“I think I’m very black, very cool and very dope – those three things. If I had a niche or had to choose one, it’d be cool, black and awesome — and fun.” That’s how Amir George, a Chicago filmmaker, describes his own Afrofuturist alternative film work, though he admits that a lot of it is really dead-serious, if portrayed in a playful way. But George is just as much a cheerleader for experimental film as a microcinema curator, pulling together programs for Cinema Culture, a Chicago-based filmmakers’ platform, and Black Radical Imagination, a touring series he co-curates with L.A.’s Erin Christovale.
In either role, he’s the perfect face for the Unseen Festival, an unprecedented two-week Denver showcase for local and national experimental filmmakers, mixed up with a reading series that does the same for under-the-radar poets and authors. The fest, a collaboration between Counterpath Press and OFF Cinema, begins with a fundraiser/kickoff party on Monday, September 18, then really gets under way on September 21 with daily screenings through October 1 at Counterpath’s digs, 7935 East 14th Avenue.
As Unseen’s resident filmmaker, George will not only be in attendance throughout the festival’s run, but he’ll also host an evening of his own work on September 22 and a Black Radical Imagination program on September 28, shining a brighter light on people of color working nationally in experimental film.
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George sees BRI’s function not so much as a simple act of reaching out to new audiences as an invitation to the greater community to reach in and learn about a marginalized subgenre of filmmaking. “Cinema is meant to educate people,” he says. “People get exposed to culture and ideas through film; this might be the first time they’ve ever seen black lesbians on screen or black astronauts or black beauty, but it exists. As a programmer, I want to bring the film audience something they've never seen before.”
And in that capacity, he’s excited to be a part of the Unseen Festival, which focuses in general on the otherness of experimental arts — itself a kind of marginalization — and seeks to normalize little-understood cultural niches for audiences who are possibly experiencing them for the first time. It brings people together across unapproachable divides. “Watching a movie is the only time you can share something collectively in the dark with people you don't even know,” George notes. “And I hope people will be inspired, be inquisitive, have questions….”
Unseen Festival runs from September 18 through October 1 at Counterpath, 7935 East 14th Avenue; tickets are $7 for individual screenings or $70 for a full-access pass. Find out more at counterpathpress.org.