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09/10/2012 19:58 by Kier-La Janisse


Reviewer - Scott MacDonald

   I subscribe to that Spielberg quote (that I am seriously going to get wrong here), about loving to read about cinema, just as much as I love to watch it.  My shelf is covered in books from capsule review guides that used to be my method of finding out about new and interesting films, to biographies or directors, actors, writers, and histories of film/film genres. So when I first heard about House of Psychotic Women through a friend, I knew it was to be a must read.  I was told it was an exploration of women in horror and exploitation cinema, from an intellectual perspective, Where do I sign up?

   Kier-La Janisse's book is subtitled An Autobiographical Topography of Female Neurosis in Horror and Exploitation Films. I had assumed from the brief description that I had gotten that it would be a simple genre exploration, an analysis of female-centric horror, and exploitation cinema, maybe a bit of a history, but the subtitle seemed to indicate much more than that.  Due to a busy schedule, it was a few days before I got to crack open the cover beyond perusing the pictures, and the wonderful film guide in the back, only to discover that the subtitle accurately reflects the content of the book, and creates what could only be described as one of the most unique, interesting, and fulfilling experiences in genre film literature.

   House of Psychotic Women (the title taken from a Carlos Aured film) is essentially a biography of the author, through her traumatic childhood experiences. She then writes about genre movies that apply to these experiences, and analyze them from the perspective of both the films as independent entities, and how they relate to her existence growing up in very difficult circumstances. 

   The author's selections of topical films runs the gamut from critical darlings like Lars Von Trier's The Antichrist to understated and obscure horror films like the sleepy shocker Let's Scare Jessica to Death. The selection of films coupled with the autobiographical nature of the tome, offers some interesting insight into the nature of film criticism itself. It is obvious that Kier-La is a very distinguished film fan, her book references filmmakers from Roman Polanski to Ingmar Bergman, but of course, the primary thread that ties the book together is the horror genre, proving that critical taste truly is in the eye of the beholder, and is weaved into the life fabric of the viewer.

   If the main body of the book weren't enough to justify the purchase price, the book also includes a large capsule review section in the latter half of it discussing the films in the book, and many others.  This is an invaluable reference guide to film fans who may want to add another avenue of exploration to their viewing agenda.

     The book seems to have an organic flow to it. It never feels like the author decides here is the part where I discuss my life, here is where I write the plot of a movie, and here is where I analyze the film, and apply it to my existence.  House of Psychotic Women more than any other film-related book I have ever picked up feels like a true entity upon itself, and honestly that is the books most rewarding aspect. I have read an epic amount of books on film, but none like this, and I doubt I shall ever come across one like this again. Kier-La Janisse has created a truly invaluable piece of film literature.


From Starburst Magazine:
Reviewer Martin Unsworth

10 out of 10

Subtitled “An autobiographical topography of female neurosis in horror and exploitation films”, this is a rather remarkable look at the horror genre as seen not only through the eyes of the author, (a highly regarded writer who has written for Rue Morgue and Fangoria as well as programming several US and Canadian film festivals) but also how she relates to them through a rather turbulent personal life. Taking its title from the US re-naming of the 1973 Paul Naschy film, The Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll, the union of real life traumas and psychological and often extreme horror films makes for compulsive if uneasy reading. Janisse's dissections of the films are as brutally honest and insightful as the passages on her own life, family and relationships. This blending works perfectly, and in doing so opens the reader up to make their own connection to the films that they may have parallels to themselves. We may not all have had experiences nor upbringings like Janisse, but we may have traits that push us to love the grotesque and often disturbing films we watch.

While the obvious titles are covered; Black Swan, Repulsion, Antichrist and Carrie, there are also a plethora of films that only the most hardened horror buffs would have come across such as Venus Drowning, A Gun for Jennifer and an array of foreign titles.

After the obligatory but nevertheless impressive 30+ page colour photo section, the final 150 pages are made up of mini film reviews of key films, again with many rare and obscure titles getting some well deserved and reasoned attention. This mini encyclopaedia is almost worth the price alone. The book is illustrated throughout with many rare stills and film posters and looks marvelous.

The book has been available as a limited edition hardback from the FAB press website for a while (and very few copies remain), but now the paperback has hit the shelves and online stores there is no reason not to purchase! Highly recommended.

Interview with Paul Corupe on about BLUE SUNSHINE

Rue Morgue Podcast Feb 26, 2011

Rue Morgue Podcast Sept. 15, 2011


‘House of Psychotic Women’ a compelling dive into the personal appeal of extreme cinema
by Bill Mesce, Sound on Sight, September 25, 2012

Back in November of 2011, Sound on Sight contributors were invited to write about their “gateway” films – the movies that first lit them up to the power and magic of cinema. What became apparent to me over the course of that series of posts was how much our respective choices were shaped by who each of us is. It was never as simple as, “Well, then I took Film Appreciation 101 and saw Citizen Kane for the first time…” Nothing’s that simple. Where we were from, how we were raised, the lives we led…all of that and more in some way influenced the choices each of us made. No surprise, that: we view everything – sex, politics, the way the world works – through the prism of our own experience. Why not movies?

But I’ve never seen the dynamic so clearly at work – or demonstrated so emphatically – as it is in Kier-La Janisse’s House of Psychotic Women: An Autobiographical Topography of Female Neurosis in Horror and Exploitation Films, recently published by FAB Press.

It’s a mouthful of a title, yet even that doesn’t quite capture the boiling stew Janisse has cooked up. Let the book fall open at random, and, depending on the page, House of Psychotic Women (the title comes from the American release of the 1973 Spanish chiller, The Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll) is a deep investigation of women-victimizing grindhouse splatter; another page and Janisse is off on an extended discussion of psychoanalysis, or cultural gender roles, or religion’s place in society; and yet another, and it’s a disturbing memoir of a traumatic upbringing right out of Dickens.

A la the six blind men trying to describe an elephant, House… is not quite any of these; and yet is all of them. It’s neither hybrid nor blend, but a bubbling up of different ingredients surfacing from one page to the next. And the more one learns of Janisse, the more that makes sense.

Janisse, a writer and film programmer as well as the author of A Violent Professional: The Films of Luciano Rossi (FAB, 2007), is an anomaly: a fan of the kind of blood-drenched low-budget flicks which more typically draw in young males, and persistently tick off the feminists with their depictions of women as victims, manipulating victimizers, and brutal avenging angels. To throw a little more gas on the fire, she’s particularly fond of the made-on-the-cheap grindhouse fodder of the 1970s-early 1980s; think flicks like Ms. 45 (1981), Roadside Torture Chamber (1972), and Prey (1977), and imports like The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970), and The Blood Spattered Bride (1972).

But it’s not visceral shocks Janisse is interested in (at least not solely). In those movies, she’s found some chord resonant with her own scarred psyche.

Born in 1972 in Winnipeg – “…an isolated city in the dead centre of Canada known for its long, harsh winters and its citizens’ tragic propensity of alcoholism and violent crime” – she suffered through abandonment by her birth parents, a philandering adoptive father and an emotionally abusive stepfather. In the time between her mother’s marriages, Janisse has memories of listening through her bedroom door to her mother being assaulted by an intruder. There’s a parade of foster homes, self-destructive acting out, relationships in which she is sometimes the abused, other times the abuser, an increasingly neurotic and eventually distant mother. She found her own real-life horrors reflected in distorted funhouse mirror fashion in the excesses of a Ms. 45, the fetishistic gore of Italian giallo, and even upscale portrayals of female neuroses/psychoses like What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962), and Persona (1966).

To the dissatisfied memoirist or the impatient splatter hound, the book may seem unfocused, unsure of what it wants to be. But House… – like its author – is its own animal, following few rules, going where compulsive curiosity drives it, however tangled that route may be. What holds it all together is Janisse’s powerful pen: “Guilt ran through 1970s genre films like a parasite, eating away at the psyches of female characters, who oscillated between domestic responsibility and the desire for autonomy.” But she never writes more beautifully – or drolly – then when telling her own story:

“…given my erratic emotional and social patterns, my Christian Aunt Pam started to worry about my mental and spiritual well-being. After all, I was a sketchy juvenile delinquent with a gun living in the basement listening to Anarchy in the UK about a hundred times a day. One night…she and her weird friend Beth came down to my room…they were going to save my soul with the help of Jesus Christ. I was really tired and asked if they could save my soul some other time.”

Whether you’re in the camp that considers exploitation movies an undervalued form of subversive, underground cinema, or that it’s gory pandering of the worst kind, what’s clear in House… is the honest connection Janisse makes between her own traumas and grindhouse excesses. Hers is – with a painful, tragic obviousness – a sensibility shaped by the course of her life, related in compelling, insightful, and even, at times, touching fashion..

In the end, that may be the real value of House of Psychotic Women. It’s not about horror and exploitation films, nor is it purely about Kier-La Janisse, but an illustration of just how subjective film criticism is, how non-existent absolute concepts of “good” and “bad” films are, and how the value of what we see is determined not by what’s on the screen, but the personal lens through which we view it. As Janisse writes:

“Everything we see onscreen is a fiction that we are asked to believe, and we believe in it because we can find truth in that fiction.”

original link:


By Malcolm Fraser
from Cult MTL, July 20, 2012

The Montreal anglo arts and media scene is very small and incestuous, to the point where the line between “community coverage” and “back-scratching nepotism” is sometimes blurry. And so it was with some hesitation that I approached an interview with Kier-La Janisse—intrepid programmer at Fantasia, Film Pop and the late, lamented underground screening room Blue Sunshine, as well as the author of the new book House of Psychotic Women, published by Fab Press.

Although we are not close friends, we know each other through a multitude of overlapping roles—I was her editor at a certain recently departed weekly newspaper, and she programmed a documentary of mine at Film Pop and other festivals. But I’ll swear on the tattered remains of my journalistic integrity that I’m hyping her book here not because of these connections, but because it’s eminently worthy of attention.

House of Psychotic Women is a new kind of book: an in-depth analysis of the ways female neurosis and psychosis are portrayed in horror films, woven through with a bracingly candid autobiographical story that unsparingly chronicles the author’s shockingly dysfunctional childhood, extreme relationship dramas and multiple mental breakdowns.

“It seems kind of self-absorbed to write an autobiography when no one knows or cares who you are,” Janisse admits with typical self-deprecation. The book took over a decade to complete, but as she explains, “most of that time wasn’t spent writing, most of it was spent reorganizing the material. Originally there were no autobiographical elements at all. It was going to be a book of essays about different films, many of which I’d already published in my fanzines and stuff.”

Her university studies found her detouring into feminist film theory, but as she recalls, “I got disillusioned with academic writing and then had to start it again from scratch.” After discussions with friends who urged her to “write from the gut,” she asked herself: “Ultimately, what’s my point? What am I trying to accomplish? And I realized that what I was trying to accomplish was personal. Once I started focusing on that, the writing got a lot easier.”

On top of the film analysis and autobiography, the 360-page tome includes an appendix exploring the films in even more detail, plus a coffee table book-worthy gallery of lurid film posters. It makes for a unique read that defiantly straddles genres and markets. “I definitely worry about horror audiences just wanting the movie stuff, and thinking it’s totally self-absorbed and narcissistic. So I’m expecting a lot of negative criticism from that side. Also, feminists are probably going to hate it,” she laughs. “So I don’t know what the audience will be.”

But there’s a lot to appreciate in the book, both in her counterintuitive but persuasive feminist reading of a genre often dismissed as misogynist, and in the courage she shows in recounting her personal struggles. She sets the tone early on when she defines the project’s goal with the powerfully simple statement: “I wanted to know why I was crazy.”

“A lot of this talk about craziness was kind of a reclamation of the word, and how it’s not that bad to be crazy,” she declares, concluding with a laugh: “I think of it as a superpower that can be used for good or evil.”

See the original article HERE


A Force to Be Reckoned With: Kier-La Janisse and Her 'House of Psychotic Women'

By Maude Michaud
From Planet Fury, August 25, 2012

Let's face it, Kier-La Janisse is a force to be reckoned with.

Over the past 15 years, she has created the CineMuerte Horror Film Festival (Vancouver, BC, 1999–2005); founded the Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies as well as the Blue Sunshine Psychotronic Film Center, Montreal's coolest micro-cinema (2010–2012); and programmed for the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema (Austin, TX, 2003–2007). That's in addition to working for the Fantasia International Film Festival (Montreal, QC), being the subject of the documentary Celluloid Horror (Ashley Fester, 2004), writing A Violent Professional: The Films of Luciano Rossi (published by FAB Press) and contributing articles for Filmmaker magazine, Fangoria and Rue Morgue, among others. And this extensive list is only the tip of the iceberg that is this woman's achievements.

I first met Kier-La in 2009 when she generously agreed to contribute to my Bloody Breasts documentary webseries by letting me interview her amid the craziness that is the Fantasia Film Festival – she later moderated the panel about women horror filmmakers I organized in 2011 for the same festival – and we have since become friends. I have heard her talk, countless times, about an exciting and intriguing book she was writing about female neurosis in genre films that would draw from film studies, but would also be autobiographical.

This summer, the book in question, House of Psychotic Women: An Autobiographical Topography of Female Neurosis in Horror and Exploitation Films (published by FAB Press), was finally launched during Fantasia Fest. Of course, like anything Kier-La does, it wasn't an ordinary launch. Instead of the typical "let's gather and have a drink and maybe buy the book" type event, the House of Psychotic Women launch consisted of a series of screenings of some of the films covered in the book, introduced by Kier-La herself, during which audience members could buy a copy of the publication. For the Canadian launch during Fantasia, the following titles were programmed: Full Circle (a.k.a. The Haunting of Julia, Richard Loncraine, 1977), Possession (Andrzej Zulawski, 1981), Christiane F. (Uli Edel, 1981) and Dr. Jekyll and His Women (Walerian Borowczyk, 1981).

Unfortunately, given the length of the book (350+ pages), I can't offer you a full review as I haven't yet had the time to finish reading it. (I am still fully savoring every page!) Instead, Kier-La was generous enough to answer a few questions and shed some light on her latest project.

Kier-La, your book takes an interesting approach by focusing on the representation of psychotic women in genre films, which is arguably the antithesis of the typical gender studies analysis of the psycho-sexual dynamics of women as victims. What inspired you to focus on psychotic women?

At first, it was just because someone pointed out how many of my favorite films had these kinds of women in them, and so then I started to wonder why. After many aborted attempts to write the book from a more academic or objective standpoint, I finally realized that because the reason I am drawn to these characters is personal, that was the approach I had to take for the things I said to have any meaning. So, what it comes down to is just that I relate to the characters. They all either remind me of myself, my mother or my sister – or my relationships with them. That triangle is the real house of psychotic women.

You explore such a vast body of work, including films that span genres. Did you use any particular methodology when deciding which films you would or wouldn't include? Did you have a rigorous selection process?

There wasn't really a methodology, and every time I tried to create one, I would stray from it. The only real criteria was that I wanted the film to spend some time investigating the roots of that character's neurosis, or at least give us some clues about it. The idea that these characters were reacting to trauma was important. So I didn't include stock "sadistic" female villains unless we were given some way into the character's psychology. Most of the characters are sympathetic to me in some way. Certain classic films that are clearly not genre films but were important to future characterizations of female neurosis include Red Desert, Persona, The Snake Pit, Black Narcissus, etc. My own taste goes all over the map, but it's still a map, and things are connected.

There is a strong autobiographical angle to your book. Can you tell me more about that?

I've had a hard time communicating with people my whole life. I can't articulate things the way I mean to. I think a big part of why I write about the same things over and over again is because I never feel that the way I wrote it the first time was what I meant to say. I had more conventional nightmares as a kid, but as an adult all my nightmares are about not being able to talk, or being blind – not being able to connect with the world. I can feel it around me, and it can hurt me, but I have no agency within it. This feeling has led to a lot of my problems in relationships from my parents and siblings to friends, co-workers and boyfriends. I am constantly trying to assert myself, and so I project a very hostile energy, I think. I think I'm afraid of disappearing.

So, part of the book was to try to get all these things down, to create a document of my neurosis, and to see how it was affected by watching the same kind of behavior paraded in front of me in films. I realized how therapeutic watching these films really was for me, and once I sat down to analyze it, I could actually find specific things from my life that directly correlated with things in the films liked. I don't think this is especially unique, everyone likes the films they like because it triggers certain memories or pleasure centers for them, but I was watching all films that could be seen as triggering negative memories. But I think that was important, because it made me able to deal with those problems with some distance. I know there are people out there who are way more neurotic than me – I can still function in daily life – but I think any objective fairness I have in evaluating my own neuroses and to what extent they are to blame in the problems I have, comes from watching these films. I think I would be a lot worse off without them.

Was it challenging to know you were including so much of yourself in the book? Did you ever question this approach?

Yes, and there are many times I considered taking certain things out, feeling like maybe they weren't necessary to telling the story and that I was unnecessarily exposing myself to ridicule. But I left them in because I felt that, ultimately, they were relevant and, to be fair, I couldn't hang my mother's laundry out to dry without doing the same with myself.

I know you've been working on the book for quite some time. How do you feel now that it is done? Was it cathartic?

Yes and no – it was good to get it all out and finish a project that I'd been working on for so long, but it's not as though all those problems are solved now. It's funny; no one picks up on this, but all my immediate family members in the book are re-named after people from The Love Boat, which was a show I loved as a kid because all these people could go out into the middle of the ocean on a cruise for five days, wrestle with their problems and come back to the shore with everything fixed. I wish the book was like that, but it wasn't. A lot of the questions are still there, the idea of dealing with something with finality so that you can move on – I don't know if that really exists.

I know it's early to ask that, but what has the response to the book been like so far? I can imagine it must spark really interesting conversations…

I've heard hardly anything yet except from people I know personally who say they like it, so it's hard to say. I'll know in a month or so I guess! On the Rue Morgue Podcast, Stuart Andrews hinted that it seemed self-indulgent and narcissistic, which is probably totally true!

The book had a successful launch at the Fantasia Festival, where a series of films analyzed in the book were programmed as part of the fest. Next stop will be Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas, which will follow the same model with a special "House of Psychotic Women" spotlight offering a phenomenal selection of titles. Knowing your background as a film programmer/curator, how much control do you have over which films gets programmed during these festivals? Again, given the incredible amount of films covered in the book, what influences your selections?

Actually, I've been lucky in that I've gotten to pick all the films, based on availability. I try to pick films that are exciting to me and that don't get screened often, if ever. In Austin, they're playing Karen Arthur's The Mafu Cage, which I'm really excited about. Some of the movies chosen for the retrospectives are not the films that get the most ink in the book, but I have to think about the audience – Antichrist, for example, is an important film in the book, but it's too recent to screen again at Fantastic Fest.

What is your next project? What would you like to work on next?

I'm working on some writing for other people's projects; Mario DeGiglio-Bellemare has asked me to write a chapter in a book on 1940s horror that he is co-editing, but I'm still evaluating whether I know enough about the period to do so. And I'm writing for a book that David Kerekes at Headpress is putting out on made-for-television films. Beyond that, my next personal project, aside from finishing a short film I should have finished over a year ago, is starting work on a new book called A Song From the Heart Beats the Devil Every Time, about children's programming in the counterculture era.

As an end note, who is your favorite psychotic woman?

Erica Kohut in The Piano Teacher. She is the perfect mix of debilitating repression and violent hysteria. She tries so hard to control herself and everything around her, but she just can't. And she's full of tiny, intricate neuroses. I just love her.


I strongly urge any genre film fan to buy Kier-La Janisse's new book, House of Psychotic Women – or, better yet, go meet her in person if ever she stops by a festival near you – as it is one of the most refreshing approaches to a topic rarely explored in film studies. Kier-La's next stop is Toronto's Fan Expo this weekend, and then she'll be preparing for the American launch during Fantastic Fest, which also includes an exciting series of screenings. For those who can't make it, you can buy online the limited hardcover edition of the book, which includes a playable postcard (it works just like a record) of Charles Bernstein's "Somebody's Waitin' For You" from the film Pigs (1972) and gorgeous alternate cover art. The regular softcover edition will be available from FAB press on September 29, 2012.

See the original article HERE.


Rick Trembles' Motion Picture Purgatory column  in the Montreal Mirror salutes Kier-La Janisse!



Festival of exquisite horrors

Vancouver's CineMuerte festival is documented in Celluloid Horror

When video store employee Kier-La Janisse set out to create CineMuerte, Canada's first international horror film festival, she never suspected that she was in for an experience as emotionally wrenching as the films she was presenting. One minute she's over the moon after getting her idol, French director Jean Rollin, to agree to come to Vancouver as the festival's special guest, and the next minute she's backhanded by the realization that her salary from Vancouver's Black Dog Video isn't going to be enough to fly the artist in from France. Not only that, but Monsieur Rollin is undergoing kidney dialysis, and without careful medical planning, the trip could kill him. And you thought planning the company picnic was stressful.

The 2004 documentary Celluloid Horror takes a look at the famous Vancouver festival, and at its tireless organizer, Kier-La Janisse. Janisse, who had no prior experience in organizing this kind of thing, managed to keep CineMuerte going for seven remarkable years. Not only that, but she did it without corporate sponsorship or even adequate press coverage; just one determined horror-loving lady and her tiny band of loyal volunteers.

The term “horror” is a touch too restrictive to properly describe the films that Janisse programs; in fact, she stopped using the word to describe her festival after the first few years. For Janisse, great cinema should confront audiences with damaged characters, intense emotions and ugly truths, leaving the viewer shaken, provoked and transformed. CineMuerte is not about “fun” horror movies like Jeepers Creepers or Final Destination, but about uncomfortable and unclassifiable works like Possession (1981), The Moor's Head (1995) and The Isle (2000). Many of the films shown are subtitled, several are over 20 years old, and a number of patrons have criticized them for being too “arty.” Janisse has resisted pandering to unsophisticated gore-hounds and kept the integrity of the event intact, even when it has hit her in the pocketbook (the festival has lost her a lot of money over the years.)

Janisse contacts countries all across the globe, trying to secure films and special guests. She frequently encounters cynical film distributors who don't seem to care if their films get shown and who spoil everything by turning her requests down flat, or worse, by taking her money and then not delivering the promised film print. On the other side of the spectrum are the special guests who go out of their way to promote Janisse and her festival. European film star Udo Kier makes a particularly good impression as Janisse's knight-in-shining-armour; he brings her along to various press interviews, radiating effortless charm and gently chastising the suddenly interested news media for not giving Janisse sponsorship funding or press coverage.

In addition to talking-head interview footage and reaction shots of festival patrons, Celluloid Horror features clips from some extremely rare films screened at CineMuerte. These clips run the gamut from disgusting to subtle; from ugly to intriguing, and unless you're very good at tracking down obscure cinema, you probably won't see this footage anywhere else. The CineMuerte festival had its last hurrah in 2005, making this film slightly dated, but devotees of horror cinema in general and the Canadian festival scene in particular will want to check this one out.

See the original article HERE





(Introduction wholeheartely stolen from my article on last year's CineMuerte )

There are no shortage of film festivals and fast film contests in this town, and no shortage of producers that put on these events to inspire Vancouver's independent filmmakers and film lovers, get their names, businesses and causes known, etc. There is only one person I know, however, that supports and admires a particular brand of filmmaking so much that she puts on a film festival every year knowing that she will lose hundreds, if not thousands of dollars doing it. One woman that willingly programs almost exclusively obscure to completely unknown films, in order to get them seen. One woman who buys her own prizes, flies in special guests from around the world on her own dime, and organizes everything herself, without a co-producer or assistant, and only a handful of loyal volunteers to help her. That woman is Kier-La Janisse, and the festival is the Cinemuerte Film Festival, devoted exclusively to showcasing horror and fantasy films that range from works to art, to cinematic atrocities banned around the world, to solid genre cinema. In my humble opinion, Cinemuerte is the greatest film festival in Vancouver (with the exception of the Vancouver International Film Festival), and when it comes to bringing out my inner movie geek, nothing else comes close.

Kier-La knows the horror / fantasy genres inside and out, and since she began Cinemuerte in 1999 (when I was just old enough to legally see this stuff), the festival has introduced me to dozens of extremely well made (often with an emphasis on the extreme) one-of-a-kind films, including Wisconsin Death Trip, Punishment Park, Uzumaki, Dagon, Nekojiro-so, Don't Look Now, Pretty Poison, The Day Of The Beast, Tattoo, Zero Day and the legendary Cannibal Holocaust (banned in over fifty countries). Her festival is also terrific because of her tireless devotion to making the event as, well, eventful as possible for its attendees, including fantastic prizes, special guests, short films, old movie trailers and many many surprises. This year her festival event's included a Buffy sing-along night, two screenings of her own 48-hour horror filmmaking challenge, and an all-night exploitation marathon. Did I mention she also organizes the entire fest from Texas? She has been working there for the last two years as a programmer for the Alamo Drafthouse.

I spoke with Kier-La shortly before the launch of her seventh and final CineMuerte event. Why final? Read on...

KRYSHAN RANDEL: In a nutshell, what is the Cinemuerte Film Festival?
KIER-LA JANISSE: An annual film festival devoted to horror and exploitation cinema, both premieres and retro obscurities.

KR: What motivated you to start Cinemuerte?
KJ: The lack of horror films that played theatrically in Vancouver, and the inaccessibility (at the time) of 95% of the world's horror films.

KR: What is your criteria and/or selection process for the films that are shown at Cinemuerte?
KJ: I try to find films that I find engaging on both a visceral and intellectual level. With older films, the audience is more demanding; the film has to really stand out, be innovative, have great dialogue or cult actors. If it actually scares them, even better. But for new films, people almost don't even care how good the film is, they're already willing to give it more of a chance because it's new. So for new films I can pick things that are more silly. And for older films, they are picked according to these two criteria:
a) Has it been made available on DVD in the last two years? (if so, then I usually pass on it)
b) Is it such a universal favorite that a substantial audience have/will watch it over and over again? (i.e. THE THING, FRIDAY THE 13th)

KR: What are some of the notable reactions to some of the more "extreme" films you have shown at Cinemuerte (e.g. fainting, hate mail, creepy reactions, etc.)
KJ: Well this year I've gotten some hate mail for showing CASUISTRY: THE KILLING OF A CAT, but not as much as I expected. I ignore letters about CASUISTRY, because only idiots who haven't seen the film protest it. They have no idea how pro-animal cruelty laws it is. CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST - one guy fainted and got taken away in an ambulance, and a woman ran out crying. I was nice and gave her a refund. But at the same time, some people left that screening because they thought the film was boring and "not harsh enough". I also got one guy who was very upset at the cover for Year 2's programme. It was a still of a woman who had killed her whole family being electrocuted. I think her name was Ruth Snyder. Basically it was this weird picture that was taken with a covered camera strapped to a reporters ankle. The image is very blurry, and you wouldn't necessarily know what it is unless you knew it was a famous photograph. I chose it because there was something abjectly horrifying about it - and I say that because you couldn't tell what it was, but it was still unsettling for some reason. But if you found out the history of the picture, it would have additional meaning, and I guess at that time, that was what I was trying to do with the programming - horror films may superficially be "scary", but when you know their history and the history of the people who make them, it creates this whole new level of interest. For example, that picture of Ruth Snyder was widely published, and as a result capital punishment was abolished in many states. Also because I sometimes play documentaries, I thought it wasn't out of line to use a picture of a real thing rather than a still from a fictional film.

KR: Talk about the incredible guests you have brought to Cinemuerte in the past, and some of the cult legends we can expect to see this year.
KJ: Jack Taylor (this year) is a legend. If any horror fan doesn't know who he is they should feel embarrassed. Udo Kier was a maniac, Jean Rollin was a sweetheart, Jim Van Bebber scared the audience, and that made me happy. John Saxon could be my dad. Ed Neal has decided he IS my dad. Too much awesomeness to even recount in such a small space.

KR: What is different about this year's program than previous years? I've noticed that there are far more recently made horror and sci-fi films at your festival, for example...
KJ: More people like the new shit, as stated above...

KR: Why is this the last year you intend to bring Cinemuerte to Vancouver?
KJ: The films are too expensive for the amount of attendees I usually get, the DVD explosion killed me, and this is the first year The Georgia Straight will ever have done an article on CineMuerte! If the Straight had treated the festival as a serious entity every other year, it may have attracted enough people to keep it going.

KR: To all the Vancouver filmmakers and filmlovers reading this...why should they go to Cinemuerte?
KJ: Because if they've lived in Vancouver for 7 years and NEVER gone to CineMuerte, they are movie-poseurs! When Quentin Tarantino and Rodriguez make their GRINDHOUSE movie you might actually have a clue as to what they're getting at instead of just having to pretend to. And all the people who HAVE gone already know the reason.

More information about CineMuerte can be found at The festival ran from Oct 27 to 31, 2005 Kryshan Randel

See the original article HERE


From Austinist:


Every single Monday night, music fanatics converge upon the Alamo Drafthouse Downtown to attend Music Mondays, a brilliant series of engaging, informative and sometimes peculiar films about music.

It’s an awfully cool series, and while we’ve always assumed that these sort of things magically organize themselves, that turns out not to be the case at all. Music Mondays is actually the invention of writer / music lover / dedicated film junkie Kier-La Janisse. Recently, Austinist had a chance to sit down with Kier-La to discuss Music Mondays, the unique nature of music films and the questionable legitimacy of The Monkees.

Were you involved in film before you came to work at the Alamo?
I was doing film stuff for maybe five years before I came here. When I lived in Vancouver, I used my student loan to put on my first film festival.

I’m sure the government would be happy to know that.
Yeah, I’m still avoiding their phone calls. In 1999 I put on a horror film festival called Cinemuerte, and I did it every year up until last year. I just worked at a video store, and I would just pay for this festival out of my own pocket.

When I first did it, I rented some theatre for really cheap, and it was by complete accident that I rented it. I basically went to the theatre owner and said, “Why don’t you play some horror movies?” And he called me up later and said, “So, what dates do you want to rent the theatre for? Because I’m setting up the new schedule”. And I was like, “I don’t want to rent the theatre. But…well, how much is it to rent the theatre?”

I’d just gotten my student loan, so I was like, “okay, I’ll rent the theatre then”. So I booked it for ten days, which is insanely long for the first time you put on an event. Most people start by doing a weekend thing, and if it’s popular they’ll do it longer the next time. But I didn’t know what I was doing.

The place could only play 16mm and various forms of video, so the first year that’s all I could show. Now, I’m totally opposed to showing video – if the film is shot on film and available on film, I will not show a tape or a digital version. But the first year, because I only showed 16mm and Beta, it was fairly cheap. I was able to get in touch with the rights holders for most of the films through people I knew at the Fantasia Film Festival in Montreal.

Was the festival successful?
I didn’t expect anyone to actually go. I just thought it’d be fun to watch some horror movies on a big screen with my friends. But it turned out that people came, and it got to the press. So I did it again, and moved it to a bigger theatre, and got 35mm prints of everything, which made the whole thing a lot more expensive. The shipping of the films is expensive on its own – and I brought guests in from Europe. I brought in Jean Rollin, who made a lot of French Lesbian Vampire stuff in the 60s. And I brought a German underground director named Jörg Buttgereit who’d made this movie Nekromantik that I really liked.

So I went right into this full-on, expensive festival with no sponsors or anything. And doing that for years was what got me the job at the Alamo. Tim and Karrie, who own the theatre, came up there one year after hearing about my festival from a mutual friend, and they were watching me run around and do everything, and they were like, “don’t you have anyone else that does that?” And I didn’t! I eventually had volunteers that would work the door, but for the first four years I didn’t even have that. I’d work the door, run in to introduce the movie, and run back to the door.

Tim and Karrie were impressed with the different skills that I had doing this festival, so they were like, “well, if you ever want t a job, you should come work for us.” And I said no at first, because I didn’t have any intention of moving. I wanted to open my own theatre, which I did; but I ran it into the ground after about three months.

And they still wanted to hire you after that?
Well, it was my attitude that they liked. They thought I was crazy – they liked that I’d throw myself into it. If somebody’s willing to put their own money into things, those are better people to have on your team than people who just want to blow your money on shit.

If you’re in film exhibition, everyone comes up to you and says, “you should show my movie”, or “you should show my friend’s movie”, with no concept of the bottom line. Everyone wants to pick the movies – that’s the fun part. So I think me having the experience, and having put my own money into things, even if they failed, was impressive to them in some way.

Were you in film school in Vancouver?
I was actually in school for Medieval Studies.

Is that even a real thing?
It was supposed to be according to UBC’s course schedule. But it turned out to be not very real at all. All the teachers were dead or retired, but they still had a Medieval Studies degree listed in their stuff.

You could get your PHD in Medieval Studies. I went there because of that, and I took all the entry-level courses. But once you got into your third year, there were no courses. So I just kept taking electives. Random shit like “Scandinavian Studies” or whatever. Eventually I just quit because I was racking up this $40,000 student loan but not getting anywhere near my degree.

And film seemed the next most attractive thing to you?
Film was the thing I was always really interested in, but my parents and everybody I knew were very discouraging. The way people are with any kind of random art like that. Like, “you can do that for a hobby but you can’t really do it for a living”. Plus I didn’t really want to make films. I was just more interested in films than I was in anything else. I loved watching films, but didn’t think I could do anything with it for a job.

So you’ve been at the Alamo for about three years now, but how long has Music Mondays been running in its current form?
Music Mondays has been going for about two and a half years now. And it’s funny, because Tim was originally against it. I kept trying to get a music series together, and he was like, “there’s so much music stuff already going on in this town – who wants to come and see music movies when they could go see a live band?” And I was like, “but they’re not going to get to go see Klaus Nomi live”, you know?

Yeah – I’d actually think it’d be the opposite. I’d think that Austin is one of the better places to do this kind of series.
That was my argument. There are so many people interested in music here, so there’s practically a built-in audience. But Tim wasn’t willing to let me do it.

It eventually happened like this: Christmas week, it’s impossible to pick movies, because no matter what you pick, it’s going to fail. So I said, “give me the Monday night, two days before Christmas” It was the worst night of the week on the worst week of the year, so it didn’t really matter that much if it failed. So I put in a Serge Gainsbourg show, which was a compilation I’d put together of clips and interviews that we’d translated from French. They were interviews that were only available in French, so we subtitled them with these lame, half-assed subtitles, and we put it on a double-bill with Pretty Things, which was a glam rock compilation that I’d made. And they both sold out. It was incredible. Tim was just floored – especially because they weren’t even real movies, they were just compilations that I’d made myself.

So that’s how Music Mondays was born. But in the last month or so, we’ve seen this decline in attendance, and I’m not sure where it comes from. We used to be sold out pretty consistently.

I mean, we’re not able to have something every week that deals with a universally appreciated musician or subject. But part of the idea behind the series was that we wanted to be able to do these more obscure things and have people come anyway because it would be seen as sort of a musical education series, where you could go every week and learn something new.

Is there something specific about music movies that you like? What draws you to them?
Well, I just like music. And I’d say, as a kid, a primary influence on me was Scooby Doo. You had my two favorite things: rock bands and haunted houses. And a rock band in a haunted house was the perfect premise for any movie.

So I loved all those Hanna-Barbera cartoons that had people solving mysteries and monsters and rock bands. Some of the people on the Butch Cassidy show were actually in rock bands. Or they’d have guest stars. But there seemed to be this real pop culture tie-in. And I think a lot of the things I grew to like as an adult came form watching those cartoons.

What do you think film brings to music? What does it do that music can’t do on its own?
For a lot of music documentaries, it’s about the story. For a person who’s already a fan of the musician, they don’t really care about a documentary as much as they’d rather just see unexpurgated footage of the person performing. But in order for that musician to reach a broader audience, they need people to hear their story. It’s like a newspaper article. What’s the personal interest angle? You have to sell the person to the audience.

It’s rare that you get a music documentary where fans of the artist think that it’s anything but superfluous. But people who are just learning about the musician might think that it’s the most amazing movie they’ve ever seen. So music movies are definitely built to convert to people to the music. Most of these films are made because the filmmaker loves the music, and they want to share it with other people and draw attention to the artist.

What’s your favorite of the films that you’ve shown at Music Mondays?
One of my favorites is Head, the Monkees movie. I love the Monkees.

You know that they don’t play their own instruments, right?
They DO play their own instruments! That’s a myth – trust me.

I trust you, but I’m totally going to look it up when I get home.
They have studio musicians that play extra shit, and I think on the first album they didn’t play their own instruments. Don Kirshner was producing them at the time, and he also produced most of those Hanna-Barbera cartoons – he got a lot of the musical acts to be on them - and he didn’t want The Monkees to have anything to do with the music. He just wanted them to be puppets. But after they had some hits from that first album, they were allowed to have more control and they wanted to actually play and produce the songs themselves.

More of the Monkees, their second album, was mostly outtakes form the first album, so that doesn’t really count. But after that, they definitely wrote their own stuff and produced songs and played their own instruments.

And they played live concerts! And people would say that there was a live band behind a curtain who was actually playing the songs, but that wasn’t true. Peter Tork and Mike Nesmith were actually already in bands when they got cast. Micky Dolenz did have to learn to play the drums to play the songs, but Davy didn’t really do anything besides play the tambourine.

I was out of town recently, and went to a regular theatre to see a movie, and couldn’t help thinking, “this sucks!” I mean, I find that the best experiences at the Alamo are when it’s busy. But at a regular theatre, you want to go when nobody else is going to be there.
Yeah. Have you been to Weird Wednesdays yet?

No, not yet.
The Weird Wednesdays experience is very cool. Lars’ introductions are way better than mine. I don’t like doing introductions. But Lars is very comfortable up there, and he knows a lot about movies. If you pitted QT against Lars in a Movie match, Lars would win, hands down. I know a fair bit about movies, but I also know when someone knows more than me – and Lars definitely does.

Well, I'm definitely going to be a regular at Music Mondays.
Good. There are people I recognize as Music Mondays regulars, and sometimes if they don’t come one week, I’ll actually email them the next day to say, “Where the hell were you?”

See the original article HERE


From "Films in Review":


By Oren Shai • Mar 15th, 2008 •

What a year 2007 has been for lovers of exploitation films! Following the theatrical release of GRINDHOUSE, multiple DVD labels started issuing sleazy double-features from the 60’s and 70’s, and while they don’t get the royal treatment companies like Blue-Underground or Synapse would give them, they are still great for those of us who don’t own a VHS player. In theaters we had the Tarantino / Rodriguez affair, Craig Brewer’s superb, BLACK SNAKE MOAN and Eli Roth’s HOSTEL: PART 2, that featured notable genre actors Edwige Fenech and Luc Meranda, and a moving cameo by legendary director, Ruggero Deodato (CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST). From a Spaghetti Western retrospective at the Venice Film Festival to various screenings hosted by Tarantino, Roth and Edgar Wright in LA, everybody wants a piece of the Exploitation pie – longing for the days when independent cinema was truly independent.

This surge of exploitation appreciation didn’t skip your bookshelf. Tim Lucas released his massive biography of Mario Bava (reviewed by Roy Frumkes in the Christmas Editorial), the Italian company, Cinedelic, published beautifully-made reference guides for Italian genre cinema, and the British FAB Press has been consistently putting out some of the best genre writings out there.

And here comes a treat to the Italian Exploitation enthusiast from FAB’s “Cinema Classics Collection”: Kier-La Janisse’s “A Violent Professional: The Films of Luciano Rossi”.

“While countless books and magazines have been devoted to the female stars of the Italian exploitation films, commonly assessing their faces and figures more than their acting,” writes Kier-La Janisse in her introduction, “I have yet to encounter a book where a female fan of the genre appraises an actor in a similar fashion.” It is true that most studies of Italian Genre Cinema and the Exploitation industry are conducted by male writers, an unfortunate fact that Kier-La successfully counters. One could only wish her intro ran longer then 2-pages, as her personal point-of-view is one of the strong points of this book.

Luciano Rossi is an interesting subject as he is an obscurity within an obscurity. Although he is one of the most frequent faces in Spaghetti Westerns and Italian Crime cinema, Rossi never managed to reach stardom and usually portrayed a psychopath who meets a violent death at the hands of heroes like Django (Franco Nero) or Commissioner Betti (Maurizio Merli). It would be easy to dismiss Rossi at first, but once the viewer becomes aware of him, he is undeniable, always delivering an intense, powerful performance, even in the smallest of parts. Without a doubt, he is one of the most prolific actors of the Italian Exploitation cinema.

“A Violent Professional” is a survey of Rossi’s roles and films, offering a summery of each and a description of his character. His actual biography runs a short 4-pages and leaves a reader hungry for an in-depth look at his life and career, but that is not the goal of the publication. Not a “straight” read, “A Violent Professional” is a viewing companion, a reference guide. Kier-La has two rating systems for each film: A star-rating for how big Rossi’s role is and a heart-rating for how cute he is in it. Those personal touches give the book its edge.

Rossi’s career creates a collage, a remarkable landscape of Italian Exploitation cinema. He worked alongside the best Italy had to offer and also some of the worst. In the close-to-70 films covered in this book, a reader would find Western classics such as Sergio Corbucci’s DJANGO and obscure gems like Mario Lanfranchi’s DEATH SENTENCE. Seminal Crime-genre works by Sergio Martino, Umberto Lenzi and Stelvio Massi. A few great Giallos and a handful of other genres. With the exception of maybe Tomas Milian, very few Italian actors have a body of work that follows these genres from birth to disappearance. While the book may focus on Rossi, the nature of his career makes it a reflection of the Italian Exploitation industry as a whole.

“A Violent Professional: The Films of Luciano Rossi” is not a primer or a beginner’s guide, and would be hard to recommend to those who are new to Italian genre cinema. But if you are a fan who wishes to explore these genres further, you’d want it mounted on your bookshelf.

See the original article HERE


From the Austin Chronicle:

Just Another Manic Monday

Music Mondays (and Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, etc.) at the Alamo Drafthouse

Journey was the original emo band. Not emo in the "I hate myself/I wanna die/Why don't you love me?" way, but actually emotional. Journey's songs were about triumph over the broken heart, going your "Separate Ways," spreading those "Open Arms," and, sometimes, about "Sandcastles," but that's just on Japanese import. People tend to talk about them with hushed admiration or bile-eaten hatred; there's really no one who says, "Yeah, Journey's OK."

Haters would have had a field day during Faithfully: the Journey Sing-Along at the Alamo Drafthouse Downtown on a recent Saturday night. "Travis County's premier Journey cover band," Odyssey, provided the preshow score. Nevertheless, there were some personal triumphs happening in the rowdy, to-capacity audience. There's triumph in the scattered air-drum solos during "Open Arms"; there's triumph in the fact that a fortysomething investment banker is wearing his 1981 Journey Escape tour T-shirt and no one harasses him; and when the time comes during "Lights," we hold up our cell phones in place of a lighter.

In short, we feel it, man. This is why Journey still gets played at every prom in the country; they're part nostalgic longing and part white-fringe leather irony, which equals some sort of guilty triumph. On the night in question, folks pounded the tabletops, stood up and cheered, and collectively laughed at Steve Perry's moustache in the video for "Faithfully." We also cringed when close-ups of the band's commendably tight pants lingered a little ... too long.

Journey was getting its night of crowd-assisted "Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'" on an appropriate headliner night, but the Alamo's Music Mondays, roughly 21/2 years old now, have neatly coexisted with events like weekend sing-alongs of R. Kelly and competitive events like the Austin Air Guitar Championships. Music Mondays mold bits of cultural detritus into 90-minute history lessons, exposing local music fans to rare footage of underground or cult-status acts, while also screening wide-release documentaries like Lian Lunson's poetic Leonard Cohen doc I'm Your Man and indulging audiences in the occasional guilty pleasure like the recent boy-band sing-along. In other words, Music Mondays are a void-filler on otherwise dead evenings Downtown.

Music Monday emcee and programmer Kier-La Janisse, an energetic, petite brunette with an armful of tattoos, is largely responsible for the material shown; she's been a film junkie since her college days, when frequent arguments with film professors stoked her passion even more.

"I'd always been 'the horror girl' since as far back as I could remember," Janisse explains. "In kindergarten I scared other kids with gruesome stories, collected Fangoria and Famous Monsters [magazines], watched the Saturday Creature Feature religiously, and brought hand grenades to show-and-tell. By the time I hit 30, my interest in the genre was starting to wane a bit; I had kind of overdone it my whole life."

Janisse met Alamo owners Tim and Karrie League in Vancouver, where she was putting on her annual splatter horror fest Cinemuerte. "We had a mutual friend who recommended that they come check out my festival," she explains. "So they did, and we became friends and later ran into each other at another festival in Spain. It was there Tim offered me a job while under the influence of alcohol and then forgot that he had offered me a job when I decided to take him up on it several months later. But I was keen for a break from Vancouver and decided I'd come down here for a year to try it out. I stayed."

In December 2003, during a particularly slow Christmas week, she screened Pretty Things: The Rise and Fall of Glam Rock together with I've Come to Tell You I'm Going, a Serge Gainsbourg compilation she cobbled together. Both sold out, and Music Mondays was born. Since she began, at a bargain-basement door cover of $2 (it was $1 until a few months ago), music lovers have been treated to a variety of films, from the enlightening to the downright weird. Back in May, they presented a night devoted to enigmatic cult crooner Scott Walker, and earlier this year was the hell-and-gone 1981 documentary Urgh! A Music War, featuring performances from Gang of Four, the Cramps, and Gary Numan, and Klaus Nomi's alien arias, which brought down the house. Folks have campaigned to bring this one back.

There was Derailroaded, the heartbreaking bio of Larry "Wild Man" Fischer, a Sixties counterculture casualty and performer; the grainy but excellent TV Party, a late Seventies/early Eighties cable-access show in New York in which Basquiat and Deborah Harry were regular cast members; the Monkees' trippy, Jack Nicholson-penned film Head; the well-attended retrospective on New Zealand's Flying Nun Records; the stark investigative doc Jandek on Corwood; a sold-out screening of Amazing Grace, a Jeff Buckley retrospective; and a terrific BBC documentary on the Fall that made Mark E. Smith seem kind of likable. Music Mondays have also delved into the lives of reclusive or revered artists like Gary Wilson and Nick Drake. Then there was the Wayne Newton birthday party.

Beyond just music films, however, the Alamo has been attempting synergy. Whether it's a director Q&A, like Gram Parsons, Fallen Angel director Gandulf Hennig, Ian McLagan's Faces live set and birthday party for one-time Austinite Ronnie Lane in conjunction with The Passing Show, The Life and Music of Ronnie Lane, or this Saturday's Cut Chemist show in Waterloo Park, with visuals by the Alamo's Rolling Roadshow and sponsorship from Emo's, music and film have come together in a community where both thrive. This only means good things for both camps, DIY endeavors much of the time.

One recent experiment was the Beats Per Minute film festival, co-sponsored by Vulcan Video and the record store folks at End of an Ear, where local teams were given 48 hours to create a music video. Entries included someone in a Big Bird suit doing dirty deeds to Olivia Newton-John's "Physical" and a guy in bike shorts thrusting to Def Leppard's "Pour Some Sugar on Me." There's the potential for absurdity here, with Austin's reputation for weirdness and all, but there's also potential for serious discourse, whether it's watching a bunch of metalheads burn churches in Metalstorm or shimmying to the history of bubblegum music.

The most synergistic event so far may have been the recent screening of Fallen Angel, another sold-out event and a film Janisse had stalked for years. Immersed in an obtusely utopic Southern California backdrop, the documentary, now on DVD, plays out as a stunning portrait of a genre's birth, though the majority of the film is profoundly sad; Parsons could never quite tear away from his reflection, but the music was almost prescient, resigned to fate years before his untimely death. It also prompts the question: Could anyone in country music today get away with wearing sequined suits with pills and marijuana leaves sewn on them?

Steel-blown pop quintet Li'l Cap'n Travis played live after the film, which is another aspect the Alamo has nurtured. Psych heroes ST 37 were one of the first local acts to score a classic silent film for the Alamo, then accompany it live ("The Sound and the Fury," Music, September 10, 1999). The group's bassist, Scott Telles, remembers their scoring of Metropolis as one of their "most successful gigs ever. I think most bands would do it for free Alamo food and beer and the exposure," he says. He also provided narration for several segments of a recent Krautrock doc.

The Flying Luttenbachers, meanwhile, played live for a screening of Contort Yourself: A New York No Wave Tutorial. Cry Blood Apache held court in a parking lot before a recent Monday Judas Priest doc, while Golden Arm Trio composer Graham Reynolds presents a small orchestra for the musical portion of the A Scanner Darkly showing at the Alamo this weekend (see Screens p.50). Janisse says she wants to do this more frequently, but with the budget, she has some reservations.

"I know there are probably some bands that would be happy to play for free," she acknowledges, "but I usually feel bad asking them."

While the quality of the films isn't always top-notch, with the low admission price, big films aren't always available. So Janisse searches out 35mm prints or broadcast video format. If it was shot on film, they play it on film. "We can't bring in a lot of classic music movies that are owned by studios, except maybe every once in a while," Janisse laments. "So that's why we haven't played Stop Making Sense or The Last Waltz or Tommy. Also, the availability of the films in 35mm is often a problem. I don't like to show films on video that were shot on film. So I won't show Get Crazy or Suburbia unless I can find a 35mm print.

"Also, this is just the snobby part of me," she adds, "but I tend to avoid really popular contemporary bands. If I do things focusing on a recent band, it's usually an indie band. But I do want to expand the spectrum of music that I'm covering with the series, so suggestions are always cool."

Of course, there are some misses. One particularly bizarre choice was the recent Stunt Rock, a two-hour opus featuring a Rod Stewart-looking Aussie stuntman and a bedazzled band called Sorcery. When Janisse doesn't have a full-fledged doc on hand, she often edits footage and interviews together and adds voiceovers for context, such as for the Gainsbourg doc, a process that doesn't mesh with every viewer. "The only thing I've really noticed is that sometimes people think the films are too long," Janisse says. "This is common with indie filmmakers who fall in love with their subject and forget that the audience can get disengaged quite easily. But, usually, I find the strengths of the film outweigh the weaknesses and that if I have to choose between showing a movie that might be 15 minutes too long and not showing that movie at all, I'll show it anyway, because I think the subject matter is underexposed or the film makes some valid arguments."

And discussion is what Janisse is striving for, as an ardent music lover herself. There are usually regulars in the audience every week, regardless of what's playing, and in a city so cross-pollinated with filmmakers and musicians, Music Mondays offer a meeting point, a forum for all the music and film nerds in town to revel in obscure musicians and bands, or learn about a musician they've never heard of, and possibly get drunk and eat curly fries.

"I hope to create a following for it like Weird Wednesdays, where the audience is just really open-minded, and they'll go every week even if they don't remember what movie is playing," Janisse says. "I would love to have the theatre full every week and then everybody just goes for a beer afterwards and raps about the movie."

Or about the creative legitimacy of "Oh Sherrie," as was overheard that Saturday night at the Journey sing-along.

"In high school, I took a lotta shit for liking this band," Janisse said to the crowd. "Who else got shit for liking Journey?"

A few claps.


"Fuckin' Journey!" someone screams.

These were the believers. They never stopped. end story

See the original article HERE


From the Georgia Straight (Vancouver):

Anything goes for Cinemuerte curator Janisse

Standing amidst the rows of horror rentals at Cambie's Black Dog Video, Kier-La Janisse hunts for a title she'd consider watching. It takes a little while-she's already seen a lot of them-but then her eyes fall on the spine of a DVD called Barbed Wire Dolls. "I'd probably watch this," she says, extracting the 1975 women-in-prison flick by European exploitation king Jess Franco. A quick glance at its lurid cover reveals that the film is squarely aimed at a crowd unopposed to scenes of female degradation and suffering. This ain't Driving Miss Daisy. But Janisse, as curator of the Cine?muerte Film Festival, loathes restrictions. She's not put off by the celluloid exploitation of anyone.

"Not at all," remarks the 33-year-old cineaste, programmer, and Fan?goria contributor. "I mean, if you're making a fictional film and the actors have agreed to be in the movie and they don't care about the roles they're playing, then they're just having fun. They're just acting out fantasy situations, and if it's fantasy, anything goes. Whether it's torturing a woman or castrating a man, I feel like it's all fair game."

Like-minded filmgoers will appreciate the taboo-blasting works Janisse has lined up for the seventh and final installment of Cinemuerte, which runs now through Halloween at Pacific Cinémathèque. For starters, there's the 1974 Japanese flick School of the Holy Beast. It's about a young woman who enters a convent, searching for clues in her mother's strange death. According to the festival's Web site (, "she soon discovers a smorgasbord of vice as she's abused by lecherous archbishops, a lesbian mother superior and a line of fellow nuns ready to whip her (in the film's most deliriously over-the-top scene) with rose-thorns!" That same title is currently on the shelf at Black Dog, where Janisse worked from 1998 to 2003 before being offered a programming job at the prestigious Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, Texas, where she now resides. The question is: wouldn't most fans of kinky cinema just rent the DVD and view it at their leisure rather than jostle for seats at a crowded theatre?

"That's one of the reasons the festival is ending," she relates. "Like, it used to be really hard to find films like School of the Holy Beast. It used to be that you would have to get them from sketchy mail-order companies, and a lot of people just didn't feel comfortable sending cash in the mail to weird people they'd never met. But now so many DVD companies are buying rights to them and rereleasing them, remastered and everything, that it definitely decreases the [theatrical] audience for those movies."

Devotees of Japanese nun-whipping flicks should know that the Cine?muerte screening of School (Thursday [October 27] at 7 p.m.) will feature a brand new, "really beautiful" 35mm print. Also of note is The Birthday (Sunday [October 30] at 7:30 p.m.), a 2004 horror-comedy by Spanish director Eugene Mira that includes a "very strange" performance by lead actor Corey Feldman. It also stars '70s Eurohorror icon Jack Taylor, a mainstay of the aforementioned sleazemeister Franco's films, who will appear in person to receive a lifetime achievement award from Janisse. She got one of her contacts from the Alamo Drafthouse, famed American director Quentin Tarantino, to film a congratulatory intro for the presentation.

Festivalgoers drawn to more unsettling subject matter might consider Zev Asher's controversial 2004 documentary Casuistry: The Art of Killing a Cat (Saturday [October 29] at 7 p.m.). It tells the story of three young Toronto men, including artist Jesse Power, who, high on a hallucinogen, videotaped their torturous slaying of a housecat in the guise of an "art project". Although there is no actual footage of Power's cat-snuffing video in Casuistry, Janisse says that it is still the most disturbing selection at this year's festival. "I guess to a certain extent it is exploiting the situation," she ponders, "but I feel that the way the subject matter is handled in the movie is very respectful and very pro-animal- cruelty laws. Allowing the people who killed the cat to speak freely about what they did doesn't make them look intelligent; I didn't come out of the movie seeing their point. Instead, I came out thinking, 'Yeah, we should have harsher animal laws.'?"

Janisse got hooked on genre films as a kid growing up in Windsor, Ontario. Her very first memory is of watching the 1972 Christopher Lee/Peter Cushing terror-on-a-train epic, Horror Express. But her lifelong interest in movies that shock hasn't culminated in a desire to push people's buttons for the sake of getting a response. "I play things that I'm interested in sharing with people," she points out. "I mean, I've already gotten hate mail because of playing Casuistry, but I'm not playing it because I want to outrage people. Sometimes I know that there are movies that are gonna upset people, but I don't get scared off from programming them."

See the original article HERE


From The Edmonton Journal:

Arts administration can be a real horror show

Todd Babiak, The Edmonton Journal

Published: Thursday, January 17 2008

We go about our daily routines, treating our co-workers with respect, avoiding eye contact with people on the bus. At home, we are kind to our husbands and wives, we chuckle at those deluded children on American Idol. Most of us avoid the dark thoughts, at work and on the bus, in the kitchen, in the bath. If, for instance, we're given to wonder if anyone in the neighbourhood is -- at that precise moment -- having sexual relations with a chrome hedgehog dipped in caramel sauce, we push that thought away and resume chopping vegetables and listening to As It Happens.

That is, most of us.

Others indulge these wonderings and imbed them in cult films. German director Jörg Buttgereit, for example, who released the ultra low-budget Nekromantik 1 and Nekromantik 2 in 1988 and 1990, which concerned the lust and, yes, love between a man, a woman and a decayed corpse.

Nekromantik 1 and 2 were banned in a number of jurisdictions around the world, including British Columbia. That is, until a video-store clerk and horror aficionado named Kier-La Janisse wrote a series of passionate letters to the film classification board in 1999. She was planning to initiate a now-defunct film festival in Vancouver called Cinemuerte, and wanted Nekromantik and Buttgereit to be part of it.

Janisse won, on grounds of artistic merit and freedom of expression. The first year of her festival, designed to peer deeply into the international underground horror scene, was a success.

Her struggle, and clips from some of Cinemuerte's most memorable onscreen moments, are documented in a feature film by Ashley Fester called Celluloid Horror. It's an intimate look at what it takes to be an arts administrator in Canada, particularly when the art form or event doesn't neatly fit into the mandate of any public funding body in the country. Janisse, like all born administrators, is obsessive about her chosen subject: extremely disturbing low-budget movies.

Celluloid Horror is a cheap documentary about a cheap film festival. In my time working as a Culture writer at The Journal, I've met a number of people like Janisse: intelligent, organized, passionate and knowledgeable, and living in apparent poverty by choice. They're the sorts of people who would excel as bureaucrats or small business owners. Instead, they choose to work three times as hard, producing small festivals and running not-for-profit arts organizations.

Fester, who grew up in Edmonton, now lives in Vancouver. Her mother runs Chickies, the venerable antique store in Highlands, and her father is a real estate agent here. Celluloid Horror started as a promotional video for Cinemuerte but morphed into a

feature-length documentary when Fester found Janisse --whose formative years included abuse, evangelical Christianity, reform school, assault with a deadly weapon and, of course, scary movies -- too fascinating for a short. Their approaches are similar.

"A lot of people wait to get money from the government," says Fester, who will be in Edmonton tonight for the Metro Cinema screening of Celluloid Horror with the 1976 Spanish cult film Who Can Kill a Child? "People like Kier-La and I, I guess, we just do it. We'll apply for grants, but if we don't get any money, we'll find a way to do the thing anyway."

Fester is renting Metro Cinema tonight. She has rented theatres in her bus tour across Western Canada, and she's selling DVDs of the film at every stop. Similarly, when Janisse couldn't get grant money or large corporate sponsors for her festival, she threw fundraising parties. One, featured in Celluloid Horror, was called Torture Garden. Audiences were invited to watch a series of laughably bad films for several hours, some with the accompaniment of an ear-shattering "noise band." If you decided to leave early, the fee was $20. If you stayed to the end, it was only $5. She made $600.

It hasn't been easy, touring Celluloid Horror. Improbably, Fester lost money in Winnipeg, where Janisse now lives and works at the Cinematheque. In the last 10 years, low-budget feature filmmaking has become accessible to anyone with a camera and a computer. It's now on par with self-publishing a novel and recording an album. Anyone can start a festival. The most difficult and expensive challenge for all of these do-it-yourself approaches to art is the same: marketing and distribution.

Marketing and distribution for an event or art form that concerns itself with graphic necrophilia offers its own special set of problems. If the Internet has taught us anything, though, it's that our most fanciful and vile thoughts are not unique. If you are determined and willing to forgo middle-class rewards like a house and a car and new clothes once in awhile, you will find an audience.

Be assured, several people out there want to see, read or listen to their neighbours having sexual relations with a chrome hedgehog dipped in caramel sauce. Just don't bother applying for a grant to facilitate it.

See the original article HERE  



Notes from the underground

In defence of fantasy and horror cinema

BY Dorothy Woodend  

Tell someone you like science fiction, fantasy or horror films and you might get “the look.” A look that says, “Are you silly, immature or, worse, pervy?” Fans of genre cinema—the term applies to many different categories of film but is most commonly applied to sci-fi, fantasy and horror—have long had a bad rep as freaky weirdoes, social misfits, gore hounds and so on. I know because I am one of them. Despite being a confirmed coward, I feel drawn to the dark side simply because there is often some odd form of truth there.

The success of the Fantasia festival in Montreal (which runs for almost three weeks in July), Toronto After Dark and the Calgary Underground Film Festival (now in its fifth year) indicates a growing level of interest, acceptance and even love for the form. But whether this is a good or bad thing usually depends on whether you were a fan before mainstream acceptance. In this post-Tarantino age, it’s getting damn hard to find very much that is truly underground any longer. Cult cinema ain’t what it used to be.

Isaac Alexander, who contributes to different science-fiction blogs and worked with the Seattle-based anime convention Sakura-Con, says, “When I grew up, I was a part of school clubs devoted toward science fiction/fantasy and anime. These clubs provided the ‘distribution’ to discover video programming from distant lands,” says Isaac. “Now, you just need to load up the internet and head to YouTube.”

Kier-La Janisse, who founded Vancouver’s infamous (and now defunct) horror film festival CineMuerte, pulls no punches in her assessment of this phenomenon: “I think the mainstream always comes knocking when anything underground proves to be viable to some degree, regardless of genre. Then they rip off the ideas of all the real pioneers, the people who took all the chances to prove that these types of films could work.”

She adds that a true aficionado is someone who works to locate low-quality versions of these titles. “When I want to watch Messiah of Evil or something, I watch a crappy VHS of it. I need the specialness—otherwise you’re just a consumer.”

A consequence of this contradiction is that films that do very well at bigger festivals like Fantasia or Toronto After Dark often err on the lighter side of the darkness. A case in point is an Austrian film called On Evil Grounds, which has screened in multiple festivals including the Calgary Underground Film Festival and Fantasia. On Evil Grounds is very much like a Tex Avery horror film (for those who don’t know the man, he was the looniest of the Looney Tunes animators). Bodily fluids erupt everywhere, and one doesn’t know whether to laugh or throw up. Maybe both. Since it is made for people to hoot and holler at, the film was a massive success at festivals.

Of course, festivals cannot live on love alone; you still need funding, and bums in seats. Certainly there is devotion from committed fans, the occasional bit of critical respect, even money. Well, sometimes. Bill C-10 is only the latest offensive that critics fear will deny tax dollars to films that are excessively violent without an educational value. You can have your bloody mayhem, but there better be a lesson buried at its centre. Despite the increased visibility and popularity of genre cinema, the festivals that program it don’t get much help from the Canadian government.

Try explaining to the Canada Council the educational benefit of films that depict maniacs hacking up boobalicious teenagers, and you get the picture. Or maybe you don’t, since many films simply don’t get shown. Brenda Lieberman, who runs the Calgary Underground Film Festival, says, “People often stereotype horror fans, which makes it less likely for sponsors to jump in.” CUFF has been growing slowly over the past five years, but the festival still struggles to break even, balancing more obscure offerings with crowd-pleasers.

If you really want to see weird stuff or, worse, show weird stuff to other people, you still have to do it yourself. I think it’s time I started a film festival.

See the original article HERE


From UPTOWN MAGAZINE (Winnipeg):

Satisfy your sweet tooth with these bands, baby

Film compilation explores the bands, the producers, the writers - and occasionally, the chimps - behind the bubblegum pop music of the '70s


Deriving its title from a collection of essays on prepubescent pop edited by Kim Cooper and David Smay, Bubblegum Music is the Naked Truth is an evocative trip into the previously uncharted, much-maligned territory of music history.

With its primary focus on the years between '67 and '72, compiler/narrator Kier-La Janisse has delved deep into her files of rare footage for material representing such kooky and sickly sweet bands as 1910 Fruitgum Company, The Archies, Ohio Express (the group behind Yummy, Yummy, Yummy, not to be confused with its other smash, Chewy, Chewy), and The Sweet.

Producer-oriented more than anything else, the bands themselves are largely revealed to be frauds and fronts;n neatly contained packages of pop confections. As was more often the case, raging creative egos and enterprising spirits would ultimately take over after a band would have a hit, and the unit would either implode or go on, such as The Monkees, to finish up its run (and television series) at a resourceful peak. Later, songwriters and producers worked around this by not using human beings at all, and thus: animated cartoons - The Archies, The Groovy Goolies - were ushered forth to become the predominant venue for these manufactured delights.

Of all the music sampled, the most out-there acts may be The Banana Splits (colourful, costumed animals) or the actual group of monkeys that headled the Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp group. Pure WTF concepts, these trippy concoctions have numbers that are catchy as hell and even more entertaining to witness, with utter travesties and underrated gems alike springing forth at a tremendous clip. It's almost too hard to keep up.

Charting the phenomenon from The Brill Building (which began with such stellar songwriters as Neil Diamond, Carole King and Gerry Goffin), to West Coast producers, animated one-offs, The Partridge Family, U.K. glam sensations, Scotland's Bay City Rollers and, finally, to '80s boy bands such as Menudo, Janisse leaves no stone unturned. The corresponding images and sounds parade over the viewer, leaving them in a hazy daze, unable to reason with what they've just seen, but excited at the possibilities of what's coming next.

Thankfully, the selected excerpts from the many essays inside the book put everything in context - who knew that the Jackson 5 (depicted here in their difficult-to-locate cartoon) spawned many imitators and cash-ins, including The Osmond Brothers? Here, their animated shows seen side-by-side, the correlations between the two are thrown into sharp relief.

As a flashback to a simpler time of breakfast cereals, bell-bottoms, and moon rocks, Bubblegum Music... knows no equal. Only in retrospect do we realize how uncorrupted and ingenious this music could be.
— Aaron Graham

See the original article here


Contributing to the culture

Independent film programmer Kier-La Janisse shares her love for music documentaries and horror films with Winnipeg audiences

by Aaron Epp (Volunteer)

Kier-La Janisse may be the only Winnipegger who can say that Quentin Tarantino once fought on her behalf.

In 2007, Janisse was applying for a visa to keep her position as head programmer at the the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema movie theatre in Austin, Texas, where she’d worked the past four years.

In order to help prove that Janisse had special skills no one could replace, the Inglourious Basterds auteur wrote a letter to the government praising Janisse’s unique programming.

“I don’t know Quentin personally,” Janisse, 36, said over a beer at Cousins recently, adding she was able to get the letter because Tarantino is a friend of the Alamo’s owner. “But he has done a few favours for me over the years.”

In the end, her application was denied and Janisse moved to Winnipeg after accepting an assistant position at Cinematheque.

She doesn’t mince words about what it was like returning to the city where she was born and attended high school.

“It was a little bit of a blow to become an assistant and come back to Winnipeg, which I hated.”

There’s nothing inherently wrong with Winnipeg. It’s just that when your main interests include obscure horror and exploitation films, as well as documentaries about under-appreciated musicians, the city doesn’t have much to offer.

“You realize it’s what you make it,” Janisse added about her return to Winnipeg. “And any place can be great if you’re determined to make it great.”

“If I’m not satisfied with the culture where I am, I feel like I have to contribute to it.”

To that end, Janisse has started putting on music-related screenings through her Big Smash! Productions moniker, such as The Queen Sing-Along + Freddie Mercury Birthday Tribute at The Park Theatre this coming Saturday, Sept. 5.

A week later, Janisse will introduce Winnipeggers to her taste in film when she presents Ten Hours of Head Trauma: A Trash Film Marathon at the Ellice Theatre (see sidebar).

“You could explain everything from my life based on the fact that I watched Scooby-Doo as a kid,” Janisse said. “A gang in a van who solved mysteries, Don Knotts, rock ‘n’ roll, horror—it kinda had everything I was interested in.”

Janisse’s love for horror films also comes from growing up in Windsor, Ont., watching the creature features on a Detroit TV station Saturday nights with her father. He would even wake her up so they could watch an additional creature feature the station would air at 3 a.m.
“My dad would get excited about these movies, so I would get excited.”

Janisse got her start in film writing and exhibition in 1997, when she started Cannibal Culture magazine, a quarterly Vancouver-based fanzine devoted to reviews and essays about obscure horror films.

In 1999 she started the CineMuerte International Horror Film Festival in Vancouver because many of the films reviewed in the magazine weren’t easily accessible to Canadian horror films.

She paid for everything out of her own pocket and did everything herself. The festival lasted for seven years, and led to opportunities to curate programs in San Francisco and advise festivals in Montreal.

Janisse, who currently works at Into the Music and Video Pool to pay the bills, has written for a variety of horror magazines, published a book on the subject and is currently working on another. She’s been the subject of a documentary, edited a few herself and met most of her cinematic heroes along the way.

While she misses working in Austin, where it was easy to find people who were just as excited to put on similar events as she was, she praises the opportunities available in Winnipeg.

Although it’s already culturally diverse, there’s still room for more people to do their own thing.

“Anything anyone wants to do, no one’s doing it,” she said. “There’s opportunity for people to get a foothold, carve a niche or start a career doing what they want.

“I feel hopeful. I mean, I wouldn’t be planning all these events if I didn’t.”

See the original article here



From MONDAY MAGAZINE (Victoria, BC):

The Sight of Music

Antimatter celebrates a dozen years of deviation

For the past 12 years, Antimatter has provided a venue for short films, video installations, live performances and feature-length movies that you won't see in your average theatre—or even your average festival, for that matter. And, because the selection process is based on what curator Deborah de Boer and festival director Todd Eacrett (as well as several guest curators) deem to be the creme de la creme of the hundreds of films submitted each year, de Boer says that the term "theme" doesn't apply.

"We're a pharmacy: whatever ill you have, we can treat it," she says. "We have many different programs."

And while it might not have been intentional, there do seem to be a large number of music-oriented events at this year's eight-day festival, from the Small World opening gala—where local musicians will offer up their interpretations of classic Disney tunes—to closing night's Zaireeka in Sound and Pictures, a presentation of the Flaming Lips' famed quadraphonic album accompanied by works by eight Winnipeg filmmakers. For local artist and musician and Small World curator J McLaughlin, an invitation from de Boer and Eacrett to create an opening-night party meant she was able to realise a dream six years in the making.

"It's been in the back of my head and I thought it would become that show that would never happen," says McLaughlin. The Friday-night show at Open Space will have folks like Wes Borg, Slut Revolver, Run Chico Run and many others doing covers of tunes like "Pink Elephants on Parade" and "A Whole New World."

"The Pine Family has taken over the entire Robin Hood soundtrack, apparently. I'm not quite sure how we're going to fit that in," says McLaughlin, adding that the musical performances will be accompanied by archival and home footage of 1950s-era Disneyland, video mixing and 15 Disney-themed paintings.

Kier-La Janisse, one of the eight Winnipeg filmmakers who created original short films for Zaireeka, says the project was initially intended to be a one-off thing.

"I'm actually considering submitting it to other places now, because a lot of festivals seem interested in branching out into more multimedia or non-traditional cinema," she says. "I'm glad that it gets to live on outside of Winnipeg, that people are interested in it elsewhere and that these filmmakers' work didn't have to just play once and then disappear."

And a lot of work it was: each of the eight filmmakers chose a tune from the Flaming Lips album—which consists of four CDs, each with a single stereo track on it, meant to be played in sync—and made a short film to go with the song. The catch? Each film has four screens of video.

"At the very end, everything was put together into one program and played on four different sound systems," explains Janisse. "So I guess it's not even quadraphonic, it's octophonic."

Other music-oriented screenings include Loki, a feature-length documentary about former Os Mutantes singer Arnaldo Baptista on October 13 and Just One Kiss: The Fall of Ned Kelly, where Finnish filmmaker Sami Van Ingen will be premiering his 55-minute experimental film—a recreation of the first-ever feature film by the same name—accompanied by a live soundtrack courtesy of Dixie's Death Pool's Lee Hutzulak, happening October 14 at Cinecenta.

"The narrative is told through these intertitles in between the clips and the actual clips, it's kind of a tangential relationship," Hutzulak explains. "[Van Ingen] has collected some incredible images to work with."

And Hutzulak has collected some incredible instruments to accompany the film, including a circuit-bent keyboard, a homemade reverb pan ("it's a frying pan that I've put springs overtop of," he says), scrub brushes and a synthesizer. "It's like improvisation with a lot of pre-planning."

The former Victorian says he's looking forward to performing at Cinecenta and he's been doing time-lapse video of a lot of the creative process. I'm planning to document the project and the actual performance at the show so I can make something, a piece of art from this piece of art."

Just One Kiss is an Antimatter event that Eacrett is particularly excited about. "The piece itself, which is the world premiere, is something that's going to change and evolve every time it's shown, both because he's going to edit it and add more footage and take stuff out and work with different composers and musicians each time," he says, adding that nearly three-quarters of Antimatter's films are either world, Canadian or North American premieres.

And while the diverse array of short-film programs is sure to draw in the region's more avant-garde cinema fans (pick up a program guide or check the Antimatter Website for details on the programs and installations), does Eacrett think the music-based programming will help reach some new viewers? "I hope so," he says. "We've done some music-based stuff in the past, both individual programs and some longer documentaries, and some hybrid things that involve performance and live music. It definitely reaches a crossover audience, whether it's people that are interested in the band in question if it's a documentary or in that confluence of music and cinema and performance."

And if they come to see a band documentary and leave an experimental film fan, all the better.

See the original article HERE


From The Winnipeg Free Press, Saturday May 1, 2010:

Festival aims to draw in animation fans

Organizers pulled a few strings to include puppet fare, too

If you think cartoons are the domain of benign sweetness and light, you might want to meet Kier-La Janisse.

Before she programmed films for Cinematheque and Austin's Alamo Drafthouse, Janisse of Winnipeg's Big Smash! Productions, was the brains behinds a notorious Vancouver horror film festival called Cinemuerte. Specializing in transgressive horror movies and thrillers from around the world, it was a labour of love for Janisse that ultimately cost her thousands of dollars of her own money to produce.

Janisse, 37, is putting her money where her heart is once again with Plastic Paper, a festival devoted to the more innocuous (but no less edgy) arts of animation and puppetry.

Co-curating the four-day event with local filmmakers Clint Enns and Leslie Supnet, Janisse brings her passion to the fest, which will see the Winnipeg debut of the Oscar-nominated feature The Secret of Kells and appearances by a cult animator and the scion of a puppeteering legend. And if it all seems a far cry from programming Italian cannibal movies, Janisse suggests otherwise.

"Animated films are more respectable in a certain way, but they get to be a lot more experimental than regular films," she says. "So you could have something be completely surreal and nonsensical or whatever, but it's still a more respectable medium.

"And a lot of these films, I'd consider to be experimental."

On the program:

-- Seconds Under the Sun (Wednesday May 5 at 8 p.m.)

A program of Japanese animated shorts from 1972 to 2009 curated by Toronto programmer Naomi Hocura. "This is one of the best short-film programs I've ever seen," Janisse says. "With most short-film programs, you get maybe three duds, but I loved everything in her program." Indeed, all three of Plastic Paper's programmers were so impressed, they elected to make this the opening night event, with Hocura in attendance.

-- Handmade Puppet Dreams with Heather Henson (Friday, May 7 at 6:30 p.m.)

The daughter of the late Muppets creator Jim Henson, Heather Henson was invited by Janisse to a special screening of The Muppet Movie at the Alamo Drafthouse a few years back, where Janisse also got to see Hensson's touring program of short puppet films. "I loved her program and I don't think I expected to as much as I did," Janisse says. "It made me a lot more appreciative of puppetry in general." Henson's Winnipeg show is a "best-of" four past programs and while "it's kid-friendly, it's marketed at adults," Janisse says. "There's not a whole lot of silly voices." Tickets are $10.

-- The Saturday Morning All-You-Can-Eat-Cereal Cartoon Party (Saturday, May 8 at 10 a.m.)

Janisse revives the tradition she began as a Cinematheque assistant programmer, combining a buffet of breakfast cereals (including hard-to-get cereals purchased in the U.S.) and a program of equally junky retro animation culled from TV shows of yesteryear. Tickets are $12.

-- Bill Plympton's Animation Master Class (Saturday, May 8 at 1 p.m.)

Bill Plympton may be an Oscar-nominated animator, but he has a cult following drawn to his oft-surreal spectacles and his off-centre sense of humour. "What I like about his work is that he always uses a pencil and paper and he hand draws everything," Janisse says. "His feature films normally feature something like 30,000 drawings." Plympton teaches animation classes in New York City and "he's going to do a condensed version of the classes as a workshop here," Janisse says. Admission is $20.

-- The Secret of Kells (Saturday, May 8 at 4:30 p.m.)

This 75-minute film set in a walled-off Irish abbey during the Middle Ages was nominated for an Oscar in the best animated feature category alongside Up, Coraline, Fantastic Mr. Fox and The Princess and the Frog, and yet never received a meaningful theatrical release. This screening may be the city's only chance to see it on a big screen before it goes to DVD.

-- Summer Wars (Saturday, May 8 at 7 p.m.)

You may never have heard of this 2009 Japanese feature, but the anime fantasy about the battle for a virtual world (called Oz, if you please) by Mamoru Hosada is "a way bigger film than we should be able to have," Janisse asserts. "Mamoru is considered the new Miyazaki."

See original article HERE


From Winnipeg's Uptown magazine, Thursday April 29, 2010:

Watch the Magic Unfold

Plastic Paper: Winnipeg’s International Festival of Animated, Illustrated and Puppet Film gives an under-appreciated art form some much-deserved recognition

by Kenton Smith

Winnipeg is about to become a more animated place.

Plastic Paper, Winnipeg’s International Festival of Animated, Illustrated and Puppet Film, unfolds May 5 to 8 at the Park Theatre. Among the films being screened will be The Secret of Kells, nominated for Best Animated Film at this year’s Oscars.

Guests include Oscar-nominated animator Bill Plympton, who will present an animation master class, as well as puppeteer Heather Henson — daughter of Muppeteer Jim Henson.

Kier-La Janisse of Big Smash! Productions leads Plastic Paper’s crack team of organizers: local filmmakers Clint Enns and Leslie Supnet (herself an animator) as well as Toronto’s Todd Brown.

Personally, Enns is looking forward to the screening of Barry Doupe’s Ponytail, which Janisse declares is “one of the most original films in the festival.” As for Brown, he’s excited about Mamoru Hosoda’s Summer Wars.

“It’s a great film from someone who I believe is a major emerging talent in the world of animation,” Brown says. “It was a pretty complicated process to obtain it — we had to coordinate with companies in both the U.S. and Japan.

“I think the festival’s significance is largely how it brings the sheer variety of animation and related forms to light,” he continues. “The animation we see in the multiplex represents such a small amount of how the medium can be used, and yet it’s all most people ever have the chance to see.

“In North America, animation is still an under-appreciated art form. It’s quite limited — it’s still largely seen as something for kids. But in other parts of the world, things are different.”

“Animation is a weird animal,” Enns says. “It isn’t taken as seriously as arthouse or experimental cinema, but it is often more experimental and deals with more complex themes.”

Plus, Supnet says, animating allows you to work with a minimal crew — which means less constraints and full control.

“Animation,” she says, “is a great medium for control freaks.” Brown adds it enables unlimited imagination, because “drawing something costs nothing.”

Interestingly, there is some debate regarding the respective definitions of animated and illustrated film.

“To me, illustrated film is a rising sub-genre in which flat, 2D images are manipulated without actually animating them,” Brown says. “The wave of ‘motion comics’ coming out is good examples, as is John Bergin’s feature From Inside.

“These projects are drawn but the images don’t really move — only the camera does.”

So how does puppetry fit into the scheme of things?

“I included them because puppetry comes from the same crafty place: you know, very hands-on, labour-intensive and detail-oriented,” Janisse says.

Plus, she wanted any excuse to bring Heather Henson.

See the original article HERE.