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About 30 people made the pilgrimage to I Am Eye’s May 4 “Evening of Independent Super-8 and 16mm Films.” We trudged up the three flights to the Washington Center for Photography and gazed at the moving pictures on the wall in gallery-respectful silence. The six handmade offerings, as well as the rattling projector itself, made what I Am Eye co-founder Paul Bishow calls “the thingness of film” seem a precious relic in these digital times.
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I Am Eye’s screening policy is similarly tangible: You bring it, they’ll show it. Bishow says film’s daunting resource requirements generally weed out the excesses of, say, a poetry slam or public access TV: “Someone walks in here with a 16mm film, you know they’ve put some work into it.” And on May 4, the locals clutching their LP-size canisters delivered: Jawbox drummer Zachary Barocas’ 10-minute Let It All Out elegantly sketched the dissolution of a marriage in black-and-white and color, flowing and pausing in Godardlike rhythms. In Track, Kate McCabe sent painted, smudged, and mutilated film strips careening down the frame to a wobbly surf-guitar soundtrack. There was a ringer, too: the luminous The Idea of North by San Diego student Rebecca Baron, acquired through a distributor. Photos of a doomed 1897 expedition to the North Pole, which were pried from the ice and printed in 1930, anchor Baron’s elegiac investigation of the men’s fate and of the desire to freeze memory.
Bishow, projectionist at the Biograph since 1988, and filmmaker/photographer Michael Horsley are currently shepherding I Am Eye, which has been itinerant for six years. From 1982 to 1990, Bishow, Pierre Devaux, and Pam Craig hosted I Am Eye at d.c. space, showing the work of locals as well as underground out-of-towners like Richard Kearn and Nick Zedd. I Am Eye stopped off at the Biograph, the Black Cat, and DCAC before WCP welcomed it into the fold in March.
Horsley says Eye’s focus remains “individual filmmaking, not independent, not the credit card movies, but a step above home movies….I Am Eye serves the gaps between the Rosebuds and the Psychotronic Film Society.” Perhaps the greatest service to that niche is screening work in its native format. Eric Brewer of Arlington showed his award-winning student film, Uhuru, which he said turned blurry and lost color when he transferred it to video. He and Barocas concurred on the difficulty of finding a room, a projector, and an audience.—Virginia Vitzthum
I Am Eye’s next showcase will be June 11 at the Washington Center for Photography, 406 7th St. NW. Admission is $4 or a film. Call (301) 585-8439 for details.