Tribeca Film Festival Experimental Film Selections Receive Theatrical Distribution

In his capacity as Experimental-Film Programmer for the Tribeca Film Festival,

Jon Gartenberg selected two films for TFF 2011 that, we are proud to announce,

have received U.S. distribution and are currently playing around the country - 

Bill Morrison's THE MINERS' HYMN from Icarus Films &

Marie Losier's THE BALLAD OF GENESIS AND LADY JAYE from Adopt Films. 


Bill Morrison's THE MINERS' HYMNS (2011)

The ill-fated coal mining communities in North East England are the subject of this inspired documentary by multi-media artist Bill Morrison. Their story is told entirely without words, yet the film is far from silent: it features a remarkable original score by the Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson.

Using rarely-seen footage from the British Film Institute, the BBC, and other archives, THE MINERS' HYMNS celebrates social, cultural, and political aspects of the extinct industry. Focusing on the Durham coalfield located in northeastern England, it depicts the hardship of pit work, the role of Trade Unions in organizing and fighting for workers' rights, the years of increased mechanization and the annual Miners' Gala in Durham.

• In U.S. Distribution through ICARUS FILMS.

• Theatrical Run begins on February 8th, 2012 at New York's FILM FORUM.



An intimate, affecting portrait of the life and work of ground-breaking performance artist and music pioneer Genesis Breyer P-Orridge (Throbbing Gristle, Psychic TV) and his other half and collaborator, Lady Jaye, centered around the daring sexual transformations the pair underwent for their “Pandrogyne” project.

• In U.S. Distribution through ADOPT FILMS.

• Theatrical Run begins on March 8th, 2012 in NYC at the CHELSEA CINEMAS.


Tribeca Film Festival Experimental-Film-Programmer Jon Gartenberg Presents 4 New Programs at TFF 2012


Jon Gartenberg, Experimental Film Programmer for the Tribeca Film Festival (TFF), presented four new programs at TFF 2012, attracting high-profile filmmakers from Hollywood and the avant-garde alike.

Avant-Garde Masters: A Decade of Film Preservation


Consuming Spirits


Francophenia (or: Don't Kill Me, I Know Where the Baby Is)


Shorts: Journeys Across Cultural Landscapes


For his introduction to the Avant-Garde Masters program,

Jon Gartenberg read a special note from Martin Scorsese:

Throughout film history, artists have used film to expand the boundaries of cinema to create deeply personal works that evoke the full range of human experience and emotion. Unbound by narrative conventions, the Avant-Garde has inspired audiences and influenced mainstream filmmakers. For the past 10 years, the National Film Preservation Foundation and The Film Foundation have preserved more than 100 films through the Avant-Garde Masters Grants.  There's no other program of its kind, and I'm thrilled that the Tribeca Film Festival is recognizing the program and highlighting the work of such artists as George Kuchar, Carolee Schneeman, Larry Gottheim, Abigail Child, and Kenneth Anger that have been preserved and—equally important—made available so audiences can actually see these extraordinary works. - Martin Scorcese

IMG_5224-Experimental panel-small -USE-fina

Photo Credit:

(l-r) Programmer of Experimental Films Jon Gartenberg, Artist Abigail Child, Filmmaker Larry Gottheim, Artist Carolee Schneemann and Assistant Director of the National Film Preservation Foundation Jeff Lambert speak at Tribeca Talks After The Movie: AVANT-GARDE MASTERS: A DECADE OF FILM PRESERVATION at the School of Visual Arts on April 21.

For the opening night of FRANCOPHRENIA, Jon Gartenberg conducted a Q&A with filmmaker Ian Olds, co-filmmaker and actor James Franco, and Paul Felton, the film's co-writer. Gartenberg pursued a line of questioning with James Franco about his interest in an array of experimental filmmakers (including Kurt Kren), and about Franco's commitment to experimenting with film form in his own work.


Photo Credit: Christine @

(l-r) Programmer of Experimental Films Jon Gartenberg leads filmmaker Ian Olds, filmmaker & actor James Franco and writer Paul Felton in an on-stage Q&A following FRANCOPHENIA at the School of Visual Arts on April 22.  Below, Ian Olds & James Franco.


Photo Credit: Christine @


    FRED Radio's Natasha Senjanovic talks with

    Jon Gartenberg about programming TFF 2012 

    and other projects on which he works.  

    The podcast is available here

Jon Gartenberg and Tribeca Film Festival profiled in Millennium Film Journal Issue No. 54 - Fall 2011


MFJ  No. 54  Fall 2011


Jon Gartenberg has been the programmer for experimental works at the Tribeca Film Festival since 2003 and has maintained an unwavering commitment to the presentation of non-narrative, artist-driven films. Jon, a dedicated film specialist and professional archivist and distributor, exudes a breadth of knowledge and love of the medium, and his enthusiasm is infectious. In a recent conversation, Jon and I discussed his tenure with Tribeca and the philosophy behind his selections.

In the past few years, experimental work seemed to be getting scarcer at the festival, and I wondered if there was a decline in support. On the contrary, he said. The interest is still there, but the overall number of programs in the festival was cut in half, and this affected the experimental film programs proportionately. In fact, the key people at Tribeca give him tremendous latitude and freedom. His only disagreement with them came with his wanting to program films that are under the conventional feature length minimum of 85 minutes in their own individual time-slots. "The filmmaker makes what the filmmaker makes," emphasized Jon, "without trying to force fit into a conventional time slot," and in his view such films should be treated with the same care and attention as the longer features. Obviously persuasive, he has been programming films like Bill Morrison's 52-minute The Miners' Hymns (2011), screened at this year's festival, on their own, rather than including them in a group program.

This year Gartenberg presented four programs: in addition to The Miners' Hymns, he included Marie Losier's 75-minute The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye (2011); a program of recent experiment shorts under the title Impressions of Memory; and a selection of women's films preserved by the New York Women's Preservation Fund over the past 15 years.

The two longer films fall on opposite ends of the experimental spectrum, and both involved a significant amount of creative time and research, an earmark of many of the films selected this year. Before starting production on The Miners' Hymns, Morrison spent a year researching rhe history of the coal mining region and collier communities of County Durham in North England, visiting regional film archives and interviewing union organizers. The film opens with a 4.5-minute sequence of aerial shots, in gorgeous HD color, of innocuously suburban and rustic England: sports arenas, empty fields, and shopping centers, all identified in onscreen text as the location of former coalmine sites. This section is the only part of the film for which Morrison actually produced the images: the remainder is all archival footage. Following this sequence, we are confronted with a beautifully crisp, black and white ode to the British Miners' Union, the workers and their families and their close-knit communities. We see a celebration of coalminers' lives and culture, and the yearly Durham Miners' Gala, an event that often included thousands of Unionists and their families and took place from the early 19th century until the mid-1980s. Slow motion footage of past galas with smiling and cheering people carrying banners, brass bands playing (each colliery had its own banner and brass band), and political rallies, intercut with the daily activities of the coal miners as they descend into the mines. Morrison manipulates the footage, slowing down each movement to match the tempo of the plaintive music. This technique allows us to examine each face in detail and reinforces our awareness of the repetitive labors of the men who work in the mines. The scenes inside the mine are striking - pristine and sharp - as men lift their lanterns and gradually move downwards, from bright light into darkness. Coal pours from one large container into another. Little seems to change as the decades pass by on the screen. We also see footage of the mining strikes, which tore the area apart as scabs were brought in past the angry picket lines.

While the archival footage is drawn from a broad range of sources, much of it comes from the BBC, the British National Archives and the National Coal Board film unit material. These government-sponsored organizations naturally celebrated the mining industry and its workers, since from the beginning of the industrial revolution, the economic might of England depended on products of their labor. Though, while, mining may appear to be fulfilling work, the film does not allow us to forget its difficulties and the tremendous cost to the miners' bodies. Adding further gravitas to the film is the somber score by Morrison's collaborator Icelandic composer Johann Johansson, which makes use of brass instruments (a tradition with colliers) pipe organ, and electronic sounds. The soundtrack, commissioned before the film and produced prior to the creation of the archival collage, reinforces the combined themes of joyful celebration and acute loss.

This interesting combination of themes is also present in Jon Gartenberg's second feature-length selection: Marie Losier's The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye. Best known for her series of films starring avantgarde filmmakers, including George and Mike Kuchar; Guy Maddin; Richard Foreman and Tony Conrad, this is the latest and longest of her insightful portraits of creative personalities. Losier documents the romance between Genesis P-orridge, underground performance artist and frontman for the groups Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV, and his female companion Lady Jaye Breyer, conceptual artist and dominatrix. Very much in love, they lived and worked together, and eventually undertook a series of reconstructive surgeries to transform themselves physically to resemble each other as much as possible. This was one aspect of what they called their 'Pandrogyne Project', the goal being to become two parts of a single person.

Losier documented this transition over a sevenyear period. Shooting with a 16mm spring-wound Bolex in 28 second takes and three-minute (100 foot) segments, mixed in with some HD video and super 8 film, she generated about 150 hours of material. She put the pieces together in a style akin to a William Burroughs' cut-up and added a collage of fifteen layers of sound. The style is as unconventional as the characters - extreme, kinetic, shocking, wildly colorful, yet personal, giving the viewer a visceral experience of the couple and, as Losier calls it, "the energy of love" that surrounded them. Their magnificent affection for each other manifests in their decision to become one person. "Instead of having children, which is, in a way, two people combined to become a new person: what if we made of ourselves a new person instead?" says Genesis in the film. And they proceed to do this. Although we can almost accept Genesis' justification for breast implants and lip augmentation, the film is often hard to watch, particularly as a surgeon prepares Lady Jaye s beautiful smooth-skinned face for cosmetic surgery, drawing bold black lines to indicate incisions. Towards the end of the film, Lady Jaye's premature death comes as a heartbreaking surprise to us, as well as to her lover. Like The Miners' Hymns, the dramatic contrast between the celebration of life and the profundity of loss defines the poignancy of the film.

Each year Jon casts a wide net in order to find a mixture of artists and styles for his program of experimental shorts, wanting to offer the richest experience to the Tribeca audience. He sees thousands of films: experimental work is funneled to him when submitted to the festival, and some films get sent to him direcdy. He goes to the Rotterdam Film Festival to bring a wider variety of works that may not get submitted, like Cyrus Frisch's Dazzle (described in my review of the TFF in MFJ 52), and are rarely released in the United States.

Though, if diversity is his goal, why does he repeatedly program particular filmmakers like Ken Jacobs and Jay Rosenblatt (both in the shorts program this year), or Bill Morrison and Mark Street? Although he always discovers new filmmakers (e.g. this year Brendon Kingsbury, with his gentle, mysterious One Over Wonderlust [2010], a grainy work about nostalgia, merging the present and the past, in addition to several other films), Jon emphasizes that "watching an artist's development (over time) is an important part of appreciating the work." Evolution is critical to understanding an artist's creative process.

This year's shorts theme was Impressions of Memory, and the selections reflected on the distinct ways in which images evoke memory. The 12 films screened were all either world, U.S. or New York premieres. Some films seemed reminiscent of established filmmakers: the quick-cutting, subtly erotic Strips (2010) by Félix Dufour-Laperrière, for example, brought to mind Bruce Conner's 1966 short Breakaway, while Filmpiece for Bartlett (2010) by Scott Nyerges deliberately quoted the style of the less-remembered Scott Bardett as a tribute to the late San Francisco filmmaker. In the words of Bartlett: "There is a pattern in MY film work that could be the pattern of a hundred-thousand movies. It simply is: Repeat and purify; repeat and synthesize; abstract, abstract, abstract." And Nyerges did just that with live footage, hand-painted filmstrips and paper. A fitting ending for the program was Johan Kramer's Bye Bye Super 8 (2010), a personal send-off and homage to Kodachrome, the recently extinct film stock celebrated for its colors. Ironically, the colors of the work screened looked splendid in the HD presentation format. The program selections resonated with each other, and the idea of memory gave the viewer an entry into works that may not have been otherwise accessible. As usual, Jon led the Q & A with insightful questions and statements about the artists' works, both drawing out the filmmakers and encouraging the audience members to speak up as well.

In addition to the Impressions of Memory program, Jon collaborated with New York Women in Film & Television (NYWIFT) to present 11 rarely seen and under-appreciated short experimental films by women, all preserved by the Women's Film Preservation Fund (WFPF) between 1950-1984. He introduced the evening along with New York Women in Film and Television's Executive Director, Terry Lawler. WFPF is the only program in the world that works to preserve the cultural legacy of women in the industry. Avant-garde women filmmakers have too often been overlooked in favor of the 'old boys club', and seeing works by Mary Ellen Bute, Storm de Hirsch, Faidi Hubley, and Marie Menken, as well as Liane Brandon, Lisa Crafts, Barbara Hammer, Jane Aaron, Bette Gordon, Anita Thacher and Caroline Ahlfors Mouris in a cohesive, varied, sexy and abstract program was a rare pleasure.

As the co-chair of WFPF, I had a vested interest, but seeing these films on a large screen was a great treat for everyone. The audience was captivated in spite of projection problems that caused some delays. A discussion followed the screening with panelists including directors Liane Brandon, Lisa Crafts, Barbara Hammer, Jane Aaron, Bette Gordon, as well as animator Emily Hubley, and Bute's films curator/ collector, grand dame of avant-garde cinema, Cecile Starr. It was moderated by the knowledgeable and charming Drake Stutesman, chair of The Women's Film Preservation Fund and editor of Framework: The Journal of Cinema and Media.

Jon Gartenberg is committed to the idea that it is "important to keep the experimental ethos within the larger context of the festival." In keeping with this, he takes on the daunting task of introducing to a wider movie-going audience works produced by creative artists for a variety of reasons - but rarely for fame and never for fortune. The experimental films are shown in the same venues, in adjacent theatres, and treated with the same respect as the larger more commercial feature films. They are screened several times during the festival, with press screenings in the weeks before and announced with the same public relations barrage, even including red carpet introductions. And the films are listed with their descriptions in alphabetical order in the Tribeca catalog, along with all of the other programmed works, for a general audience to select from. This contrasts with other major festivals, such as the London and the New York Film Festivals, which run a ghettoizing "avant-garde weekend" during which each film is shown only once. As such, the exposure is amazing - articles and reviews in the New York Times, Time Out and the Wall Street Journal pique curiosity and engage viewers who might never have seen a non-narrative film before. This kind of recognition is probably the most unusual aspect of the Tribeca Film Festival, and the most rewarding for the filmmakers. Perhaps Jon is creating another "standard" in the industry. I certainly hope so.


Jon Gartenberg, New York Women in Film & Television (NYWIFT) & Tribeca Film Festival (TFF) on YouTube



                                                                                                                                          Tribeca Film Festival Programmer Jon Gartenberg partners with the Women's Film Preservation Fund of New York Women in Film & Television. Dating from 1950 to 1984, these 11 short films contain experimental narratives, personal documentaries, and abstract animation from the likes of Mary Ellen Bute, Storm de Hirsch, Faith Hubley, and Marie Menken, as well as contemporary voices of living female artists. Asserting the contributions of women filmmakers in the canon of the American experimental avant-garde, this program also celebrates 15 years of direct financial support for preservation of historically under-recognized films by women through the Women's Film Preservation Fund of New York Women in Film & Television.

Featured in the program: Pastorale (1950, dir. Mary Ellen Bute), Divination (1964, dir. Storm de Hirsch), Windy Day (1967, dir. Faith Hubley), Zenscapes (1969, dir. Marie Menken), Anything You Want to Be (1971, dir. Liane Brandon), Homage to Magritte (1974, dir. Anita Thacher), Michigan Avenue (1973, dir. Bette Gordon), Coney (1975, dir. Caroline Ahlfors Mouris, Frank Mouris), Desire Pie (1976, dir. Lisa Crafts), Remains to be Seen (1983, dir. Jane Aaron), and Bent Time (1984, dir. Barbara Hammer). Special thanks to Academy Film Archive, Anthology Film Archives, Emily Hubley, The Museum of Modern Art Department of Film, Cecile Starr, and the individual filmmakers for their participation. 

Tribeca Talks: Join us for a conversation with an eclectic group of women filmmakers who helped shape avant-garde cinema. Panelists to include: directors Liane Brandon, Lisa Crafts, Barbara Hammer, Jane Aaron, Bette Gordon, as well as Bute films curator/collector Cecile Starr, animator Emily Hubley, and Tribeca's experimental film programmer Jon Gartenberg. Moderated by Drake Stutesman, Co-Chair of The Women's Film Preservation Fund and editor of Framework: The Journal of Cinema and Media.

Learn more about the directors in ths program
Read more about the films and filmmakers in this program: 
Jane Aaron
Liane Brandon 
Mary Ellen Bute 
Lisa Crafts 
Bette Gordon
Barbara Hammer 
Emily Hubley
Anita Thacher

The Wall Street Journal Spotlights Jon Gartenberg's Tribeca Film Festival (TFF) Programming


NY CULTURE  |  MARCH 12, 2011

Tale of Two Festivals: Tribeca vs. SXSW

By STEVE DOLLAR  [Excerpt]

Austin, Texas

Tribeca devotes half its roster to works by less-known filmmakers, with a wide spectrum of international titles that haven't been a significant part of SXSW's mission. But it also boasts high-wattage star power, with a healthy portion of its schedule devoted to marquee names and genre entertainments. "They really filled a void in New York," said Bill Morrison, a New York avant-garde filmmaker who will premiere "The Miners' Hymns," his first feature-length film at Tribeca, after four previous visits with short efforts. "They had a lot of corporate sponsorship and were able to make it a destination festival in a hurry."

Underneath the gloss, the festival has long championed experimental work like Mr. Morrison's, through one of its programmers, Jon Gartenberg. "If you can find someone like that in any festival, it's a great boon to bringing in different types of work," says Mr. Morrison.

Mr. Morrison, an East Village resident whose investigations into the nature of cinema have shown world-wide, also is happy to avoid JFK airport. When his movie premieres next month, "I can just ride my bike."                                                                                                                                     

The Miners' Hymn

Bill Morrison's THE MINERS' HYMNS (2011)  -  Miners’ Gala Day, Durham, 1963 

 Read the entire WSJ article by following this link:

NY Press Praises TFF Experimental Programs

"One of the most incredible movies at Tribeca is, at 49 minutes in length, probably the least commercial: Dustin Thompson’s avant-garde documentary Travelogues, one of curator Jon Gartenberg’s invaluable annual outside-the-bell-curve contributions to the festival’s slate. Thompson films a diary of sorts, with accompanying text, comprised of tableaux from his journeys, mainly in Germany, Italy, France, and California. He is a democratic tourist: a lover, an Italian cathedral, and surfers in a Munich river carry equal narrative weight. The mini-narratives, however, are distinguished by differing angles and speeds; form sets them apart. This is fantastic stuff, a festival film that makes you feel that life is worth living, and Tribeca worth attending."

Howard Feinstein, Filmmaker Magazine


Full article:


"Visionaries, one of the 85 features to be screened at this year's Tribeca Film Festival, covers the origins of the city's avant-garde film movement...

Now in its ninth year, the Tribeca Film Festival continues to jointly celebrate both narrative and experimental filmmaking traditions. Every category of the festival includes a number of experimental films in its line-up.

'Often these films are shown in venues where people are often familiar or accustomed to experimental film. One thing we do at Tribeca, which is very unique and in contrast distinction to other festivals, is all the experimental programming that I select is incorporated in the festival sections,' says Tribeca experimental programmer Jon Gartenberg. 'It's not segregated.' "

Donna Karger,


Full article & video:


Experimental Film Programs at Tribeca Film Festival, April 21 – May 2, 2010


Experimental Film Programs at Tribeca Film Festival, April 21 – May 2, 2010

Jon Gartenberg has programmed experimental and avant-garde films for the Tribeca Film Festival since 2003.   This year’s selections include three programs offering a range of movies spanning 3 continents & 6 countries.

Check for screening times, venues and tickets.

Program 1:

VISIONARIES(2010, Chuck Workman), 88 min.  World Premiere.

In Precious Images, his 1986 Academy Award®-winning short, director Chuck Workman assembled a breathtaking eight-minute collage of singular images from classic Hollywood movies. In Visionaries, Workman brings alive, in counterpoint to the commercial film industry, the vibrant history of the American avant-garde cinema. In engaging interviews with renowned underground filmmakers and critics including Ken Jacobs, Robert Downey, Su Friedrich, P. Adams Sitney, and Amy Taubin, Workman reveals how this artistic movement highlights subjective vision, sensory experience, and dreams over plot and storyline. The director skillfully intersperses these intimate conversations with a stylistically diverse array of extracts from experimental films of all stripes. Dating from the 1920s to the present, avant-garde films by such pioneering artists as Man Ray, Maya Deren, Stan Brakhage, Andy Warhol, and Sadie Benning vividly illustrate for the general audience a qualitatively different kind of moviegoing experience distinct from that promulgated by the commercial cinema. Workman's documentary pays special tribute to filmmaker, curator, and critic Jonas Mekas and Anthology Film Archives, the organization that he founded. It is the premier American institution dedicated to the preservation and promotion of avant-garde film culture, assuring a long-term home for this alternative cinema right alongside the Hollywood classics.

--Jon Gartenberg

Program 2:


YANQUI WALKER & THE OPTICAL REVOLUTION(2009, Kathryn Ramey), 33 min.  New York Premiere.

THE TRAVELOGUES(2009, Dustin Thompson), 49 min.  World Premiere.

Co-Presented with Black Maria Film + Video Festival.

The travel diary genre provides the format for experimental filmmakers Dustin Thompson (TheTravelogues) and Kathryn Ramey (Yanqui Walker and the Optical Revolution) to explore, in richly textured and multilayered pictorial and audio fashion, journeys of adventure and conquest. Ramey portrays American expansionist William Walker's ascent to the presidency of Nicaragua in 1856. This film is densely structured. Threading together educational film clips, expressive animation, location photography, on-screen text, voiceover narration, and an array of experimental filmmaking techniques, the filmmaker raises compelling questions about visual perception and the construction of history.

In The Travelogues, Dustin Thompson creates a more personal story. He travels with his film camera across two continents and compiles a series of mini-narratives, suggestive of loves gained and lost. He generates lyrical images, shot at oblique angles and developed with shifting camera speeds; in each scene, the heightened film grain tends to move the depiction of the natural universe toward abstraction. From the prologue through to the epilogue of his journey, this artist travels a fine line between real and imagined worlds.

--Jon Gartenberg

Program 3:


The 10 experimental films in this program portray locales found in both natural and urban landscapes across three continents. A few of these artist-filmmakers literally embed the earth (soil and mud) into the fabric of the celluloid. Moreover, they portray these environments with a riveting array of avant-garde techniques that range from mirror images to extended tracking shots leading directly into the mind's eye. They further infuse these found footage, animation, and live action experimental films with dynamic editing rhythms that radically reshape the viewer's perception of reality, leading to Rorschach-like impressions. In experimental cinema, everything culminates in abstract patterns ingrained in the landscape of the film frame.

--Jon Gartenberg

   Films include:

Grandmother’s Eye (2010, Sweden, Jonathan Lewald), 5 min.  North American Premiere.

Release (2010, US, Bill Morrison), 12 min.  World Premiere.

Walkway (2009, US, Ken Jacobs), 9 min.  North American Premiere.

Lachen Verlernt(2009, Great Britain, Tal Rosner), 10 min.  World Premiere.

This disk is the same as the other one(2009, France, Jean-Jacques Palix), 9 min.                        North American Premiere.

Collision of Parts (2010, US, Mark Street), 15 min.  World Premiere.

Berlin (2010, Canada, Martin Laporte), 8 min.  World Premiere.

The Delicate Art of the Bludgeon (2009, France, Jean-Gabriel Periot), 4 min.                                North American Premiere.

Black White Black White(2009, US, John Thompson), 15 min.World Premiere.

TheVisible and Invisible of a Body Under Tension(2009,France, Emmanuel Lefrant), 7 min.        North American Premiere.