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Experimental film festival comes back to Colorado Springs

November 19, 2013 Updated: November 19, 2013 at 9:25 am
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Christopher May has loved art house films for as long as he can remember. That passion for cinema inspired him to create The International Experimental Cinema Exposition (TIE) in 2000.

As a child growing up in Colorado Springs, he soaked up movies such as the 1982 cult classic "Eating Raoul." So what if he couldn't follow the film's plot? Just as long as the visuals were appealing.

"As a kid you look at images and sound," he said, "and the curtains would open and you'd hear the fluttering sound of the projector. It was a spectacle. My focus was on the way the images were framed, the cinematography. The more interesting and more avant garde they were, they more they interested me as a kid."

His TIE festivals are devoted to that avant garde cinema, which uses reels instead of digital projection. The style of film is also usually non-narrative and lacks a coherent plot that a viewer can grab ahold of.

"I wanted a festival that would join filmmakers and curaters and avant garde enthusiasts around the world," he said, "so they could see each other's work. There's no professional distribution system. There's no place just to see experimental film."

He's put together about 13 festivals around the world, including one in 2003 at the Fine Arts Center. One will run Wednesday through Sunday at the Cornerstone Arts Center, with a couple of soirees at the Fine Arts Center and Urban Steam Coffee Bar and Cafe. It's called "Alternative Measures: An Investigation of Artist-Run Film Labs," and is a feast of film screenings, lectures, receptions, panel discussions, installations and workshops.

May founded TIE when he noticed film festivals getting rid of their 16 mm film projectors in 1999, which is what so much of avant garde film is created with. They differ from the 35 mm projection a typical movie theater uses.

"A 35 mm projection is more expensive to show," he said. "You can use a 16 mm projection for educational purposes, and they're made inexpensively for smaller classroom-size audiences. They're twice as small as 35 mm, so you're looking at less than half the cost. Then you can immediately project it, whereas with 35 mm, you have to find a movie theater."


Workshop: "Caffenol: Cinema, Coffee, Vitamin, and Alchemy"

Where: Cornerstone Arts Center and Packard Hall, 5 W. Cache La Poudre St.

When: 12:15-9:15 p.m. Thursday

Cost: $675-$875

Ricardo Leite travels from Portugal to lead a workshop on the use of coffee and other simple ingredients to develop film.

Filmmakers shoot footage, festival founder Christopher May said, and then develop it in the darkroom with coffee instead of chemicals. Leite is the world's foremost experimenter with the format, which is also a much more environmentally friendly way of processing film.

"Different forms of espresso and coffee give different looks to the film," May said. "It gives you a coffee tone that you can't get from a regular dye."

Film program: "LabA for Beginners"

Where: Screening room, Cornerstone Arts Center

When: 7:30-8:30 p.m. Friday

Cost: $35-$40

Presenter Vassily Bourikas travels from Greece to talk about the films made at his artist-run film lab. He will demonstrate the wide variety of filmmakers, from those who aren't necessarily artists to those who work in contemporary art.

"I like the idea of a film program that can inspire your average Joe," May said.

Panel discussion: "Antiquated Film Formats: A Lecture and Film Presentation by Dino Everett"

Where: Screening room, Cornerstone Arts Center

When: 2-4 p.m. Saturday

Cost: $20-$23

Dino Everett is the new archivist of the Hugh M. Hefner Moving Image Archive at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. He's also a film equipment collector and has amassed 9.5 mm, 4.75 mm, 22 mm and 28 mm film formats.

He'll show films in fun, old-time projection, May said.

Film program: "Last Light of a Dying Star"

Where: Richard F. Celeste South Theatre, Cornerstone Arts Center

When: 11:10 a.m.-noon Sunday

Cost: $12-$14

Roger Beebe presents an expanded cinema piece, which involves a filmmaker using multiple (in this case, five) projectors to create a performance-oriented film. The performers are the projectors. The combination of music and image is a spectacle, May said.

Colm Ó Cíosóig at Closing Night Soiree

Where: Fine Arts Center, 30 W. Dale St.

When: 9:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m. Sunday

Cost: $45-$60, free for deluxe and patron package holders

Colm Ó Cíosóig is the drummer in the alternative rock band My Bloody Valentine. His dad gave him an old, 16 mm movie camera, May said. He wanted to attend a few workshops and learn how to use it, and volunteered to perform, May said.

The musician will spin vinyl at the closing night party.


When: Wednesday through Sunday, Nov. 20-24

Where: Cornerstone Arts Center, Colorado College, 825 N. Cascade Ave.

Tickets: Festival packages $230-$500, single films $8 and up, soirees $18-$60, prices for workshops vary, check website; 1-503-298-4984,


Contact Jennifer Mulson at 636-0270.

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