Relics and Remnants: The Cinema of What’s Left - Thur. Jan. 29 - 8 PM

Oddball Films and guest curator John Schmidt present Relics and Remnants: The Cinema of What’s Left, an evening exploration of ruin, decay, and loss. The program begins with Bay Area filmmaker and journalist Jon Else’s You Don’t Die Here (1972), an impressionistic documentary portrait of a small, eccentric community eking out an existence in the unforgiving light of California’s Death Valley. Across the world, Eugene Boyko records a real-life Wages of Fear in his 1968 short Juggernaut (1969), which follows a group of engineers as they attempt to transport a 70-ton nuclear reactor core across the Indian continent. Glimpses of the traditional life its pilgrimage quite literally displaces, serve as evocative counterpoint: roads were fortified and buildings destroyed to let the titular juggernaut (ever-so-slowly) pass. If in these two films the present impinges itself on—and comes into direct contact with—remnants of the past, in the Academy Award winning Mexican documentary Sentinels of Silence (1971) what remains is mere palimpsest; ghostly traces of cultures long erased. Beautiful aerial photography of Mesoamerican ruins and voiceover musing by Orson Welles leave the viewer to wonder at the accomplishments and precipitous fall of pre-Columbian Mayan civilization. We allow a brief animation interlude for Croatian master Nedeljko Dragic’s free jazz destruction symphony Tup Tup (1973) before concluding the night with a print of (the recently deceased) Alain Resnais’ masterful Night and Fog (1955), never before seen at Oddball. Horrifying and necessary, the film combines archival material with meditative footage shot at Auschwitz and Majdanek ten years after the end of World War II. In the process, Resnais reveals the yawning gap between what’s left and what was, challenging the commonplace assumption that we can ever really understand the magnitude of history and its many traumas.
Date: Thursday, January 29th, 2015 at 8:00PM
Venue: Oddball Films, 275 Capp Street San Francisco
Admission: $10.00 Limited Seating RSVP to or (415) 558-8117


You Don’t Die Here (1972, 19 mins, color)
Jon Else’s open-ended documentary showing Death Valley, Calif., as a cruel and sublime backdrop against which a small group of aging residents reminisce about a past that seems like a distant, half-remembered dream.

Juggernaut: A Film of India (Color, 28 mins, 1969)
Set at the crossroads of tradition and modernity, India is sui generis. Eugene Boyko’s imagistic portrait of the subcontinent, revealed through the eyes of her people as they watch the journey of a convoy carrying the 70-ton heart of a Canadian nuclear reactor into its heartland, documents without pedantry or pity the contradictions of development. On their way to Rajasthan, engineers carry the titular juggernaut along roads specially strengthened and city walls torn down to make way, the past accommodating the uneven development of the future.

Sentinels of Silence (Color, 18 mins, 1971)
Over 30 years before the enormously popular BBC Planet Earth series, there was Sentinels of Silence, a worthy forbearer of the documentary epic, whose aerial helicopter shots soar over mist covered masses of tropical forest and float around the ancient Mayan ruins, astounding in their architectural complexity and grandiosity. This film does full justice to its subjects, appropriately brazen in its technical approach, and supported by the authoritative narration of Orson Welles, whose Charles Foster Kane, in an earlier time, might’ve presided over one of these ancient palaces. And, as an enigma is at the heart of Welles’s Kane narrative, so a central mystery looms over the ruins of this film: why did these highly advanced societies disappear?  All we have as answers are the relics, “all trying to communicate their secrets through a dozen centuries.”  
(Sentinels of Silence is also the only short film ever to have won 2 Academy Awards.)

Tup Tup (Color, 10 mins, 1973)
A short city symphony and free-jazz meditation on man’s seemingly limitless capability for destruction, Nedeljko Dragic’s Tup Tup takes as its inspiration Edgar Allen Poe’s story “The Tell-Tale Heart” before spinning out in wild, surrealist arcs of improvisation. Produced by master animator Nedeljko Dragic for the highly-acclaimed Croat animation house Zagreb Film, Tup Tup tells the story of a disgruntled man who takes on the world to silence a pesky noise that keeps him from reading the paper.

Night and Fog (Color/B&W, 32 mins, 1955)
Alain Resnais’ authoritative Holocaust documentary, produced just ten years after the end of the Second World War, speaks to the myths of historical progress and the unimaginable depths of historical trauma. Combining carefully composed color photography of concentration camp ruins and an array of black and white footage from the archives, and set to an alienating and totally unexpected score by Hanns Eisler, Resnais’ film stands as both horrifying testimony to the nightmares of the past and direct challenge to the viewer to understand their magnitude: all we have are lingering ghosts, dreams of dreams. 

Curator's Biography:
After studying film at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, John Schmidt came to Oakland, where he currently works as a bookseller. He was a student participant in the 2013 Telluride Film Festival, has spent time on a number of film sets as producer, DP, and PA, and has worked as an intern at Canyon Cinema since September 2013.

About Oddball Films
Oddball films is the film component of Oddball Film+Video, a stock footage company providing offbeat and unusual film footage for feature films like Milk, documentaries like The Summer of Love, television programs like Mythbusters, clips for Boing Boing and web projects around the world.
Our films are almost exclusively drawn from our collection of over 50,000 16mm prints of animation, commercials, educational films, feature films, movie trailers, medical, industrial military, news out-takes and every genre in between. We’re actively working to present rarely screened genres of cinema as well as avant-garde and ethno-cultural documentaries, which expand the boundaries of cinema. Oddball Films is the largest film archive in Northern California and one of the most unusual private collections in the US. We invite you to join us in our weekly offerings of offbeat cinema.