A Screen Grows in Bushwick

Los Angeles is the land of commuters; there, a word like ‘communal’ can sound like Spanish. But for Brooklyn-based photographer and curator Molly Surno, who hails from the self-declared “armpit of LA,” community is essential for our increasingly insular times. That’s why Surno revived Cinema 16, the miraculous ciné-club founded by Amos and Marcia Vogel in 1947, which they ran until 1963. Cinema 16 screened experimental offerings (often for the first time stateside) from Alain Resnais, Nagisa Oshima, and Maya Deren. During the film society’s hiatus, “images went from the big screen to an iPod,” Surno says. “Now viewing experiences are on a screen as big as [pointing to my 2 x 4 recorder] and alone. I wanted to remind people that community events can still happen.” She likens the ideal experience to scenes from Cinema Paradiso, where big screens came to small towns and everyone in the neighborhood scrambled to get in front.

Frequently held at Starr Space, the Bushwick-area artist’s hub of painter Jules de Balincourt, Surno’s multimedia programs are anchored by what she calls the “modernization of musical accompaniment.” Once she sets the bill of experimental shorts, Surno enlists a local band to rescore the selections. “In Brooklyn, reach out and you grab ten musicians. People ask, ‘Aren’t you changing the meaning?’ It’s a reinvention. People don’t see short films often, so put a modern-day spin with live music and it becomes timely.” Thus far, Surno has paired compositions from puppetmaster Jan Svankmajer, David Lynch, and Man Ray with a ten-piece New Orleans brass band and an ensemble obeying Bach’s compositional rules.


Photo by Agaton Strom, on first page, photo by Clayton Hauck.


The upcoming installment (the sevent, including one-offs in Portland and Chicago) features Brooklyn-based band Wild Yaks and their score for two golden oldies: The Public Theater’s satiric Pie in the Sky, featuring a young Elia Kazan, and trailblazer Edwin S. Porter’s Dream of a Rarebit Fiend, adapted from Windsor McCoy’s comic strip.

The next Cinema 16 gatherings happen tonight at Starr Space, 109-110 Starr Street, Brooklyn, and February 25 at The Bell House, 149 7th Street.