Above Ground Film


Tonight at Anthology Film Archives in New York, Migrating Forms—the art-meets-cinema form born from the former New York Underground Film Festival—returns for its second annual year.

Migrating Forms opens with Kevin Jerome Everson’s Erie (2010), a collection of single-take shots depicting black American life in communities around the Great Lakes. The festival closes on the May 23 with new videos by Stanya Kahn that examine the artist’s relationships with her mother and a friend, and finally, herself (Sandra, 2009; Kathy, 2009; It’s Cool, I’m Good, 2010).

In between, over the next ten days, Migrating Forms will screen a Chinese filmmaker’s documentation of mainland Chinese petitioning their local governments (Zhao Liang’s Petition (2009); and retrospectives of the work of Jean-Pierre Gorin and Kerry Tribe, plus a rare East Coast screening of Ed Ruscha’s 16mm films (Premium, 1971, and Miracle, 1975). Its shorts program travels from a Kyoto bookstore (Eric Baudelaire’s 2009 film, [sic]) to the immigrant enclaves of Roaring Fork Valley, Colorado, starring popular telenova actors (Phil Collins, Soy Mi Madre, 2009).

Migrating Forms is eclectic and inclusive, by design. It examines work that may have originated in a variety of contexts, including galleries, museums, biennials and other film festivals, said Nellie Killian, who is festival co-director alongside Kevin McGarry.

“Different types of venues develop to support distinct types of work, but, at the end of the day, all these moving image practices are in conversation with each other,” Killian said. “In some ways, as audiences and artists become less concerned with these divisions, it seems sort of obvious to take this type of catholic approach to programming, but it’s surprisingly uncommon, especially in a festival environment.”

McGarry and Killian are both veterans of the New York Underground Film Festival. After programming and directing NYUFF in its final years, McGarry and Killian were ready to start anew.

“The transformation from NYUFF to Migrating Forms felt natural, and necessary,” McGarry said. “By the time we were running NYUFF, it was no longer geared around notions of the underground. That ethos felt much more 1990s, which is only to say the product of a particular moment. The name of the event was distracting from conversations about the work we were showing, and with Migrating Forms it’s been a welcome challenge to redefine our organization through our programming exclusively.”