Support Us

Films by Kerry Laitala now distributed by Canyon Cinema

Posted May 15th, 2017 in Announcements, New Acquisitions, New Films

It is an honor to announce that the 16mm and 35mm films of San Francisco-based filmmaker Kerry Laitala are now distributed by Canyon Cinema.


Secure the Shadow… ‘Ere the Substance Fade (1997 | 9 minutes | COLOR | SOUND)

“… steeped in melancholia, involuntary schadenfreude and a sense of spoil that is both anachronistic and transcendental.

A collection of stereoptic medical photographs, a menagerie of unseasonable decay, surfaces throughout the film, arriving in negative haloes of blue haze only to deetherealize into restored pictures of positive deformity. Flesh and spirit are pitted against the industriousness of corrosion with wearying vigilance, as owls transform from sentinel guardians into mocking gargoyles in the twinkling of an eye.

The plangent correspondences between emulsion and mortal flesh, editing and surgical suturing and taxidermy, collecting and cataloguing as craft, science and mania, are established directly or in innuendo.” – Mark McElhatten, New York Film Festival, Views From the Avant-Garde



Retroscope (1997 | 5 minutes | B&W | SILENT)

” Retrospectroscope (1997) documents [Laitala’s] astonishing installation work of the same name. Described as a “pre-cinematic device” whose “function is to create the illusion of movement utilizing large-format still images,” The Retrospectroscope evokes a dragon’s eye, the Wheel of Fortune, and the crazed proto-cinematic invention of a mad scientist of the 1880s – all at the same time. Laitala’s film gives the ecstatic treatment to an already ecstasy-inducing subject, making for a five-minute experience akin to watching a sorceress wrangling lightning bolts in a dark, mystery-laden cavern.” – Brecht Andersch, SFMOMA



Conquered (2000 | 15 minutes | COLOR | SOUND)

Collaged entirely at the Akademie Schloss Solitude, this film comes from the depths of a submerged self. Elements include found material from a German industrial film about a youth prison, a British mountaineering documentary, and my own footage. The mountain film The Epic of Everest condenses an attempt to reach the ultimate summit by George Mallory and Sandy Irvine in 1924. 53 years later, Mallory’s body was discovered below the North face. Killed after a fall, his innards were subsequently eaten out by Goraks. I used this Everest imagery to portray a frozen, catatonic state analogous to the darkness and the snow-covered quietude of the Schloss Solitude. Cracking the emulsion yielded a fragile, encumbered palatte- a veritable testament to the forces of organic catalysts in motion.

Awake, But Dreaming (2000 | 8 minutes | COLOR | SOUND)

“To proceed from the Dream Outward….” (Carl Jung)

This completely hand processed 16mm film was shot in the Hirschgang Oberer, an extended arched hallway at the Akademie Schloss Solitude, where I was in residence intermittently from 1998-2001. Awake, but Dreaming recreates a sense of an endless cyclical dreamscape that is conjured up from the deep recesses of the imagination. The images are coupled with a mysterious soundtrack producing uncanny associations: the flapping of wings, shrill cries of birds, a revolver fired off following unseen footsteps. A disembodied hovering presence evokes a menace that is intimated through the sonorous resonance, but never manifests itself. The dreamer never reaches the apex of consciousness, only lingers repeatedly in the periphery of alchemically enhanced light and shadow.



The Adventure Parade (2000 | 5 minutes |B&W | SILENT)

Listen to our Bullhorn recitation. Our procession imparts the darkest of reveries for you to recoil from or embrace as the origin of our entrapment. However, the sprightly buttress overshadowing this cinema submerges it further. As we see fit to excoriate our visage to you the audience, we reveal everything. We present to you an unveiling and beguiling presence…. Now that we have exposed our deepest innermost thoughts, what do you have to offer in recompense?



Hallowed (2002 | 11 minutes | COLOR | SOUND)

Hallowed portrays a mystical voyage made back in time by an unconscious woman in the throes of a cataleptic state. She finds herself in Plato’s cave where flickering flames incite a prehistoric cinematic reverie evoking an experience of magical proportions. She is a spectral being who is transformed from within as viewers witness a chasm between the physical self and psychical self become one. Her internal state is evoked through a chromatically textural metamorphosis that plays across her visage as she transcends the pain inflicted from an unknown source. Flames of purification melt away layers of trauma, and send the dislocated psyche back into the realm of the present as an integrated self. Hallowed evokes a transcendent state that can only be traversed and negotiated through the ritual contemplation of the elusive pictograms and archaic petroglyphs on the cave wall, as the realm of cinema becomes an antidote for the emptiness of earthly existence.



Out of the Ether (2004 | 11 minutes | COLOR | SOUND)

“Brilliant found-footage film about extraterrestrial aliens, fear and microbes.” International Film Festival Rotterdam.

Out of the Ether re-assembles disquieting images from decades-old hygiene and science films, merging them with the filmmaker’s own Bolex camerawork. It was re-photographed on the optical printer, toned and tinted to bring out pulsating hues of oozing greens and yellows.



Coming Attractions (2004 | 3 minutes | SILENT)

A hand-exposed, hand-made, hand processed investigation of ballyhoo, Coming Attractions will bring you through the whole gamut of human emotions! A trailer for the photoplay of the 20th Century.



Terra Firma (2005 | 7 minutes | COLOR | SILENT)

“Creating a gorgeous homage to San Francisco, the city that survived the 1906 earthquake, the filmmaker incorporates a series of found images (by Eadweard Muybridge and other photographers) and a decaying nitrate print of the [1906] film A Trip Down Market Street. Architectural motifs immerse the viewer in details of the city’s Victorian sensibility.

Underground shots of cables and machinery call attention to the new technology of transport prevalent during this period and to the equipment used to make the film. Muybridge appears as an apparition, and harbinger of destruction. Terra Firma is a moving love letter that speaks to city dwellers everywhere.” – Madcat Women’s International Film Festival

Over 100 hours went into the contact printing of the original nitrate print, all done by hand using a darkroom timer to expose the fragile film, and transfer it to modern day 35mm film stock. This attempt at re-mastering the print was also entirely hand processed. Terra Firma was commissioned by The Exploratorium for the Trip Down Market Street 1905/2005 Outdoor Centennial celebration, with support from Rick Prelinger, the San Francisco Cable Car Museum, and the Wells Fargo Museum.



Orbit (2006 | 9 minutes | COLOR | SOUND)

Candy apple light emissions create a series of photic stimulating events that tickle the retinas. Orbit takes one into the realm of the mistake… a playful pulsation of mis-registered images made when a lab accidentally split the film from 16mm to regular 8. This format was then reconstituted on the optical printer making the colors and contrast further blow out into the atmosphere.Kodachrome color fields create tremulous vibrations whose flickerings hypnotize. The hand-made soundtrack is comprised of the flutterings of optical noise reverberating to the splices of the film, intermixed with extensions of the visual plane onto the soundtrack area. Crackle! Pop! We enter through the oval window, while the Gravitron spins eternally.



Muse of Cinema (2006 | 20 minutes | COLOR |SOUND)

I started Muse of Cinema about five years ago using magic lantern slides found at the Alemany flea market as my source material. Dating from between 1905 to 1928, these magic lantern images directly address the movie audience. Some of them were used to keep the moviegoers in line – it seems that wearing hats that obstructed views, spitting on the floor, loud talking, and raucous behavior were big problems at the time! Other lantern slides would entertain the audience while the projectionist surmounted a technical disaster in the projection booth.

In Muse of Cinema, the photochemical properties of the filmic medium have been cultivated over five years using a flashlight, not a camera, to expose the film. All slide images were shot on a slide duplicator using the apparatus in a way that diverges from its original function. The original hand processed film material was then mastered on a 35mm optical printer at a film co-op in Vancouver called Cineworks. The soundtrack was made through a collaboration with Robert Fox. Muse of Cinema was funded in part through a Museum of Contemporary Cinema Grant. It won a Golden Gate Award from the San Francisco International Film Festival in 2007, as had the film documenting its creation, Torchlight Tango, in 2005.



Phantogram (2008 | 9 minutes |B&W | SILENT)

Shivery bits of elusive emulsion, refractive light sprays ignite the depths of two dimensions to expand the terrain of undulating forms. Vertical motion of frameless space testing the limits, Phantogram unites the torch and surface, forms made mobile. Indecipherable messages from the dead, a telepathic telegram captured on the medium of film… The “redblind” refraction of elements explored, expand beyond the edges of the frame using sweeping gestures and textures both torn and tactile.

Slippery shimmers slide across the celluloid strip, to embed themselves on the consciousness of viewers.



Spectrology (2009 | 11 minutes | COLOR |SOUND)

In 1646, Athanasius Kircher published Ars Magna Lucis et Umbrae, describing an early version of the magic lantern projector. Using this apparatus as a tool to enchant, spellbind and spook, Étienne-Gaspard Robert and other conjurors dazzled spectators with their unique bag of 18th Century tricks, raising up the spirits of recently deceased and reminding the viewer of the “fate that awaits us all”. Spectrology calls upon conjurors of the past and their secret repertoire of magical devices to simulate a modern rendition of the phantasmagoria. The medium of cinema is harnessed to entice the viewer and ruminate on the mesmerizing presence of various illusions made anew.



Conjuror’s Box (2011 | 6 minutes | COLOR | SILENT)

“…uses an amalgam of techniques in its evocation of the shadowy beginnings of cinema. Sinuous abstractions (and a few recognizable objects) are photogrammed directly onto a filmstrip, then step-printed to introduce variations in tempo and bring emphasis to certain chance formations, as Stan Brakhage did with some of his hand-painted films.

The striking colors of these photograms led me briefly to wonder what they would look like through the chroma-depth glasses used to view Laitala’s video works, but there was already so much apparent depth to the image that it wouldn’t be worth hazarding its filmic texture. Conjuror’s Box is soon augmented with fanciful images suggestive of magic lantern slides (that is perhaps what they are) inserted into the masked-off center of the frame, while in the periphery the film roils on as before.”

– Carl Martin, Film on Film Foundation

The Muse of Cinema Series (1997-2011 | 61 minutes | 16mm & 35mm | SOUND & SILENT)

The Muse of Cinema series was inspired by the filmmaker’s research into the silent-era cinema-going experience. Many of these films received funding from the Princess Grace Foundation Special Projects Grants 2004 & 2007. Rental of this entire set of films includes “bonus” 35mm works COMING ATTRACTIONS and AULD LANG SYNE.

The series includes the following eight films for the special series price of $250.00 (see individual title listings for complete descriptions, or to rent individually):

1. RETROSPECTROSCOPE 16mm silent (1997) 5 minutes.
2. TERRA FIRMA 35mm silent. (2005) 7½ minutes.
3. MUSE OF CINEMA 35mm sound (2006) 20 minutes.
4. PHANTOGRAM 16mm silent (2008) 9 minutes
5. SPECTROLOGY 16mm sound (2009) 11 minutes.
6. COMING ATTRACTIONS 35mm silent (2004) 3 minutes.
7. CONJUROR’S BOX 35mm silent (2011) 6 minutes (at 18 fps)
8. AULD LANG SYNE 35mm sound (n.d.) 1 minute