Video art receives a rare spotlight when the American Film Institute holds its seventh annual Video Festival, beginning Thursday. The four-day event will feature more than 130 hours of works from around the world--including 29 art and documentary videos receiving their festival debut.
Among the artists represented are Nam June Paik (the man who virtually invented video art), Jonathan Demme (best known for feature films like "Melvin and Howard"), Charles Atlas (a specialist in dance video), George Kuchar, Eleanor Antin, Mary Lucier and Matthew Geller.
Festival coordinator Kenneth Kirby said this is the first year that artists were invited to submit entries for the new works category. However, only three videos were chosen from approximately 200 entries for the category (though other submissions will be screened during other parts of the festival). Neil Sieling, Video Curator at UCVideo in Minneapolis, chose the rest of the 29 premiering videos through other channels.
Anyone who would like to ask if this represents a dearth of originality among unestablished video artists may get the chance at one of several presentations and panel discussions taking place between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. each day of the festival at the AFI campus near Griffith Park.
Some of those screenings and panels will specifically concentrate on social and political issues, reflecting Kirby's wish to "focus on content more than form or technology"--something of a departure from previous, more art-oriented AFI Video Festivals. This is Kirby's first year as festival coordinator.
"Some of the topics are a little meatier this year," he told The Times.
On Saturday, from 1-3 p.m., a panel will discuss "Only Human: Sex, Gender and Misrepresentations" and screen examples of the TV's handling of such subjects as sexual attitudes and AIDS. Another panel will discuss "Media and the Vietnam War" next Sunday, 10-11:30 a.m.; throughout the festival, 24 hours of TV/video war coverage will be shown. There will also be special sections on Brazilian, West German and Yugoslavian video, plus a "New Image Technologies" presentation.
Kirby predicted that the programs covering the Vietnam War, Brazilian television and human sexuality will arouse interest other than usual festival attendees. The screenings and discussions concerning the media and Vietnam might draw veterans and representatives of peace groups in addition to "the film/video crowd," he said.
Other presentations and discussions include "Output from INPUT," a selection of 27 public television programs from 21 nations; it will be screened each day of the festival. According to Howard Klein, curator of this segment and a co-founder of INPUT, the intent is to "show things rarely seen on American television.
"It's important to present ways of seeing world problems divergent from the American way of seeing them," Klein explained.
The 52-minute "Time Code," a piece co-produced by television stations, artists and independent producers from seven countries, is another example of international cooperation. The production will have its West Coast premiere next Sunday at 3 p.m. at MOCA, in downtown Los Angeles.
The finalists and winning entries in the competition for the Robert M. Bennett Award, a newly created AFI award which honors outstanding achievements in local television programming, will be screened on Thursday. This year's documentary winner is "The Writing on the Wall" (New Jersey Network, Trenton), Sandra King, Producer. Winner in the dramatic category is "Secrets" (WCVB-TV, Boston), Lisa Schmid, Producer.
For further information contact the AFI at (213) 856-7787.