming to the United States in 1949. At the Underground Film Journal, we love our timelines, so we’ve decided to maintain this list of […]
The November 12, 1958 edition of The Village Voice featured the first installment of the column “Movie Journal” by Jonas Mekas. “Movie Journal” would become what the Underground Film Journal would argue was the most significant organizing tool of avant-garde cinema created by Jonas, even more so than the Film-makers’ Cooperative and the Anthology Film […]
Underground Cinema 12 was a midnight movie screening series of underground films that ran in theaters owned by Louis Sher, who founded “the nation’s largest circuit of art houses” in 1954. While Sher was the head of the Art Theatre Guild, Underground Cinema 12 was run by his nephew Mike Getz. The series began at […]
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.
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.