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Films by children—even those who go on to become internationally recognized artists—are almost universally overlooked. With the help of archivist and curator John Klacsmann, this program focuses on two nearly forgotten films from the collection of the New York–based Film-Makers’ Cooperative. Created by youths raised by artists, their works demonstrate levels of skill and complexity that belie their ages.
Peter Emshwiller, son of author Carol Emshwiller and artist and filmmaker Ed Emshwiller, borrowed his father’s 16mm camera and gathered a group of his fifth-grade friends together to create an utterly serious homage to Star Trek, his favorite television show. Jr. Star Trek boasts a dynamic narrative, avant-garde special effects, and clever commercial breaks, reading not as the work of a ten-year-old, but as a masterpiece of fan fiction.
Short Circuit is a compilation of animation experiments conducted by then 8 year-old David Wise. Wise, who went on to develop the television series Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, was a prodigious talent. Son of gallerist Howard Wise, he trained under great artists of the day including Len Lye and Stan VanDerBeek. Short Circuit gained international recognition, and found its filmmaker lecturing at universities and appearing on television before his age reached into the double digits.
The Film-Makers’ Cooperative is the largest archive and distributor of independent and avant-garde films in the world. Created by artists in 1961, as the distribution branch of the New American Cinema Group, the Coop has more than 5,000 films, videotapes, and DVDs in its collection.
Jr. Star Trek (1969, 16mm, color, 8 min.) by Peter Emshwiller
Short Circuit (1963,16mm, color, 12 min.) by David Wise