The Zanzibar Films

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Co-presented by Cinefamily EXP, Veggie Cloud, La Collectionneuse, and Los Angeles Filmforum

In the storied tradition of French cinema, the New Wave may be the most famous break with tradition – but there were also the underseen, so-called Zanzibar films, named for a 1969 voyage to that then-Maoist country, and made in and around the student protests of May ‘68 by a long-haired, Parisian Warhol’s factory-esque cast of painters, models, artists, amateurs, dandies, and film techs – everyone but established filmmakers. The loose constellation of films they produced were unified by a mystical, hippie kind of avant-garde – one that rubbed up against, but didn’t define itself by, the political – instead the group’s greatest interventions were formal: long takes, drug-fueled improvisation, and purely counter-cultural amateurism. The filmmakers weren’t the only ones making a radical intervention in the world of French cinema – their patroness was too. French heiress Sylvina Boissonnas financed twelve of these films, apparently holding court at the Coupole restaurant, ready to sign checks for virtually anyone with an idea – making rather costly 35mm film stock available to a fascinating crowd. Still underseen today, the Zanzibar films, more than anything, are the products of a group that undertook filmmaking without traditional credentials, and without any intention to distribute, release, or capitalize on the work.

Special thanks to Jackie Raynal, Jacob Perlin, and Zanzibar scholar Sally Shafto.


Detruisez-vous + Acéphale

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8/26 - 6PM
$12/free for members

Detruisez-vous (Destroy Yourselves)

The first of the Zanzibar films, Détruisez-vous was also the debut work of Serge Bard, a student of ethnology at the University of Nanterre who had become disenchanted with the university system and abandoned his studies. Like Godard’s La Chinoise, which featured Anne Wiazemsky (herself a student at Nanterre at the time), the film is set in Nanterre where, just weeks before the student uprising in May 1968, Bard returned to shoot. Prefiguring the mounting militancy, Bard casts Alain Jouffroy as a professor and has him lecture in a nearly empty classroom on the necessity of revolution. —Sally Shafto

Dir. Serge Bard, 1969, digital presentation, 70 min.

Acephale

With its title taken from Georges Bataille’s journal Acéphale (literally, a headless man, but figuratively expressing the need to go beyond rational ways of thinking), Deval’s film is the most literary of the Zanzibar works. The film opens with an illustrative image: a head in the process of being shaved, in close up. This image is accompanied not by the sound of an electric razor but an electric saw, suggesting the need to achieve a tabula rasa by radical means. The story follows the adventures of a young man and his friends as they wander through a barely recognizable post–May 1968 Paris. In documenting the by-gone expressions and gestures of the ’68 generation in France, Acéphale becomes something of an anthropological film that reveals the rites and beliefs of the ideological novitiates. —Sally Shafto

Dir. Patrick Deval, 1968, digital presentation, 65 min.

Watch the Cinefamily original trailer!

Le révélateur (w/ live score by Mary Lattimore and Jeff Zeigler)

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8/31 - 7:30PM
$18/free for members

Co-presented by La Collectionneuse

For those who favor the hallucinatory and the abstract, start revving your psychedelic engines for a dose of French master Philippe Garrel’s potent, shimmering physicality. Tragically unknown in the U.S. despite a significant global following, Garrel has charted an unlikely course from avant-garde provocateur to festival favorite in a revelatory four-decade career. Tonight, one of his earliest, most incendiary shorts is live-scored by harpist Mary Lattimore and multi-instrumentalist Jeff Zeigler, whose albums for the Thrill Jockey label (Slant of Light and The Withdrawing Room) weave an elaborate web of picturesque synthscapes. Le révélateur — made during Garrel’s youthful Zanzibar period spent on the Paris ‘68 frontlines and named for the revealing of images by film developer — “is a fractured and elliptical, but instinctive, elemental, and haunting rumination on the process of awakening, maturation, psychological trauma, and transformation of childhood memory” (Strictly Film School)

Dir. Philippe Garrel, 1968, digital presentation, 67 min.

Watch the Cinefamily original trailer!

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