I am excited to share a special Artists I Admire interview! Molly Parker Stuart and Maret Polzine have been kind enough to answer some last minute questions! They are currently promoting the 6th season of the Altered Esthetics Film Festival, a program I started in 2014. Back then it was a one night event showing around 20 artists. Now the festival shows over 50 artists within a two day schedule!
Molly Parker Stuart is the director of the Altered Esthetics Film Festival and an interdisciplinary artist best known for her experimental films. Molly works with and within structures, including social, cultural, physical, and digital structures to push the bounds of art making in order to create accessible and meaningful experiences. She was selected as a Featured Artist for the 2017 Altered Esthetics Film Festival and has been recognized for her work in the Trans community.
Maret Polzine is a filmmaker, arts organizer, and teacher in the Twin Cities. They founded and direct Video Variant, a film screening series exclusively dedicated to supporting the work of local LGBTQIA+ filmmakers. They are a teaching artist with COMPAS, offering classes on film and animation to all ages. Maret is the host of FilmNorth’s Cinema Lounge, and spends time moderating film conversations in festival settings. Their work is experimental, communicating unnameable feelings through abstract imagery.
As Molly and Maret prepare for the next festival, I've been super curious about what they have in store! I admire their artwork and leadership, so read on to learn more these amazing artists and their plans with the Altered Esthetics Film Festival!
Jes: Molly, I am so excited to get to interview you again! Last time, we checked in, it was August 2018 - almost one year ago! How have been things going?
Molly: It’s been a busy year! I had some of my works shown at the Weisman for Slow Art Day, I’ve screened a few times locally and nationally, I help Maret with Video Variant whenever they need it, I am working with a project of, by, and for trans women called Malleable that has been funded by MRAC and will be running this winter, and I’ve taken over your old position as the director of the Ae Film Festival, which I suspect you may have heard about. That’s a lot! I’m very proud of it all, too.
That's so awesome about your work showing at the Weisman and your Malleable project. Congrats! I am also excited that you are now leading the Altered Esthetics Film Festival too! Such great opportunities! Tell me more about how the festival is doing and what your goals are for the program?
It’s tough times right now, but the future looks incredible. As you know, we lost our space at the Southern, so everything is a lot tighter this year and we got a late start. Maret and I make an amazing team, though, so with the help from the Kickstarter, we’ll get through this year and come out running! I’m really excited for the future!
I want to give people a little background first. Most people know that I am a trans woman, and when I transitioned it pretty much brought an end to my arts career. Nobody would work with me. There’s a dead zone in my resume surrounding the time when I came out. Having lived through that and come out the other side, I can say with full certainty that I owe my career to you, Chelsea Arden Parker of Feminist Video Quarterly, and the Altered Esthetics Film Festival. I would not be here without that. Knowing that, my goals with the film fest are driven by the idea of being able to replicate that act of loving grace for everyone who needs it.
So with that, I have short, medium, and long term goals in mind. The short term goal is to get through this year intact. That’s what our Kickstarter is about. We’re going to do it, it’s going to work, and it’s going to work a lot more smoothly with the help of others. Film festivals are expensive and labor intensive, and your donations will be well spent. Every little bit counts! So please take a look at the Kickstarter, donate if you can, and share it with your networks.
For the medium term, we’re looking to expand on the microcinemas that Ae ran last year, and to use them as a way to get access and support to people who are currently left out of the film arts. We’re going to do that by partnering with community organizers and organizations to fund their own microcinema events for their own communities. We’ve been talking with queer and trans organizations, north Minneapolis community organizations, and others, and there is no shortage of interest from people who want to provide film arts access to their communities. As Ae board members roll off, we’ll be looking to replace them with people who participate in these community based microcinemas, so that as we go on Ae will become an organization made up of marginalized artists serving our own communities.
My long term goal is to eventually extend this format out into the country. The last time we did an interview I talked about growing up in rural Iowa, and I want to give back to the places where I come from. My hope is that by working with marginalized artists living in the city to bring people in the country access to the arts and culture we can begin to heal that political divide. By doing so I believe we can help build the solidarity needed so that we can create a better future for all of us together.
Wow, Molly, those are some amazing plans! I am so glad that the festival was there for you when you really needed it and that you are working towards extending that same support to those who are in need too. Since you mention partnerships, I noticed that the upcoming season will be held at The Trylon. It’s a great venue! When did this partnership begin?
It began last year at my retrospective. It really shook me how much of a difference it made to see deeply experimental works in a professional theater. It was a truly breathtaking experience. I was also really impressed with how accessible they were, and how responsive they were to making sure that everyone had access to the theater regardless of how their bodies work. The folks at The Trylon honestly care about cinema and want everyone to be able to experience it. So when the need came up I reached out to them. The price was right, they were interested in supporting weird, wild cinema, and it all just kind of fell into place.
As you mentioned your Kickstarter campaign launched recently. What will folks expect if they contribute to funding the 2019 program?
First and foremost they can expect to be supporting an inclusive and accessible program dedicated to showing the best experimental films the world has to offer. That goes without saying. I could go on for days about all of the radically experimental narratives, abstracts, and completely indescribable films I’ve seen at the fest over the years, and given the opportunity to do so I will!
Tanin Torabi has been a regular award winner with her short films focusing on dance in Iran. They are deeply beautiful and moving films. Our Creative Vision award winner last year, “Float” by Karli Evans, told a story of grief, loss, and acceptance experienced by a queer black woman. The thing that struck me about that film is how incredibly concise it is. The story it tells is so deeply imbued within every part of it that you know the whole of it from even a single frame. It is truly a masterpiece. We also always have a strong showing from artists who eschew the narrative form all together, which you can see in Maret’s works combining animation and film to create a strong emotional landscape that really sets a feeling inside you. When you watch one of their films, there is no path to knowing, you simply know. You can also find that in the purely abstract films that always have a place in the fest, which includes my own history. Ae has always been just ahead of the bleeding edge of contemporary film arts, and that’s not going to change. Many of the films shown at the Ae Film Fest challenge what it even means to be film, and that’s a rare thing to find anywhere. I honestly believe that the best way to understand it is to experience it yourself, so please come watch some films with us this August 28th and 29th at the Trylon and see for yourself.
We offer a number of gifts to say thanks for supporting our Kickstarter as well. Everyone gets a thank you card from the Ae board of directors. For $10+ we’ll get you a ticket to one night of the festival, for $25+ we’ll get you a ticket to both nights of the festival (or two for one night) and a place in the credits, and for $100+ you can have a sit-down critique/consultation with either Maret or myself. If you would like to donate an even larger sum, please feel free to contact me and we can find an appropriate gift of thanks.
For those who are skipping around, you can find the Kickstarter here. Please take a look, donate if you can, and share it widely within your networks.
Maret - Congrats on your Featured Artist Award! What can we expect from you at the Ae Film Festival?
Maret: Thanks so much! I’m currently working on a hand drawn animation for Ae. Hand drawn animation is not something I typically lean heavily on-- it’s usually the supporting actor. This will be my first entirely hand drawn movie to date. With the honor of receiving this award comes some reflection and meditation on my practice. I’ve observed in the past that the work I make that is the most “successful” is the work I make about past traumas and hardships. However, this is also the work I make compulsively, rather than intentionally. It ends up feeling bad to make, and bad to show. For this project, I am moving with intention, and with connection to other artists. I’ve been reflecting a lot lately on how it feels in my nervous system to be connected to the earth with both feet and both eyes, how it feels in my nervous system to meet people in a space of connection and engagement. More of my life has been spent cold than hot, and I find myself interested in tracking the progression from cold to hot in a visual way. So I guess it’s kind of a brief autobiography, told with abstract shapes and textures. I’ve invited my friends to join me in this venture, by asking them to touch the piece with their own instincts, as a way to communicate.
I am excited to see such personal work, Maret. I am sure there will be other films at the festival that will offer such vulnerability too. I believe sharing first-person cinema is the purest and bravest type of cinema. We just don't see enough of it! Local artists of Minnesota can submit to the festival for free, right? When is the deadline for consideration? Do you have any recommendations for folks submitting?
Maret: The deadline is July 15th! As for recommendations, be bold! Submit the works you took risks on, the works that challenged you, the works that felt like fire to make. We want to honor your explorations and growth.
Molly: I love what Maret said! Show us what feels like fire to make! As a featured artist, Maret will be setting the tone for our fest this year, so step into your warmth and show us your flames! I’ll also add that while we will continue to accept films from everybody, we will proudly give full throated support to queer and trans filmmakers, especially QTPOC and trans women. If you make films and have an identity that has been historically excluded from the film scenes, please know that we fully understand that, have experienced it ourselves, and we will welcome and celebrate both you as an artist and the works you make!
Thanks for answering all of my questions! Is there anything else you want to share?
Submit your films, be kind to yourselves and each other, and take a moment to remember how beautiful you are!
All images courtesy of the artists.
Artists I Admire is a series of interviews with artists I think highly of.