'A Film to Be Determined,' White Flag's Summer Film Series, Leaves the Audience Guessing—On Purpose

By Krystin Arneson
In Culture

White Flag Projects’ summer film series, “A Film to Be Determined,” is underway for the fourth season with a few films behind it and many on the docket ahead. But it’s not any usual film series: Audiences who attend don’t know what they’re going to see—and those who miss the event won’t find out afterward, either. Regardless, the uncertainty makes it part of the adventure, and those who dive in take their seats on a grassy lawn to watch the movie unfold and linger to chat about what they’ve just witnessed after.

The experience, like White Flag Projects Founder and Director Matthew Strauss points out, is very unusual in cinema—you generally know what you’re about to go see, likewise for concerts and visual arts exhibitions. With the wide range film encompasses, however, it seems like a bonding effect could take place: Just as the artist has put his or her trust in the audience, they have to give it back to the artist, along with any hestitation at the uncertainty—which, ultimately could create a much stronger and more powerful experience.

Also, it’s summer, and a surprise free movie outside on the lawn (with provided seating) is a lovely idea. ALIVE sat down with Strauss to discuss.

Courtesy the artist and Galerie Rudolphe Janssen, Brussels

Courtesy Elaine Cameron-Weird and Galerie Rudolphe Janssen, Brussels

ALIVE: How did the series get started? 

Matthew Strauss: The series began in 2012 with just an idea that it would be a cool thing to do. What I liked about it was that it was a framework for something very intimate between the artist and the small self-selecting audience that’s sophisticated enough to accept the uncertainly of it and come out for a film they know nothing about in advance—if you think about it, that’s a very unusual experience in terms of film-going, and it also aligns with the the larger principles of White Flag’s main program. And by not ever saying what the films are before or after the screening, it’s something that resists dissemination through the web or social media and stays local to our local audience, which is very unlike the other things we do, which are seen almost exclusively on the web.

ALIVE: How do you connect with those who select the films? 

MS: The artists invited are almost always people we’ve exhibited, with a few exceptions: Last summer we invited John Waters just because it was a good idea.

ALIVE: Is there any sort of criteria for selections? 

MS: The artists are free to choose any film, and selections have varied from mainstream films to classics to obscure cult things. Very often it’s a fascinating insight into the artist’s work—I remember seeing a few like Ed Ruscha’s choice or Uri Aran’s and being like “Yeah, it’s all there…”

The next event is “A Film to Be Determined by Elaine Cameron-Weir,” on June 19 at 9pm, details for which can be found here.

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