Modern Cinema for Children

The concept of Little Histories of Cinema arose from the idea of fusing two "histories." In the 1930s Walter Benjamin wrote A Little History of Photography; a brief, written illumination of an era in which a true story of the new cinematic medium had yet to consolidate itself, but that greatly influenced the 20th century. More than half a century later, in the 1990s, Jean-Luc Godard proposed his Histoire(s) du cinema, a truly "other history of cinema" that was, at the same time, a way to construct histories. The history of the technological arts of the 20th century is one of positions; of winners and losers; of those that are remembered and those forgotten; of big and small. The true history is essentially a story and is, therefore, never true.

These cinematic histories are little in two ways. In the first place, they propose hypotheses about other possible histories that have remained marginalized within the larger story of 20th century film. Secondly, they are meant for children; the little ones; in order to seriously and respectfully explain that film has been the most important art of the 20th century.

Little Histories of Cinema is a five-part series in which each part is taken as a possible history. Structured around a central concept, each part shows materials from different eras, genres, and authors, emphasizing animated works that have used film as a way of exploring the visible through cinematic illusion.

Curated by Carolina Caballero


Saturdays at 5.30 pm.

In Wonderland

Total elapsed time: 86 minutes

Little Histories of Cinema kicks off with Lewis Carroll's literary Wonderland, a common place for filmmakers and artists. Alice awakens feelings of childhood and lets fantasy move her along. We want the children to experience Little Film Histories as Alice does Wonderland, stepping through the mirror that separates the known from the magical to discover pieces and fragments of the history of film that fall outside of the established commercial parameters.

Neco z Alenky [Something from Alice]. Jan Svankmajer, 1988. 86 minutes

Svankmajer's films are "raw," completely devoid of the artificiality of fashion and any high technological finish. However, they are one of the most recent proposals from an indisputable master of contemporary film. Svankmajer's Alice, a photographic film not conceived for the small screen, and with a slower rhythm than that of billboard movies, connects with children through a fantastical world that is understandable and almost tangible to even the youngest members of the audience. Without hardly any dialogue, it approaches Carroll's book with respect for its original literary force. His version of Alice in Wonderland is in the antipodes of that of Disney, and appeals to a child's sensibility through other courses that are unexplored by commercial film, without sentimentalism.

Between Drawing and Writing

Total lapsed time: 56 minutes

A celebration of plastic body language. Film maker and artist fascination with lines translates into pieces that, from documentary to fiction, capture the beauty of a chalk-mark on a wall, paint spills on glass, drawings on the human body, or lines on celluloid. Some calligraphies are appreciated by the art world, and others are anonymous; some appear on traditional media, others on unexpected media, but taken as a whole they draw a temporary journey through the vestiges of a visual language that alludes to an alternative phase of writing.

Baby Boggie. Paul Julian, 1955. 6 minutes

This is a fantasy re-creation, not to mention homage, of children's cartoons. In this short film, a little girl tries to find out where babies come from. The movie was created in America's legendary UPA studios that, despite their brief existence, were able to unite the most avant-garde design and music from the 1950's in animated short films, and turn limited animation into art, bringing adults closer to the medium through characters such as Mr. Magoo and Gerald Mc Boing Boing.

Maneras. (Manners) Andrés Hispano, 2005. 50 minutes

The BTV program Boing Boing Buddha dedicated a monograph to this subject, alternating haute couture and pop culture with fragments from a wide variety of provenances. The montage includes fragments from Apostrophe, a medium-length documentary film about the graffiti group Barnstorme, Joan Miró burning his canvases while being photographed by Català Roca, marks by artists such as Frederic Amat, Tàpies, Pablo Picasso, and Fischinger. This is a re-edition of the program, made exclusively for the Little Film Histories film series by its director, and includes new fragments; for example, "Free Radicals," by Len Lye, "I go by here every day" by Raúl Arroyo, and "Body Song" by Simon Pummell.

The body, materia prima

Total lapsed time: 67 minutes

This program encourages the audience to reflect on the limits of the human body, with works that deal with themes such as duplication, transformation, and deformation, understanding film as a medium that makes the impossible possible. Animation, be it in drawings, Plasticine, or digital, is unlike any other film practice when it comes to the malleability of bodies that, in this session, resuscitate and survive all manner of abuse and destruction.

King Size Canary. Tex Avery, 1947. 8 minutes.

A starving cat finds a small canary and a growth potion. As expected, things get out of hand, and cats, dogs, canaries, and rats end up growing to gargantuan proportions. Tex Avery created a personal style of animated drawing that is easily identifiable, as it takes exaggeration to an extreme.

Pinocchio. Gianluigi Toccafondo, 1999. 6 minutes.

This is a poetic version of the story in which the characters stylize, transform, and deform in elegant visual interplay. Toccafondo began manipulating the recorded image by moving paper in a photocopy machine and adding drawings and colors by hand. Despite his use of current digital techniques, it still appears to be, literally, a moving picture.

Manipulation. Daniel Greaveds, 1991. 7 minutes.

A discarded drawing interacts with an ink stain, until the hand of its creator steps into the scene to "play" with the character. It is an excellent example of meta-linguistic animation that serves as various manual techniques.

Your Face. Bill Plympton, 1987. 3 minutes.

A man's head suffers strange transformations while singing the song "Your Face." In this film, for which New Yorker Bill Plympton is internationally known, the American tradition of classic cartoon animation mixes with that of underground comics and illustrations.

L'Homme à la tête de caoutchouc (The Man with the Rubber Head). Georges Méliès, 1901. 25 minutes

In this film, made with the most primitive special effects, a man blows up his head like a balloon.

Sledgehammer. Stephen Johnston, 1986. 4 minutes.

Peter Gabriel´s face is manipulated frame-by-frame, with Plasticine and pixilated animations, to the beat of a pop song by the ex-lead singer of Genesis. In the 1980s, Peter Gabriel elevated the creative level of music videos with this animated piece of Plasticine and objects that went on to win nine MTV awards. Among those who collaborated in the project are Nick Park and the Quay brothers.

Cartoon Factory. Dave and Max Fleischer, 1924. 7 minutes, 52 seconds.

This episode from the "Coco the Clown" series begins, as they all do, with the character brought to life by its creator, Max, who then persists in making his creation's life impossible. The Fleischer brothers, who created Betty Boop and brought the comic Popeye to the big screen, are key players in the history of animation. The modernity of their technical, visual, and narrative feats eventually allowed them to surpass the popularity of Disney in their beginning stages.

What is That? Run Wrake, 2001. 3 minutes, 17 seconds.

Wrake, whose work is inspired by animation pioneers such as Len Lye and the Fleischer brothers, has found important influence in Dadaism, 1920s Russian graphic art, Pop Art, and graffiti. Grotesque characters such as Meathead appear in this piece of drawing, vibrant colors, hypnotic rhythms, and photo clippings.

Tma-svetio-tma (Light-Dark-Light). Jan Svankmajer, 1989. 6 minutes.

Parts of a human body intersect and meet in a small room until, after testing various options, they find their appropriate place. The theme is resolved without violence, even creating a sort of camaraderie for the insolence of the situation, though one cannot overlook the inevitable sinister accent that the piece adopts.


Total lapsed time: 61 minutes

Alexander Calder's circus cannot be overlooked when talking about artistic children's films. Despite the fact that it is not a child-oriented piece, it transmits the pleasure of representing as if it were a game. Along with this work, we will show three others in which the same playful character appears. A series of artists familiar with the scene world demonstrate their creativity in small settings.

There it is. Charley Bowers, 1928. 17 minutes

Director, animator, and actor Charley Bower has the personality of Buster Keaton and the imagination and technical mastery of a Starewicz puppet. Admired by the Surrealists, Bowers' films were forgotten until the 1950s when the Toulouse Filmoteque began to recover lost reels. Up until only five years ago, it was impossible to present an anthology of his work. This comedy distills Bowers' past in the circus and his passion for stop-motion animation.

Le Cirque de Calder (Calder's Circus). Carlos Vilardebó, 1961. 19 minutes.

Alexander Calder, already in his 80s, presents his fantasy circus, enlivened by his own hands. Calder's fascination with the circus dates back to the 1920s. In fact, the circus that appears in this documentary film was created in Paris in 1927. The "actors" are actually wire and rag dolls, ingeniously formed to be able to do all the classical circus acts. When they were created, the Parisian avant-garde would pass by Calder's workshop to see them in action; the film documents one of those nights and puts the artist's overpowering personality into sharp relief.

Next. Barry J. Purves, 1989. 5 minutes.

An actor who looks like William Shakespeare shows up at a casting call. On the scene he uses the full range of acting practices while doing scenes from Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, and the Tempest, as well as other works by the celebrated British playwright. The work of Barry J. Purves, one of the most celebrated puppeteers from the 80s and 90s, is closely linked to the scene through short clips such as Rigoletto, Screen Play, and Achilles, in which he shows, through puppets, his beginnings as a stage actor.

Deu Dits (Ten Fingers). Frederic Amat, 1995. 20 minutes

Frederic Amat recorded and worked on this document, which came about from the last representation of Teresa Calafell's la Guinda, a representation in which hands, surrounded by everyday objects, are the protagonist. Calafell, actress, puppeteer, and set and costume designer; along with Joan Baixas, founded the theater group La Claca. Frederic Amat, prolific artist and stage designer, debuted in 2002 as the director of the Opera-Oratory Edipo Rey, and found in the audiovisual world a new form of expression, with works such as Foc al càntir and Viaje a la Luna.

The Spirit of Animation

Total lapsed time: 59 minutes

As opposed to still-life pictures, film serves to dramatize life and movement. Just as in arte povera or materic film, this session's works use more humble elements as a starting point. The alchemistic power of art and film transforms them into exquisitely lively pieces: stones with a life of their own, moth wings that fly again, wheels and other objects that move themselves. . . things seem to obey the directors of these actor-less films.

Furniture Poetry, Paul Bush, 1999. 5'15''

"What is it that keeps me from thinking that this table will not disappear, that it will not change shape when no one is looking, and that when someone does look at it, it won't just change back?" Paul Bush starts the epistemological debate about perception and logic and wittily responds to Ludwig Wittgenstein's question. The result: Furniture Poetry, an animated film executed using stop motion in which furniture and everyday objects have lives of their own. The film has been screened in some of the most important cinema festivals such as Cannes and has won prizes and worldwide acclaim.

Mothlight. Stan Brackhage, 1963. 4 minutes

This film is made up of insects, leaves, and other debris that has accumulated between two reels of transparent celluloid, that move along in silence, at a dizzying speed, before the eyes of the spectator. Stan Brackhage made about 380 films, lasting anywhere from 9 seconds to 4 hours, which have placed him as a reference for experimental film making in America.

Blacktop: A Store of the Washing of a School Play Yard. Charles and Ray Eames, 1952. 12 minutes.

From 1950 to the end of the 70s, designers and architects Charles and Ray Eames made a hundred films dealing with subjects of interest to them: design, architecture, math, and toys; sometimes with an educative approach, and sometimes just for fun. In this film, the directors observe the water that washes a school's blacktop through the camera lens, playing with both the asphalt textures and the frothy water. Though simple and hypnotic, this exercise exemplifies an unpretentious but visually complex way of making films.

Trigger Happy. Jeff Scher, 1997. 4 minutes, 45 seconds.

Contrasting monotypes in black and white show the silhouettes of toys, buttons, and other objects, to a reggae beat. A shot abruptly ends this rapid succession of objects that are given life through animation.

Der Lauf der Dinge (The Course of Things). Peter Fischli and David Weiss, 1987. 30 minutes.

Inside their studio, Swiss artists Peter Fischli and David Weiss constructed an enormous, 100 foot long structure out of trash and everyday objects: tea pots, cork wheels, old shoes, balloons, wooden ramps, and the like. By calculating the objects' movement when combined with fire, water, gravity, and chemistry, he creates a spectacular chain reaction: a performance of physical interactions that creates a precise and elaborate chaos.

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Son[i]a #60. Carolina López Caballero and Mercedes Conde