MEDICAL FILM SYMPOSIUM – Philadelphia, PA

by Red Cell

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EXCERPTS FROM: Sanctus, 1990, 20 min. / Vital Signs, 1989, 10 min. / Endangered, 1989, 19 min. / Snow Job: The Media Hysteria of AIDS, 1988, 8 min.

Taking place throughout Philadelphia this coming January 20 – 23, The Medical Film Symposium, examines the relationship between moving images and medical science. Medical films comprised one of the earliest film genres, but the vast majority of these films are unseen and unknown today. The Symposium explores various categories of medical films: actualities and documentations of medical procedures, training films for health professionals, hygiene tutorials and contemporary medical imaging.

Wednesday, January 20 at 7:30pm – A Man To Remember
dir. Garson Kanin, US, (1938), 35mm, 80 mins, b/w

Introduced by Nico de Klerk of the Nederlands Filmmuseum
Made during the Great Depression, A Man to Remember brings the public health discussion to small town America. A local doctor opposes powerful men to protect the public health during an impending polio epidemic. Exploring the politics of healthcare and strategy for containing public health emergencies, the film couldn’t be timelier. 6pm for the Art @ International House Opening Reception of Radiologic Images Photography Exhibit.

Thursday, January 21 at 7pm – Experimental Medical Films

Curated by experimental filmmaker Barbara Hammer, this program showcases artists’ representations of medical encounters. Exploring a variety of medical situations, these filmmakers examine medicine, surgery, disease and treatment in illuminating new ways.

Twist of Fate
dir. Karen Aqua, US, 2009, 35mm, 9 mins, color

With experimental animation and collage techniques, Karen Aqua presents a beautiful and astonishing account of her experience with cancer. Twist of Fate is less a literal representation of events than an expressionistic rendering of Aqua’s diagnosis, treatment and recovery. The film improbably explores a frightening experience with a surprisingly light touch.

A Horse is Not a Metaphor
dir. Barbara Hammer, US, 2008, HDCam, 30 mins, color

Fighting stage 3 ovarian cancer, Barbara Hammer returns to her experimental roots in a multilayered film blending numerous chemotherapy sessions with images of light and movement that take her far from the hospital bed. A cancer ‘thriver’ rather than ’survivor’, Hammer rides the red hills of Georgia O’Keefe’s Ghost Ranch in New Mexico, the grassy foothills of the Big Horn in Wyoming and leafy paths in Woodstock, New York, changing illness into recovery.

Sanctus
dir. Barbara Hammer, US, 1990, 16mm, 20 mins, color

Hammer manipulates the re-photographed x-rays of Dr James Sibley Watson to highlight the central contradiction of these rare and beautiful images. Though the original ‘films’ reveal the miracle of the human body and its internal structures in motion, they also question the value of medical imaging when the very process of visualization is dangerous itself. Sanctus is a fascinating and elegant investigation of the life and death forces.

Qualia Diaries
dir. Emily Mode, US, 2009, DVD, 17 mins, color

After her diagnosis of a seizure disorder, Emily Mode explores her place between reality, fantasy and memory. While describing the horrifying side effects of several anti-convulsive prescriptions, Mode recounts the origins of her condition nd identifies its earliest symptoms from her childhood games.

Colon Karaoke
dir. Brina Thurston, US, 2008, DVD, 6 mins, color

Colon Karaoke is taken from a documented medical procedure where the song Sledge Hammer comes on the radio in the operating room. A voice-over was added in postproduction of the patient singing along to the radio. Colon Karaoke highlights the absurdity we endure in the most personally penetrating modern day experiences. It also plays with issues of power, sex and humility in popular culture.

Selected Articles by Symposium Presenters:
Michael Sappol: A Traffic of Dead Bodies, Dream Anatomy
Michael Sappol: The Odd Case of Charles Knowlton: Anatomical Performance, Medical Narrative, and Identity in Antebellum America
Kirsten Ostherr: Cinematic Propyhlaxis: Globalization and Contagion in the Discourse of World Health
Scott Curtis: Still/Moving: Digital Imaging and Medical Hermeneutics
Dr. Nick Bryan: The digital rEvolution: the millenial change in medical imaging

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