“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.
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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.