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The 'uncola' of film festivals turns 15

Experimental fare the norm in the age of YouTube


Antimatter Film Festival

Where: Vic Theatre, 808 Douglas St., Deluge Contemporary Art, 636 Yates St.

When: Oct. 12-20

Info: 250-385-3327,

A jumble of found VHS footage twists the fates of witches, monkeys, apparitions and "conjoined bald men."

The media mash-up inventively combines audio from retro Jane Fonda movies with yoga videos and sexy aliens.

An Orwellian portrait of pigs feasting on leftovers from Las Vegas casinos becomes a metaphor for humanity.

Or how about a yodelling cowboy, an erotic encounter with home furnishings, or glimpses of webcam models between gigs?

If that hasn't caught your attention, you'll find plenty more when the nine-day Antimatter Film Festival unspools Friday.

It's hard to believe it's already the 15th anniversary of Victoria's annual autumn showcase of subversive cinema. Yes, it's still the "uncola" of film and video festivals - what 7-Up was to Coke and Pepsi in the 1970s.

Ironically, the underground festival some skeptics predicted wouldn't last has become even more relevant in the YouTube era.

"We're gratified that people still want to see and do this," says director Todd Eacrett, who admits Antimatter isn't the easiest sell.

"Experimental film, media art - whatever you want to call it - sounds kind of educational or scary. It's a challenge."

What was once a niche - alternative self-expression - has for better or for worse become the norm in the digital age.

With Hollywood and the major television networks now upstaged by user-generated content - and a multitude of new niches since the inception of the festival, still curated by Deborah De Boer - viewing habits have changed dramatically.

Audiences have become increasingly fractured and more willing to seek out unique viewpoints and media sources "because they can," says Eacrett, who theorizes festivals such as Antimatter have been able to survive because of a side effect.

"There's such a huge amount of content now, and a lot of it is not very good," he says. "I think the role of our festival is to wade through that and to find what we think is important or worth seeing and to contextualize it so it isn't just random."

With media art now so universally accessible, what's lacking is the "filter" consumers once had, he adds.

"That filter used to be a critic, or the guy at the record store who really knew what you liked," he said.

"With the growth of the Internet and the decline of the hegemony of single-media monopolies, there's so much out there but it's uncatalogue-able."

As always, this year's lineup is bold and eclectic. There's even a tip of the hat to tradition, our enduring fondness for analog and old-fashioned civic pride in Tourist Season, a collection of vintage "home movies" depicting Victoria from the 1930s to 1980s.

Eacrett and De Boer are even inviting locals to share their own home-movie footage for a trip down memory lane.

Festival screenings will take place for the first time at the 218seat Vic Theatre in part because it's available, has a big screen and still has a 35-millimetre projector to augment offerings in digital formats and 16-millimetre fare, he said.

Another new initiative is pay-what-you-can ticketing ($5 to $8 per screening program/performance is suggested).

Tickets will be available at the door from 30 minutes before showtime.

"We wanted to make it as democratic as possible," Eacrett said. "We don't want people not to come just because they can't put five dollars in."

Screening highlights include Intertidal, Alex MacKenzie's 16mm performance inspired by explorations of life on B.C.'s shores by 1940s marine scientist Ed Ricketts and French filmmaker Jean Painleve; Two Years at Sea, U.K. filmmaker Ben Rivers' portrait of a middle-aged man living an earthy, frugal "off the grid" wilderness lifestyle; and I Have Always Been a Dreamer, Sabine Gruffat's documentary on the striking contrasts between two cities defined by

questionable ideologies - Detroit and Dubai.

Noteworthy shorts include Craig's Cutting Room Floor, Linda Scobie's film created from single frames discarded by underground collage artist Craig Baldwin; Last Year, Paul Wong's intriguing assemblage of 6,000 images from various sources; Taipei Taxi, Brian Lye's "undercover documentary" based on a story told by a taxi driver, unaware he was being recorded; and Manhole 452, the Canadian première of a cautionary tale about the dangers that lie beneath San Francisco's manhole covers.

The festival's two art installations can be viewed for free in the Vic Theatre lobby and at Deluge Contemporary Art, respectively.

Salas, a collection of posters for five fictional films conceived by Julio Orozco, is an excerpt from the Tijuana conceptual artist's Movie Houses of the Past, Projections in the Future.

In Methods for Composing Random Compositions, Adan De La Garza, here for the festival, uses a series of non-musical objects - such as wind-up teeth and confetti poppers - to create 17 sound performances.

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