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Ken Jacobs returns to show new film
May 3, 2016Tweet
A founder of Binghamton University’s Cinema Department returned to campus as a visiting cinema expert, director and familiar face.
Ken Jacobs founded the Cinema Department with Larry Gottheim when Binghamton University was still known as Harpur College. From his hiring until retirement in 2002, Jacobs taught every genre of film, but specialized in those with avant-garde themes. Honors he received for his avant-garde work include the Maya Deren Award of The American Film Institute, the DAAD Artists-in-Berlin award, the Guggenheim Award and a special Rockefeller Foundation grant.
Since retirement, Jacobs has periodically returned to campus to showcase his works for students and faculty. The distinguished professor emeritus presented an audience with his newest film, “Blankets for Indians,” in LH-6 on April 26.
Cinema Professor Vincent Grenier introduced the film as a colleague and admirer of Jacobs’ work.
“In his own right he has made some of the most international films that were ever made… and has had a tremendous influence on a large number of people all over the world,” Grenier said. “So it’s a fantastic opportunity that we can celebrate him.”
The event was co-sponsored by the Cinema Department, Harpur College Dean’s Speakers Series and the Broome County Arts Council. It was made possible in part with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts’ Electronic Media and Film Presentation Funds grant program, administered by The ARTS Council of the Southern Finger Lakes.
“Blankets for Indians” was shot in 3-D, which Jacobs said he was excited to share. The film involves freeze-frames, text and 3-D manipulation of New York’s City Hall fountain and Occupy Wall Street protests.
Why did Jacobs choose these themes?
He said he works on impulse. He has tried to use scripts, but it never worked out. Without reason for juxtaposing the fountain and protests, he created a political commentary with aesthetic features of color, movement and retinal exercise.
First, Jacobs presented the audience with an intro film. It pictured eye-bending images of construction in lower Manhattan taken with a 3-D camera, but shown in 2-D.
“You’ve never seen anything like it,” Jacobs said.
Before showing “Blankets for Indians,” Jacobs described the science behind 3-D. According to him, the eyes recognize flat images and when watching 3-D, which is exactly what is seen. However, the contradiction of two images on different plains creates an illusion that takes place in the mind. Jacobs also explained that because of visual effects, 3-D movies are made for immediate experience, compared to normal films with a story and actors, which are not as immediate.
As for the concept, Jacobs had a personal connection with the Occupy Wall Street protests and wanted to capture it on film.
“I feel it,” he said. “It’s part of our lives.”
Jacobs lives not too far from the streets in Manhattan where the protests took place and believed the cause was worth fighting for. He captured freeze-frames and found a window into still moments during the protests. With this, the audience could decipher facial expressions, read written words on posters and feel the energy.
As a political work of art, Jacobs used his own commentary throughout the film with subtitles. As an artist and vocalist of politics, he said it was important to capture such a historic event.
“Art is a continuation of what happens,” he said.