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Montebello Art + Film Lab: A Report from the LACMA9 Outpost

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In partnership with LACMA9 Art + Film Lab: LACMA9 Art + Film Lab, in residence in nine communities, offers free art and film workshops, an oral history project, outdoor film screenings, plus a day of free admission to LACMA.

Montebello marked the sixth stop of the LACMA9 Art+Film Lab. For the past year the Lab has been moving town to town like a traveling circus. Think of us, like the carnies of cinema. Instead of a magic show, you can watch an offbeat independent film. You can experience the roller coaster of filmmaking as you make your own movie in a three-hour workshop. And while we don't have a kissing booth, you can find intimacy of another sort when you record a personal story in the oral history booth.

Because of the Lab's transient nature, I thought teaching classes might feel like working the Ferris wheel; we would offer folks an interesting view but that would be it. I didn't anticipate the strong bonds we would form or the ways our students would inspire us. This is the case with Alan Aperlo, who during his time at the Lab, has transformed from film fan to filmmaker.

I first met Alan in Hacienda Heights when he showed up to record an oral history.

When conducting oral histories, we encourage people to express themselves by sharing a meaningful memory. However, Alan's personality comes through in his vivid summary of Charlie Chaplin's "City Lights." Sometimes when we tell the stories of our favorite movies, we tell the stories of ourselves.

Alan Aperlo Oral History from LACMA on Vimeo.

Alan has lived in Hacienda Heights his whole life where he has done factory work as well as landscaping. A couple years ago, he was hit by a car while riding his bike. Despite his accident, he has an unshakable love for the bike, which is the subject of his first film, "Having Fun." "Having Fun" was created in the Composition workshop where we explore the expressive qualities of camera movement and framing.

Alan made his second film "Cats" in the Mini Docs workshop. Using a personal approach, he documents his sweet relationship with his cats as he follows them around his backyard.

Alan continued to take classes with us in Montebello. He made the documentary "Senior Dance" when he listened to his curiosity and followed the sound of Latin music as it led him inside the Montebello City Park Senior Center. I admire Alan's bold approach. Crashing and filming someone else's dance party, I would have felt scared of being an outsider. However, fear is not on Alan's map. After all, he knows what so many film professionals forget; making a movie is an act of love.

Back in the Lab, Alan edited "Senior Dance" with confidence and focus. Working independently in iMovie, he experimented with contrasting tempos as he executed his vision.

3 Movies by Alan Aperlo from LACMA on Vimeo.

Alan's Interview 2 from LACMA on Vimeo.

When we watched Alan's movie in the class screening, he exclaimed, "I love that shot!" He has no harsh inner critic and is proud of his work. Alan's movies reflect the joy he feels when he makes them and they remind me that filmmaking should be playful.

The last time I saw Alan, he showed me the new camera he purchased on eBay.

"What will you film today?" I asked him. "Oh, I don't know. I will probably look around and see what I can find." Holding a cane in one hand, and a camera in the other, he heads out to make another film.

-By Kate Marks

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People like Alan are the ones who make the Art+Film Lab feel worthwhile. Their hunger, enthusiasm, and pure relationship to filmmaking give us hope. Without aspirations for acclaim or recognition, but simply a desire to express, their work foretells a folk language that just might be filmmaking's future. Their camera is a pencil, live-writing the moment while retaining the author's imprint.

While in Montebello, we continued our oral history collaboration with Self Help Graphics, with photographer Rafael Cardenas giving up a Sunday to conduct a dozen oral histories with area artists. Rafa is one of Los Angeles' great artists -- be sure to check out "Because LA," thirteen of his photographs on exhibit through May at Homegirl Cafe.

On the final night of our Montebello screening series, we premiered Iris & Keller, a film short by Wong Fu Productions. Best known for their breakaway YouTube channel, Wong Fu Productions is an independent new media company founded by friends Wesley Chan, Philip Wang, and Ted Fu. As young upstarts, Wong Fu built their brand by producing their own web series, music videos, and shorts; currently they're developing their first feature-length film, and enjoy superhero status among a fan base of two million subscribers worldwide. Wong Fu broke the color barrier on YouTube by regularly featuring Asian American actors and incorporating witty, thoughtful, at times self-depreciating storylines lifted from Asian America life. Artists like Wong Fu are admirable as early disrupters and millennial media makers. Their presence and artistic growth are sure signs a color-blind media revolution is underway.

Rafa Cardenas conducting SHG oral histories | Photo: Hanul Bahm

Iris & Keller is a deep, artistically rendered coming-of-age film with a simple premise. A young woman wakes up one morning, left behind in "yesterday." Guided by a sympathetic time-travel curator, she comes to understand her predicament, and is given the chance to return back to "today." The film was shot on the LACMA campus over a single day. For those who missed the screening, we will post "Iris & Keller" on the LACMA9 website ) and Wong Fu's channel in a month's time.

And with that, the LACMA9 Art+Film Lab bids a warm peace-out to Montebello and the East Side. We'll miss being downstream from the Bimbo Bakeries bread factory, as well as mom n' pop China Boy Bakery. We'll miss the skaters diving off the park's picnic tables, the same tables that hosted endless pageants of birthday parties for all the lucky Montebello girls and boys. We'll miss the felt of Jacaranda petals carpeting the lawn, the cool night air, the shrill of the Pico-Rivera night train. And yes, we will miss seeing the abuelitas in blouses and calf-length skirts, sitting swingside at the screenings. Thank you everyone who came out to the lawn to catch a show, take a workshop, or share a personal story on camera.

Wong Fu at LACMA | Photo: Hanul Bahm
Montebello Skaters at Opening Night | Photo: Hanul Bahm

The LACMA9 Art+Film Lab pops up next in the city of Compton, with an Opening Night Celebration that kicks off our five-week residency.

On Friday, May 16, mexico68 Afrobeat Orchestra will bring their infectious, thirteen-piece assault of strings, horns, and polyrhythmic percussion to Lueders Park audiences at 7 p.m. Their soulful meld of futuro-retro Afrobeat and Chicano funk can be found on SoundCloud, as well as an upcoming album.

An outdoor screening of Spike Lee's early classic, School Daze, plays at 8 p.m.

Among the Compton Lab's highlights are: a screening of Charles Burnett's My Brother's Wedding on May 30, as well as a May 23 shorts line-up of animations, experimental films, fiction, and essay films by emerging Los Angeles filmmakers. Works include Kwesi Johnson's Where Ya At?!?! and Victor Hugo Duran's Fireworks, both South LA stories; as well as the delightful Origin by Jessica Poon and surreal The Wonder Hospital by Beomsik Shimbe Shim. LACMA will also screen Kelly Sun Kim's genre-bending Uncertainty Principle, a radical landmark in experimental filmmaking, as well as a powerful perceptual refresh. A printer-friendly Compton program notes can be found here.

trailer of Uncertainty Principle (2012) by KELLY SUN KIM from kelly sun kim on Vimeo.

- By Hanul Bahm

 

The Montebello Art+Film Lab thanks the tireless Nadine Hernandez, Rebecca Silva, and Martha Balderrama of the Montebello Parks & Recreation Department for enabling this run. We also thank the herculean efforts of Fabrisource, who traveled and installed the physical Art+Film Lab on the road for a year. That's six cities, folks! Finally, thank you to Self Help Graphics, to Rafa Cardenas, to Wong Fu Productions, and to Alan Aperlo.

 

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