Kylie Boltin speaks with Eve Heller about the Australian premiere of her experimental films.
29 Jul 2011 - 4:06 PM  UPDATED 26 Feb 2014 - 4:09 PM

On its 60th anniversary, MIFF has not forgotten experimental film. Dark Rooms and Dreamscapes: The Films of Peter Tscherkassky and Eve Heller is a program of films and presentations dedicated to the contemporary avant-garde filmmakers.

New York-born, Austrian-based filmmaker Eve Heller's films are evocative mediations and experiments in form. She often gleans material from original source material – home market movies from the 1940s, educational films – or real world footage that she herself captures. “When I find a film that's provocative to me – for its camera angles, lighting, story line – I watch it over and over and over again,” Heller explains. “I think about what I can manipulate through the optical printer – a device that allows me to re-photograph the material frame by frame, to slow the ratio of the film, make double or triple exposures. I start imagining a new story from the old story or I start thinking about a poetic vocabulary, certain themes and formal issues that come up.”

As part of the Dark Room and Dreamscapes series, MIFF will screen the 'Eve Heller Film Program' comprised of seven of her films. The program includes Her Glacial Speed (2001, pictured) in which Heller gleans source material from multiple colour educational films. The final film is re-imagined as a black and white homogenous piece and becomes, says Heller, a “metaphysical poem about time passing and about morality”.

Another film that will screen is One (1978/2009), the first roll Heller ever shot as part of a classroom exercise while a student in Buffalo, New York. The original Super 8 stock is blown up to 35mm and printed at a slower ratio. For Heller, “it foregrounds the fact of it being a Super 8 film. You see on 35mm the enlarged grain of the Super 8 medium. It's bright the way Super 8 always was bright when it was shown in a little room with the projector close to the wall.”

Heller had never shown One outside of its original classroom context. “When I moved to Vienna recently I was asked to do a retrospective of my film work,” she explains. “My family originally comes from Vienna, but its history has been erased because it was part of the Jewish population that had to leave. I feel like I'm coming to a new city, with a history that's invisible, and also my history as a filmmaker was not known. I wanted to do a retrospective that reached back into my history and showed my early work. I decided to bring them into the picture.”

Heller's Last Lost (1996) is constructed from The Chimps Jamboree, a 16mm home market movie from the 1940s. Heller inherited the original film while working at a diner as a waitress. “There was one gentleman who would come in every night and have a coffee,” she says. “We would talk and he discovered I was obsessed with film. He gave me a grocery bag full of old movies — newsreels from the 1940s as well as entertainment movies. I would cover up different parts of the screen and start analysing what happened, for instance, when you only watched the right quadrant of the movie or if I put layers together. It was an inexpensive way of making movies in my mind. In that case, it was serendipity that the movies came to me and I was able to do something with them.”

Heller's films and presentation, Reframing the Image: Found Footage Filmmaking, is part of a program that includes a masterclass and two programs of films by Peter Tscherkassky, including Coming Attractions, winner of the Best Short Film at the 2010 Venice Film Festival.