artinCINEMA: avant-garde films of the Eastern Block

I launched artinCINEMA about four years ago. In the beginning it was just a simple blog where I would share a few short texts of mine about avant-garde films made in the region once called the Eastern Block. As interest grew and the project received more and more positive feedback from all around the world, in 2015 I decided to expand and turn the blog into a database. So far I have been concentrating on five countries: Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, and Romania. At this point the database consists of around 550 films from over one hundred artists. Films that are available online are embedded on the website, others are represented by galleries of film stills. I have written 35 essays, most of them focusing on individual films, while others aim to give an overview of the contemporary avant-garde film scene of a country. artinCINEMA has events and news section and a category I labelled extra, in which I share documentaries, lectures, and recorded performances connected to Eastern European non-narrative films that are available online. The info section contains lists of references (books, articles, dissertations), festivals, venues, and useful links.

Even though I add new info to the database every day, it is a rather slow process not only because the size of the region I am aiming to cover but because from the very beginning artinCINEMA has been operating as a completely independent project without any funds. As I always say it is a two-men show, starring friend and English-proofreader Johannes Wachs and me. I even built the website myself and designed the logo with the help of my brother.

As a next step in my quest to develop a regional collaboration of non-narrative film scenes, together with Hungarian, Slovak, Czech and Polish film theorists and filmmakers I started to work on a project to establish a research centre based in Budapest focusing on the representation and academic research of Eastern European avant-garde cinema. However in 2016 during the first edition of Kinoflow Experimental Film Festival in Budapest I had to face the fact that we need to rethink our strategy. Even though the festival was considered successful, the majority of the audience consisted of people of a very specific social and age group: university students in their early twenties. Also their attendance was mainly the result of the hard work of a handful of talented and charismatic organizers who apparently belong to the same circle. After a few months of surveying different groups about their notion of non-narrative film and their interest in it I came to the conclusion that we have to come up with more diverse methodology to rebuild the general interest in non-narrative cinema in Hungary before the establishment of an academic regional institution based in Budapest.

With the announcement of the Campus Mundi research scholarship for PhD students I saw an opportunity get to know an active and complex infrastructure for avant-garde film. When turning to my international network of filmmakers and theorists for advice, many of them (including Sebastian Wiedemann, Stephen Broomer, Anna Kerekes, Herb Schellenberger etc.) suggested Toronto and the Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Centre as possible host institution. As I was already aware of the blooming Canadian avant-garde film scene and eager to learn its secret, I contacted Aimée Mitchell and presented my proposal. She welcomed my idea with great interest and provided me with a letter of invitation. After a three month long application process I was notified that I was awarded the scholarship…

—–Dorottya Szalay

Dorottya is looking to connect with local filmmakers, programmers, media arts workers and academics to gain insight into the Toronto experimental film ecosystem. If you are interested in sharing resources and/or contributing to this oral history for her research, please contact:

Image Credit: What Time Is Made Of (Diana Vidrascu, 2016)

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