top of page

Film Spotlight: WOEFF 2024 Opening Statement

Clear Ice Fern
directed by Mark Street, US, 12:00

clearicefern_street_program 1.jpg

Whither Experimental Film?

The most common questions we get about experimental film are, of course: “What is experimental film?” and “What does it mean?” Perhaps the best response is to pose two alternate questions that point the way to reckoning the diverse, ever-expanding universe of the art form: “What does experimental film do to you?” and “How does it feel?”


Clear Ice Fern opens WOEFF 2024, a celebratory invitation into a way of seeing that straddles the threshold between the recognizable and the abstract. The colors and shapes are familiar, if only vaguely or intangibly. The film’s treatment of its images equalizes banality and iconography, as we see but hardly discern traffic signals, neon advertisements, a shimmering American flag, and distorted brand logos. The method is simple: architectural glass is placed in front of the camera lens. Light is manipulated on its way from the subject, New York City at night, to its destination, the Super 8 film plane. As Street writes in his description of the film, “The city peeks its head in as an off screen character, but the glass bends and twists it in its own warped and wonderful way.” 


The spectator then remembers that “abstraction” is a process, not a result. We view the abstract images and can’t help but wonder about that which was abstracted, occasionally suggested in the soundtrack’s honking horns and street noises that lurk under the building, ominous chords in the music of Erik Friedlander. But in this liminal space of near-identification, we do not find the distortion to be a withholding, nor the abstraction to be an absence. The textures, colors, movements, and flickers on-screen are captivating as only a film can be. If we find ourselves asking, “What am I looking at in this film?,” Clear Ice Fern offers its tautological reply: “You are looking at this film.” 


The films in all five programs of WOEFF 2024 welcome the audience to meet their images, sounds, words, rhythms, thoughts, and feelings as their complete whole. What matters here are not the processes nor the mechanics nor intentions of the films but instead the sensations— emotional, intellectual, physiological, sensorial— that make up the experiences of the spectators.


In other words, cast aside “what” and embrace “whither.”

- Billy Palumbo, Festival Director

Visiting Associate Professor of Film, Oklahoma City University

bottom of page