The Ybor experiment

Expect the unexpected at the Ybor Festival of the Moving Image

Film festival season in the Bay area is nearing its end, but not before one final, resounding bang. Tampa's most unabashedly unusual cine-spectacle, The Ybor Festival of the Moving Image, makes its fifth annual appearance this week with a full slate of boundary-smashing films that challenge our notions of what a film should be. From April 19-22, YFMI will regale us not only with a impressive range of edgy filmic fare, but with all manner of live performances and installations incorporating digital projections, painting, music, dance, sculpture and possibly even a kitchen sink or two (see Megan Voeller's preview on the next page). The only rule here, as always, is to expect the unexpected.

Festival founder David Audet, who personally programmed the lion's share of this year's schedule, sees the festival moving into even more interesting territory. "We're entering into our fifth year, and I want to keep my feet in the traditional film part," explains Audet, "but we're also really trying to attract more of the experimental and the outdoor performance kind of things." And with this year's festival moving from the comfy but staid surroundings of Muvico Ybor to the funkier, more flexible digs of Ybor's Cuban Club and environs, anything's possible.

Things kick off with some elaborately choreographed chaos on Thursday, April 19, with nearly a dozen activities and events occurring within spitting distance of one another. Beginning at 6 p.m., festivalgoers can stroll or slam-gaze their way from Ferdie Pacheco's painting exhibit at El Pasaje's Architectural Design offices, to Shahreyar Ataie's digital projections at the El Pasaje arcade, to Tyler Jopek's and Diran Lyons' installation at the Hillsborough Community College patio. From there, proceed directly to the Cuban Club, where a lavish reception will accompany the 7 p.m. premiere of Victoria Jorgensen's A Moving Feast — an enlightening documentary on the roots of underground cinema in Tampa Bay. It's a perfect way to jumpstart this year's fest.

As you're exiting Jorgensen's film, don't forget to check out the on-site installations in the Cuban Club lobby by Tracy Midulla Reller and everybody's favorite iconoclasts, Experimental Skeleton. This should leave you just enough time to make it back to the El Pasaje arcade for the 8 p.m. premiere of visiting performance artist Pat Oleszko's "Puff Patty and the Six Cigars."

Oleszko's presentation is followed by a "soundscape" project by composer Paul Reller; a dance performance accompanying student films projected on a giant outdoor screen on the HCC patio and live jazz by Denise Moore at the El Pasaje Courtyard. The icing on the cake is that all of this stuff (with the exception of the Moving Feast reception) is absolutely free.

The festival moves into a slightly more traditional film mode for the remainder of the weekend, although the word "traditional" should be taken with many grains of salt. There's far too much happening to go into detail on everything in the line-up — and, frankly, a day-by-day rundown would probably be pointless. YFMI's schedules are notoriously fluid, so we strongly urge you to frequently check the festival's website (yborfilmfestival.com) for last-minute changes. Then just go with the flow.

With that caveat in mind, here are some of the more notable films slated to appear at this year's festival (all screenings, unless otherwise noted, take place at the Cuban Club). Friday's screenings begin with Human Error (7:30 p.m.), an ambitious but weirdly mannered head trip in which various functionaries jockey for position in a dingy and pointless retro-future that evokes Brazil by way of Delicatessen. Full of curt, enigmatic dialogue and vaguely ominous mind games, this is one of those films designed to raise lots of questions — some of which might even by answered by director Robert M. Young when he shows up to introduce the screening.

Other Friday highlights include Cheech (9 p.m.) and F**k: The Documentary (11 p.m.) The former is a stylish bit of deadpan oddness about lost women, role-playing and a French Canadian pimp who listens to meditation tapes while engaging in all manner of frenzied violence. The later is a smart, funny post-Aristocrats dissection of the mysteries of naughty language — and one supremely versatile word in particular — that clearly and cleverly demonstrates how true power lies in the ability to offend.

Film-wise, the festival's two best bets for Saturday are Radiant City (7 p.m.) and The Solution (midnight, Silver Meteor Gallery) — although I've also heard good things about a film unavailable for preview, Manufactured Landscapes (3 p.m.), a documentary about beautiful art being made from civilization's debris.

The dichotomy between a society's splendor and its trash is also at the heart of Radiant City, a fascinating examination of the soul-crushing paradoxes of suburbia. Blurring the lines between documentary and narrative fiction, this is exactly the sort of film that suits YFMI best — as artistically playful as it is fiercely political.

The Solution also blurs the lines between art and reality, but to much different effect. Shot in handheld, grainy black-and-white, this painfully intimate look at a troubled couple also treads uneasily between vérité and full-blown voyeuristic, dwelling on its characters' pain in a series of almost unbearably intense close-ups. Following a middle-aged Irishman, his miserable wife and their disabled son, The Solution is unrelentingly grim and grimmer, but if you can deal with darkness, there are some serious rewards here.

Saturday's schedule also includes an all-day series of short films being screened at the Silver Meteor Gallery beginning at noon and a panel discussion on all things media-ish (1 p.m., Cuban Club) with Pat Oleszko and local filmmakers Stan Kozma and Paul Guzzo. Later that evening, Oleszko will also unveil her latest performance, Innuendo and Out the Other (9:30 p.m., Cuban Club lobby), which reportedly features some amazing underwater puppetry imagery shot in the Gulf of Mexico.

More shorts follow on Sunday, with the Marti-Maceo Social Club hosting an 11:30 a.m. screening of mostly Spanish films (including Bunuel's Un Chien Andalou) and, at 2:30 p.m., a pair of documentaries on Afro-Cuban history by Gloria Rolando. Down the street at the Cuban Club, there's also a 2:30 screening of Paul and Peter Guzzo's The Ghosts of Ybor: The End is Blossoming, a short about mob warfare in 1940s Ybor.

The meatiest feature on Sunday's slate, however, is The Journals of Knud Rasmussen (1 p.m., HCC Ybor Room), the much-anticipated new film from the makers of 2001's Atanarjuit: The Fast Runner. Although Knud Rasmussen doesn't quite muster the masterful narrative momentum of Fast Runner, the film exhibits an almost primal power as it offers a uniquely authentic glimpse of Inuit culture, history and myth.

The festival ends with what is perhaps its defining event, a program that encapsulates what YFMI, at its best, is all about. The late Will Hindle was one of the world's great avant-garde filmmakers — not as well-known as Stan Brakhage or Kenneth Anger, just to name a few, but every bit as innovative and accomplished. Hindle also has a Tampa connection, having taught in the late '70s at USF, where he became both challenge and inspiration to then student David Audet and fellow USF professor Charles Lyman.

On Sunday, Lyman will introduce a 4 p.m. screening of two of Hindle's most groundbreaking works — 1969's Watersmith, acclaimed as "beautiful" and an "ode to physical grace" by the New York Times' Vincent Canby, and 1977's Pasteur 3, an experimental meditation on the filmmaker's move to Florida. "Will was not a comfortable man," remembers Lyman, "but he had the courage to express his pleasures and terrors in powerful, time-based imagery of his own invention."

Hindle's defiantly abstract filmmaking will not be for every taste, but that's exactly why it's being showcased at the Ybor Festival of the Moving Image. "The festival is getting closer to where I want it to be," explains Audet. "Filmmaking is always re-inventing itself, and a lot of stuff we're doing reflects that. A lot of this work is really dark, and it's not pulling any punches, and this festival is trying to lay it out there for you. There's some funny stuff, but mostly, let's just say it's for mature audiences."

There's lots more than movies at this film fest.

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