IU Cinema’s Underground Film Series will premiere “Milking and Scratching: The Handmade Films of Naomi Uman” at 7 p.m. on April 28 at IU Cinema on Seventh Street.
Four of Naomi Uman’s short films, “Removed,” “Private Movie,” “Hand Eye Coordination” and “Leche” will be featured. The event is free to the public, but tickets are required. There is no standby seating.
Ph.D. student Alex Brannan curated the show. Brannan said he chose Uman’s films because of her unusual, hand-manipulated style.
“Her work is incredibly dynamic and really interesting,” Brannan said. “I thought it would be a really great opportunity to see her films on a big screen — it’s not often that you get that opportunity.”
Brannan said the Underground series allows students access to films that might be difficult to find elsewhere: things that wouldn’t typically be shown in a darkened theater or available in a YouTube search.
Uman hand-alters strips of film to create her avant-garde, experimental shorts. In “Removed,” Uman uses nail varnish to remove the woman from a strip of 1970’s pornography – leaving an empty figure in her wake. Uman’s self-referential film “Hand Eye Coordination” is scratched by hand and tells the story of its own creation, Brannan said.
Brannan said Uman’s technique encourages the viewer not to think about the content of the film but rather the medium and materiality of film.
“You can see her handiwork on screen on the film itself,” Brannan said. “That really brings an intimacy to the overall experience.”
Cinema and media studies professor Joan Hawkins said while people often view film as a popular culture medium, Uman’s artistic film is similar to other classic art forms.
“We accept it more when we are looking at a Jasper Johns painting or a Jackson Pollock painting,” Hawkins said. “But it's that same principle, the idea of calling attention to the medium of art as art.”
Uman, whose work has been featured in museums and film festivals across North America, is known mostly for her technical approaches to filming and editing.
“She submerges herself in the world of her subjects prior to filming them, not only seeking inspiration, but allowing the work to be organically influenced by this act,” according to an event news release from CalArts Latin Fest, a multidisciplinary art festival where Uman has shared her work.
The Underground series is entirely organized by graduate students. Ph.D. student Richard Jermain said working on the series allows students to hone their professional skills in curating film showings.
For Jermain, underground cinema can be inviting to viewers because it’s open to interpretation.
“Art in general can be intimidating to people,” Jermain said. “Avant-garde films, for me, are weirdly accessible. I didn't feel restrained to read them in any one way. That's an experience I want other cinema students to be able to have.”