by Paul Grammatico
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Experimental filmmaker Craig Baldwin talks film and video aesthetics.
Video by Paul Grammatico
Videographer: Diallo McLinn
Craig Baldwin was born in Oakland, California, began working in film in the mid-1970’s and subsequently did graduate work at San Francisco State’s film department in the 1980’s.
Around 1978, Baldwin had started curating film shows at the Offensive (21st and Valencia) under the moniker Film Offensive. He provided programming of experimental films under the titles of Anti-Films, Komotion Pictures, Sub Cinema, and Cinema Screen.
He settled into Artists’ Television Access in the 1980’s where he is still an artist-in-residence. He began programming experimental films under the name Eyes of Hell before changing it to Other Cinema, which continues on to this day. His found-footage collage aesthetic is found in his short films and documentaries.
I first saw Craig’s work when I viewed Tribulation 99 in Royal Oak, Michigan. This work reminds me of Orson Welles’ infamous broadcast of War of the Worlds on October 30, 1938. Although I wasn’t privy to the original broadcast, it felt that the events were actually happening. I felt the same with Tribulation even though it has been coined a “pseudo-pseudo” documentary. As far-fetched as some of the statements might have been in the film, Baldwin’s structure made me think, “Did this actually happen?”
The first film in my documentary class at California College of Arts and Crafts (now California College of the Arts) was Sonic Outlaws. Craig reflects on his own re-purposing by using Negativland as an archetype along with other “outlaws” that appropriate found media. This is, by far, one of my favorite documentaries as it shows different ways of seeing a documentary as Baldwin shatters the standard narrative structure and the visual structure by using found footage and various cameras (even a Fisher-Price PixelVision camera!) to show various images and textures throughout the film. The tagline, “Copyright Infringement is Your Best Entertainment Value” sums up this film perfectly.
In short, Baldwin’s films blow my mind. Enough said.
Wild Gunman (1978) - A comment about how the western genre permeates through advertisements, such as cigarette billboards and video games.
RocketKitKongoKit (1986) – A pseudo documentary using found footage from the 1960 revolution and independence in Zaire, the CIA, and a German munitions company in this darkly comic piece.
Clip from Tribulation 99:
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Courtesy and by permission of Craig Baldwin
Tribulation 99 (1991) – Space aliens abound in this “pseudo-pseudo” documentary about UFOs, aliens, the government and their connections with these beings from another world.
O No Coronado! (1992) – With found and live footage, this film traces the steps of Coronado’s conquests of Mexico and the United States in his futile search of a lost city of gold.
Baldwin used found footage in some of his documentaries and feature works:
Clip from Sonic Outlaws:
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Courtesy and by permission of Craig Baldwin
Sonic Outlaws (1995) – A documentary featuring the group Negativland along with other video and audio artists in an exploration of the uses of media footage, copyright laws, and the right of repurpose.
Spectres of the Spectrum (1999)- This film plunders Craig Baldwin's treasure trove of early television shows, industrial and educational films, Hollywood movies, advertisements and cartoons, combining these with live-action footage, no-budget special effects and relentless narration to generate a wholly original paranoid science-fiction epic.
Mock Up on Mu (2008) - based on (mostly) true stories of California's post-War sub-cultures of rocket pioneers, alternative religions and Beat lifestyles. Pulp-serial snippets, industrial-film imagery, and B- (and Z-) fiction clips are intercut with newly shot live-action material, powering a playful, allegorical trajectory through the now-mythic occult matrix of Jack Parsons (founder of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory), L. Ron Hubbard (science fiction author turned cult-leader) and Marjorie Cameron (bohemian artist and "mother of the New Age movement"). Their intertwined tales spin out into a speculative farce on the militarization of space and the corporate take-over of spiritual fulfillment and leisure-time.
To view Craig Baldwin's entire interview, please click here