Experimental Film Club Makes Thought-Provoking Debut

A film poster for the 1984 German film Decoder.  Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

A film poster for the 1984 German film Decoder. 
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

In William Greaves’ 1968 film Symbiopsychotaxiplasm, a police officer in Central Park asks the filmmaker, “What kinda picture you making?” Greaves replies, “It’s a feature length we-don’t-know.” 

The Experimental Film Club, started this year by Rob Scharlach (’19) and Oya Haznedar (’19), specializes in the “we-don’t-know” film. The group holds film screenings every Wednesday night in Heimbold 210, focusing on the avant-garde and untraditional. 

For the club’s first screening on September 21, they showed Decoder, a 1984 German film by director Mushca that portrays a young man using industrial music to subvert an oppressive government. Decoder is often difficult to follow and does not present the viewer with much cohesion. According to Scharlach, these types of films are pressing against the conventions of filmmaking. 

“I wanted to introduce the club to a more jarring, out-of-the-box film,” Scharlach explained. “Decoder is kind of an amalgamation of images and styles, and is more of a visual experience.” 

Scharlach described the club’s second screening, Symbiopsychotaxiplasm, in contrast to Decoder. “Although it was experimental in nature, it was more of a cohesive film and you can actually understand what the process was in the filmmaking, and that was kind of the point of it,” he said. While Greaves’ film lacks a plot, it is centered around the audition process for a film entitled “Over the Cliff.” Greaves has one film crew recording the auditions, another filming the film crew, and a third filming the filming of the film. 

The Experimental Film Club is built around these screenings, and Scharlach feels that Sarah Lawrence College needed a place for students to be exposed to this type of filmmaking. Although the club has seen a decent turnout of 10-15 students at each screening, Scharlach insists size is not the priority. 

“I’m not really looking for a big turnout,” he admits. “I was really happy to see that a bunch of people came to the first screening and the second screening, but it’s really just a place for those with an interest in experimental film and the avant-garde to be able to see these films and to talk about it.”

While the Experimental Film Club currently is primarily focused on screening these films, Scharlach has higher hopes, saying, “What I would really like to see is it evolve to the point where we can have discussions.”

Another aspect that Scharlach hopes to include in future meetings is student work. Sarah Lawrence’s filmmaking department currently offers over 25 courses, but the only campus-wide platform for film students to show their work is the annual SLC Reelies film festival, which began last year. However, the Experimental Film Club is beginning to accept submissions from any student who has a film they want to show. 

Scharlach confirms, “I want to make it more of an open forum, rather than ‘you’re going in to sit down and watch a movie for an hour and a half.’ It’s definitely more of a community-oriented organization, rather than just me showing films that I like.”

For more information, visit the club’s Gryphonlink page, or its Facebook page at facebook.com/ExperimentalFilmClubSLC. To suggest a film for the next screening, or submit one of your own, email the club at slcEFclub@gmail.com.

Ricky Martorelli '19

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The Phoenix is a non-profit, student-run publication representing the voices and opinions of Sarah Lawrence College community members. Our print edition publishes bi-weekly on Tuesdays, and our online edition is updated multiple times per week. Anyone may attend our open meetings at 9:00 PM on Wednesday nights in the North Room of the Pub.