Indiana University Bloomington

Two films connected with Indiana University to screen at New York's Tribeca Film Festival

  • March 26, 2014


BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- A film created by IU doctoral student Russell Sheaffer is one of eight experimental films selected to screen at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival, which opens April 16 in New York City.

Sheaffer's "Acetate Diary" will screen alongside "All Vows," a film commissioned by IU Cinema and the university's Robert A. and Sandra S. Borns Program in Jewish Studies. The film received its world premiere at the Orphans Midwest film symposium on the Bloomington campus in September in partnership with IU Libraries and New York University.

The inclusion of both films means a quarter of those selected for the Tribeca Film Festival's sole experimental short film program are connected to Indiana University.

"The experimental program at Tribeca focuses on the 'digital dilemma,' the continued move by the commercial film industry toward digital distribution and exhibition," IU Cinema director Jon Vickers said. "The physicality of film, particularly neglected or one-of-a-kind creations such as those highlighted during the recent Orphans symposium held here, can help us access a world that might otherwise be lost. It's wonderful to see filmmakers like Russell and Bill Morrison, who made 'All Vows,' use their creativity to explore the material qualities of the medium as well as draw attention to the intangibility of the digital format."

Sheaffer created his cameraless work by painting and writing directly onto a strip of 16mm film itself, using the 100 feet of celluloid as a literal diary to help process the thoughts and emotions he experienced in the two weeks after receiving a difficult medical diagnosis. With no narrative or characters, "Acetate Diary" uses hand-drawn images and words to represent his feelings.

"I can remember being in a state of shock after a particular visit to the doctor and not knowing what to do or feel. I grabbed this roll of film and everything else I could find -- pushpins, highlighters, Sharpies, razor blades -- and just started," said Sheaffer, a third-year doctoral student in IU's Department of Communication and Culture. "Some days I'd only work on it for a tiny bit, but other days, I'd sit over it for hours at a time. I wanted to allow myself the freedom to make a film that was completely impulsive."

Morrison's film is named for the English translation of the declaration used to begin Yom Kippur service, and uses archival films to depict an unknowable future reflected through a dissolving historic document. His work has explored the physicality of film for more than 15 years, Vickers said, and the premiere of "All Vows" was an integral part of the Orphans Midwest symposium, which focused on materiality and the moving image.

Sheaffer, who holds degrees from the University of California, Irvine and New York University's Department of Cinema Studies, said he selected IU for his doctoral work after visiting the Bloomington campus to view films held by the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction for a project, only to fall in love with the university's strong support for scholarly and creative film endeavors.

"IU offers a wonderful environment for students, artists and scholars of film, whether they study avant-garde movements, explore the genre of essay film, or learn 'handmade' and other film techniques," said Susanne Schwibs, a lecturer in the College of Arts and Sciences' Department of Communication and Culture who teaches production and experimental filmmaking. "Our film and media studies program is one of the first of its kind in the U.S. and has a long tradition of embracing the whole package: history, theory, hands-on production, Hollywood, art film, underground, global cinemas, traditional celluloid and digital formats. We're also surrounded by fabulous resources such the IU Libraries Film Archive, the Lilly Library and IU Cinema, among others. All of this suggests our new Media School will be a unique and visible home for all things, and all ways, film and media at IU."

The university's new Media School, which unites faculty from the School of Journalism and the Department of Telecommunications and Department of Communication and Culture, launches July 1.

Russell Sheaffer

Russell Sheaffer

Print-Quality Photo

A capture from IU doctoral student Russell Sheaffer's experimental film, "Acetate Diary."

A capture from IU doctoral student Russell Sheaffer's experimental film, "Acetate Diary."

Print-Quality Photo

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