RPM Fest is dedicated to short-form poetic, personal, experimental, social, essay, film, video, VR, expanded cinema and audiovisual performance.



We are looking for any work that experiments with the formal possibilities under 20 minutes.



Submission Opening Date: Nov.16 , 2020
Festival Date: October 15 - 17, 2021
RPM 2020 Sponsored By
Art Department of UMASS Boston
Cinema Studies of UMASS Boston



At the onset of his landmark essay Towards A Minor Cinema, Tom Gunning quotes Deleuze and Quattari: There is nothing that is major or revolutionary except the minor.
For RPM 2020, we ask, what is “minor cinema” today and what can it do for us, our consumption of media, our relationship with the environment, our world?
For the second year, The Art Department and Cinema Studies Program at UMass Boston continue to host the festival. RPM 2020 received nearly double the amount of submissions compared to our inaugural edition.

Drawing on a wide range of techniques and modes of filmmaking, ranging from avant-garde poetics, non-fiction, experimental animations and narratives to dance films, performances, and contemporary art practices, RPM 2020 brings together innovative efforts by over 160 artists, 122 pieces from 32 countries and territories. (Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, China, Colombia, Cezch Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Iran, Italy, Japan, Kosovo, Malaysia, Mexico, Montenegro, Netherlands, Portugal, Russia, Serbia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, United Kingdom, and United States.)

Featuring 107 short films, 5 audio-visual live performances, a documentary feature film, and 9 installations in the exhibition area, the selection of RPM 2020 remains loyal to the experimental spirit and intimacy of personal filmmaking. Among the highlights of the 11 programs of experimental shorts, Let’s Look at Florida (Hogan Seidel) and Porto Landscape (Michael Lyons) speak to our contemporary anxieties over environmental disasters while testing the boundary of the film medium; Toni and Bleri (Katja Verheul) portrays the physical and psychological turbulence caused by the migratory policy of Europe; MUÑE (Catalina Jordan Alvarez) playfully disrupts ethnographic and gender stereotypes; Vesuvius At Home (Christin Turner) ruminates on our encounters with destruction; the essay film of Sky Hopinka (Lore), Mike Hoolboom & Alena Koroleva (Wax Museum), and Ei Toshinari (…And So We Start Again) are lyrical wonders to behold; Abiding (Ugo Petronin), Amusement Ride (Tomonari Nishikawa), and Valpi (Richard Tuohy) brilliantly address the formal essence of cinema in light, time, and movement; Simon Liu’s E-Ticket, which is included in the New Frontier Shorts Program at Sundance Film Festival 2020, is an astonishing collage made out of 16,000 splices of his personal archive.

In addition to many short films that border the realm of documentary, we are showing the documentary feature Self-Portrait : Sphinx in 47 KM by Chinese documentarian Zhang Mengqi. The film was shown at Vision du Réel Film Festival in 2018, and Zhang’s filmmaking represents an essential grass-root effort of oral history and folk memory preservation in China. This year, RPM Fest is putting together a special program dedicated to one important artist in the field. We are presenting a selection of films by Saul Levine who is a key figure in the history of American avant-garde cinema as well as a local filmmaker in Boston. Artists from New England area also make a strong presence at RPM 2020: Ethan Barry, Allison Cekala, Susan DeLeo, Brittany Gravely, Josh Guilford, Margaret Hart, Amanda Justice, Natalie Minik, Youjin Moon, Kathryn Ramey, Hogan Seidel, Douglas Urbank, Jeffu Warmouth, Josh Weissbach, to name a few.

Yangqiao Lu,
January, 2020
Independent Curator

2020 Program

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Zhang Mengqi

Self-Portrait: Sphinx in 47 KM

Director: Zhang Mengqi
94min, China, 2018

Intro by Yangqiao Lu

University Hall 2300

More Info
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Codes and Archives

The Left Hand of Darkness - Sara Bonaventura
Poly-morphosis - Margaret Hart
A New kind of Ray - Emma Rozanski
Lilliput - Jeffu Warmouth
Game - Dusica Ivetic
Memory Distrust - Sharon Mooney
Perfect Pixels - Ryan Murray
At The Kitchen Table - Kate Anderson

more info
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Impossible Shapes

The Immortality of the Crab - Giacomo Manzotti
Trauma Chameleon - Gina Kamentsky
Tetradic Truchet - Jeremy Bessoff
Shadow Passage - Ali Aschman
On Everyone's Lips - RA MA
FLORA- Chaerin Im
Freeze Frame - Soetkin Verstegen
Orbit - Tess Martin
ЮНАК [juˈnʌk] - Georgi Stamenov
The Imaginary Woman - Laura Benavides
Dance of a Humble Atheist - Toh Hun Ping
Total: 68min

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Broken Narratives

Time Spy - Sun Xun
Yours Truly Lost - Niyaz Saghari>
To every bird, its own nest is beautiful - Lorenzo Gattorna
Vesuvius At Home - Christin Turner
Representative - Dusica Ivetic
Memoirs - Aaron Zeghers
Sound Speed - Alex Cunningham
Drawings - Jeppe Lange

Total: 74min

more info
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Sights, Symbols and Signs

...And So We Start Again
- Ei Toshinari & Duy Nguyen
Lore - Sky Hopinka
*** (fish) - Filip Bojarski
Starfish Aorta Colossus - Lynne Sachs
It Matters What - Francisca Duran
Thirty-seven movies for a home
- Arianna Lodeserto
Garden City Beautiful - Ben Balcom
Wax Museum - Mike Hoolboom & Alena Koroleva

Total: 70min

more info
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Slice the Eye!

Abiding - Ugo Petronin
Blink - Youjin Moon
A Dialogue of Dissonance - Kalpana Subramanian
Apertures (a brighter darkness)- Karissa Hahn
Plaza Rakyat - Ong Sau Kai
Amusement Ride - Tomonari Nishikawa
Valpi - Richard Tuohy
Dreamland - Allan Brown
Mariachiara Pernisa & Morgan Menegazzo
An Empty Threat - Josh Lewis

Total: 68min

more info
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Labor Intensive

Kitchen Beets - Bea Haut
The Little Tools - Emmanuel Piton
Laburo - Henrik Malmström
Rankleburn - Lily Ashrowan
Passage - Richard Ashrowan
The clearing where bent grass grows - Ben Scott
E-Ticket - Simon Liu
MUÑE - Catalina Jordan Alvarez

Total: 69min

more info
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Saul Levine

Notes After Long Silence (1984-1989)
Crescent (1993)
Whole Note (1999-2000)
Light Licks: By the Waters of Babylon: This May Be the Last Time (2011)
Light Licks: By the Waters of Babylon: I Want To Paint It Black (2011)
Falling Notes Unleaving (2013)

Total: 54min

more info
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Expanded Cinema

Circumambulations- Josh Guilford Andrew Ranville
Cracked hands - Hogan Seidel
Ritual to Cleanse Neo-liberalism - Eric Souther
Binary Stars - Andy Busti
What Is Nothing (After What Is Nothing)
- Kristin Reeves
Kinski wanted Herzog to direct But he turned it down
- Guillaume Vallée & Hazy Montagne Mystique

more info
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Vital Transit

Viaggio - Alex Morelli
My Echo, My Shadow, and Me - Roger Deutsch
Interstices Volume II - Kyle Whitehead
A Man Sits Down - Ethan Berry
LIMEN - Kathryn Ramey
Hiatus - Vivian Ostrovsky
How I Learned to Stop Worrying - Aaron Holmes
TONI and BLERI - Katja Verheul

Total: 73min

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Being Seen - Allison Cekala
Body All Eyes - Saara Ekström
Let's Look at Florida - Amanda Justice Hogan Sidel
601 Revir Drive - Josh Weissbach
Irmandade - Helena Girón
Samuel M. Delgado
A Line Was Drawn - Mairead McClean

Total: 56min

more info
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Elemental Findings

Monolithography - Laurids Andersen Sonne
Porto Landscape - Michael Lyons
Fossil Falls - Ekaterina Selenina & Alexey Kurbatov
Consolar- Susan DeLeo
A Fixed Answer - Britany Gunderson
Plants Are Like People - Charlotte Clermont
Transcript - Erica Sheu
First Summer Song - Natalie Minik
Who Wants to Fall in Love? - Emily M Van Loan
Letter Home: Easter Sunday - Brian Wilson
S.S.S. - Sylvie Sutton
Foreclosed Home Movie - Lisa Danker
Sometimes All of Summertime - Linda Fenstermaker

Total: 65min

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The Known Unknown

More Dangerous Than a Thousand Rioters
- Kelly Gallagher
Churubusco Inventory - Elena Pardo
fu - María Rojas & Andrés Jurado
Soil- Sammy Lamb
The Space Shuttle Challenger - Cecilia Araneda
The Exile - Rajee Samarasinghe
Ouroboros - Antonio Arango Vázquez
The Stone Guest - Marina Fomenko

Total: 65min

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Only The Buried Left Alive

Story of Dreaming Water - Chapter One
- Brittany Gravely
Bathers - Douglas Urbank
Luminous variations in the city skies
- Giuseppe Spina
The Great Attractor - Rita Figueiredo
Respiration - Sasha Waters Freyer
Weekend - Lei Lei
Fucked Up Point Blank - Shayna Connelly
The Moons of Palaver - Eric Gaucher
VERY LONG PLAY VINYL - Vladimir Morozov
Temple of Truth - Giuseppe Boccassini

Total: 69min

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Evidence of Life

Lulu's Journal - Jose Luis Benavides
Oh My Homeland - Stephanie M Barber
Corpse Quatrain - Miles Sprietsma
Intersection- Zoya Baker
Still life - Peter Klausz
Hear the Glow of Electric Lights
- Sarah Beth Woods
Ageless Museums of Rotting Animals - Autojektor
Untitled - Paul Razlaf
IN DOG YEARS I’M DEAD - Kenji Ouellet
Hey Little Black Girl - Lyntoria Newton
Goodbye Fantasy
- Amber Bemak & Nadia Granados

Total: 65min

more info
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The second edition of RPM Fest special program features 8 films, showcasing international experimental filmmakers from Canada, France, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia and USA.

Trauma Chameleon - Gina Kamentsky
Amusement Ride - Tomonari Nishikawa
LIMEN - Kathryn Ramey
The Immortality of the Crab - Giacomo Manzotti
Fossil Falls - Ekaterina Selenina & Alexey Kurbatov
Lore - Sky Hopinka
The Little Tools - Emmanuel Piton
Mune - Catalina Jordan Alvarez

more info



Despite this next iteration being only the second hosted in the Boston area, the Revolutions Per Minute Festival already represents the single most expansive public offering of noncommercial cinema happening in the city on a yearly basis. And while it’s true that January is quite early to be characterizing specific events as offering the “most” of anything in the year to come, the numbers behind RPM Fest 2020 will indeed be hard to best: Per the introductory notes from curator and festival co-director Yangqiao Lu, this year’s lineup “featur[es] 107 short films, 5 audio-visual live performances, a documentary feature film, and 9 installations… drawing [from] a wide range of techniques and modes of filmmaking ranging from avant-garde poetics, non-fiction, experimental animations and narratives to dance films, performances, and contemporary art practices.”

RPM Fest 2020 brings those films and artworks together at Umass Boston, carefully grouped into 15 individual programs all playing over the course of a single weekend. And while a good number of the artists featured in those programs will be familiar to those who follow the “experimental sidebars” of the “international festival circuit,” the sheer breadth of this festival nonetheless ensures that for most attendees—myself included—the vast majority of individual films will instead represent a first encounter with the artist who made them. In that, RPM 2020 is a survey in the truest sense of the word: an exhaustively researched examination into a wide variety of filmmaking modes as they’re being practiced in the present tense.

This year’s program begins on Friday, Jan. 31, with the opening of the “Codes and Archives” exhibit (11am at University Hall 4400) and the screening of the festival’s only feature-length inclusion, Self-Portrait: Sphinx in 47 KM (dir. Zhang Mengqi, China, 2018, 94 min., 3 pm at University Hall 2300). Ahead of the festival, I was able to a significant portion of the short-form works (around half of them, I think, although I wasn’t keeping count); and brief notes on some personal highlights from that batch are included below (they are listed alphabetically by filmmaker, with screening information below each title).

Films by Dianna Barrie and Richard Tuohy have screened in the Boston area before, and I already regretted missing those shows, but never more so than after seeing Valpi; which I now, in turn, greatly anticipate seeing in a proper theatrical setting. A mesmerizing interpretation of how images necessarily transform real spaces into something unfamiliar and perhaps even unreal, Valpi depicts the port city of Valparaíso in Chile, but dissected into horizontal strips: Beginning with black screen, the film reveals panning images of the locale’s streets from the bottom up, one-by-one, until the frame seems to have been sliced into 12 distinct pieces (see above). And the continuity of the images within the frame become pointedly jumbled in the process; so that, for instance, a car passing by in one of the bottom strips might be seen passing by the same spot in a higher strip a few seconds later, now a ghost of itself. It’s an overarching effect that, given the beautifully vague lines separating the “strips”, seems to have been accomplished with purely analog film processes—further solidifying the central idea that it’s the materiality of film itself, perhaps even moreso than any individual artist, that actually reshapes a place. Like a puzzle film without any solution to work toward, Valpi engages one’s desire to put all the pieces together, then pushes that impulse somewhere far beyond simple fulfillment.

Binary Stars
By Andrew Busti. 2017, US, 4 min.

Playing in Program 9: “Expanded Cinema II” Feb 1, 9 pm, University Hall 2300 and 4400.

A bombastic widescreen lightshow that utilizes various filmic techniques to warp and transform landscape imagery into a shape that’s almost planetary (see image at top); then flickers and spins these makeshift globes at a speed that quite pleasurably defies full comprehension. Despite viewing it at home, presumably reduced from its full power, the film still achieved for this writer a certain physiological effect—specifically, the exhilaration of motion at high speed.

Story of the Dreaming Water – Chapter One
By Brittany Gravely. US, 2 min.
Playing in Program 14: “Only the Buried Left Alive”. Feb 2, 7 pm, University Hall 2300.
Made by “rephotographing and double-exposing found footage on [an] optical printer”, Gravely’s first Story of the Dreaming Water seems to depict research images of small animals swimming or being moved around in water, and then a human baby doing the same. The frame, in which there appears edges, dirt particles, etc. (h/t Owen Land), is monochromatic (the film was hand processed); and via that palette the animals seem pure black against the washy, grey expanse of the water, which covers the whole image and grants it an overriding consistency even despite the deliberately arrhythmic form of the edit (cuts and splices interrupt regularly, including frames of explanatory text, which are washed off screen much faster than they can be read). Eventually the opacity of the image seems to shift, revealing a landscape beyond the first subject. That revelation does not define or shape the film, though, or at least not so much as the erratic movement of the swimming bodies do beforehand. When combined with the scratches and sparkles of the film material itself, those aquatic images become eerie, shadowy, and almost nightmarish in their motion. And in that, for me, Story of the Dreaming Water brings to mind early cinema experiments, or at least the current state of extent ones—more specifically, Gravely’s film reminds me of Monkeyshines No. 1 and No. 2 (1890), a pair of camera tests that similarly depict jittery movement within damaged, rattling frames. For their uncanny, nightmarish motion, for the random, unrepeatable nature of their creation, and for so many other, more personal reasons, those Edison pictures are, for me, among the scariest films ever made. And even just in Chapter One, Story of the Dreaming Water captures something of their indelible energy.

Program 7: “Saul Levine”
Six films (1984-2013), appx. 54 min. Feb 1, 5 pm, University Hall 2300.
Featuring six works that span a wide range of different artistic modes, this program of films by Saul Levine is exemplary of the vitality and liveliness that characterizes his larger body of work; an oeuvre of moving images that very often reach a contemplative state conducive to reflection on the inner life of the artist and viewer alike despite also focusing in, with great rigor and immediacy, on the physicality and texture of the ostensibly ephemeral moments they document (and on the materials being used to document them, too).
The first film in the program, Notes After Long Silence (1989), illustrates those very qualities, in all their seemingly counterintuitive glory. And it also exemplifies one of the personal filmmaking languages that Levine developed throughout his career, and honed with great craft into poetics: Like a number of other films by the artist, the Super 8-shot Notes After Long Silence rapidly edits between a large number of different semi-continuous “scenes” (some of the specific images here represent television, nature, family, industrialism, war, and sex, among other signifiers), often with elements of the film apparatus visible in the frame, altogether creating a rhythm driven less by the individual shots or scenes than by their suggested interrelation to one another. Writing about a different film in Levine’s ongoing Notes series, P. Adams Sitney wrote for Artforum that “[it] asserts that filmmaking, at least as Levine practices it, is a relational more than a representational art.” And Manohla Dargis, writing about Long Silence for the Village Voice, astutely labeled it “blitzkrieg montage.” But so long as we’re citing quotes, it also calls back to the great David Pendleton’s writing about Levine’s work, in particular one statement that also wasn’t specific to Long Silence, but does seem to describe it as well as it does any other film: “Almost all of Levine’s work is based in montage, and the splice becomes a recurring visual event, especially in the films shot on 8mm and Super 81,” Pendleton wrote in the notes for a Harvard Film Archive program in 2015. “While the splice—the joining of two pieces of film by tape or glue—is typically invisible by the time a film is projected, Levine foregrounds his splices, partly by necessity but also as a gesture that brings together the body of the film and the mind of the filmmaker, as well as the hand of the filmmaker and the spirit of cinema.”
Following Long Silence is Crescent (1993), a Super 8 film made in collaboration with Pelle Lowe, which stages a tender but sneakily devastating conversation under images of night sky and the lights that shine through it, both natural and otherwise; with every shift in the image, and every intrusion of unnatural light, adding onto a disquiet lightly suggested in the dialogue. Crescent will serve as something of a come-down from the audiovisual sensationalism of Long Silence before the program transitions into literal silence via Whole Note (2000), which features richly composed moving portraits of Levine’s father seen close-up and in black-and-white (to be clear, Whole Note features no audio track whatsoever, a quality it shares with the remaining three films in the program).
“Saul’s long-standing career as a filmmaker and programmer has been an inspiration to RPM Fest,” Yangqiao Lu wrote to me in an email about the event, before specifically referencing the filmmaker’s deep roots in Boston’s film culture. “As a young film festival, we are proud to have a strong tie to the local filmmaking community. For the very first single-artist program, we want to honor the history of experimental filmmaking in Boston and we think it is appropriate to dedicate the first program to Saul Levine.” The last film in the Levine program, Falling Notes Unleaving (2013), indirectly touches upon this very impulse; depicting, to some extent, the history and tradition of noncommercial filmmaking in the United States, and the possibility of its continuance and inevitable reinterpretation by generations that follow. Primarily filmed amidst the burial of filmmaker Anne Charlotte Robertson (1949-2012), the film constantly shifts between images of Robertson’s mourners (some of whom may be familiar to those in the community aforementioned), nearby animals, small children (suggesting those left to inherit what their forebears must someday leave behind), and nature or plant life seen at various stages of life and decay2. Conjuring and illustrating the necessarily transformative nature of time upon both people and the artistic traditions they foster, Falling Notes Unleaving seems an ideal cornerstone, if an unofficial one, for a festival that looks steadfastly toward the new, the future, and the unknown.

1. Writing about Levine’s lifelong dedication to various 8mm formats, Sitney also noted that as “a figure of the perennial Left, Levine has identified with and championed the small gauges as if they were marginalized citizens of the republic of cinema.”
2. It’s worth noting that in this implicit connection between the lifespans of plants or flowers and those of human beings, Falling Notes Unleaving looks ahead to Nathanial Dorsky’s Arboretum Cycle (2017), another major work of contemporary American “experimental” cinema directed by one of its truly veteran practitioners.

Amusement Ride
By Tomonari Nishikawa. 2019, Japan, 6 min.
Playing in Program 6: “Slice the Eye!” Feb 1, 3:30 pm, University Hall 2300.

Amusement Ride depicts one in particular—the film was “shot with a telephoto lens from inside a cabin of Cosmo Clock 21, a Ferris wheel at an amusement park in Yokohama, Japan”, per the brief description provided by the artist. The focus is on architecture, then, of both the literal and cinematic variety: The foreground of the frame is taken up fully by the interlocking white bars of the Ferris wheel, which are seen moving in a downward motion for the entirety of the short film; with cuts used throughout to keep that motion fairly continuous, therefore creating a visual rhythm that on some level reflects the actual movement of a film print through a projector (a constant downward passage that’s almost thread-like). Of course on a certain level that’s just a damn funny joke—the old cliche that “modern cinema is a theme-park ride” made literal and intellectualized. But Amusement Ride justifies itself on the surface as well—the geometric motion of the wheel’s complex machinery, flanked in the background of the frame by light blue skies and snatches of human life just barely visible beyond the contours of the moving bars, proves a legitimately arresting film subject of its own. With Nishikawa’s film, the “cinema of attractions” rides again; now more knowing and self-referential, but thankfully no less direct.

Past Selection Committee