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April 6, 2012

Behrend’s ‘Babbit Blast’ to Screen at the Iowa City Doc Film Fest

Next Friday (the 13th..eek!) at 7PM, Patrick Friel will present Jack Behrend’s “Babbit Blast” (1961) as part of the Iowa City Documentary Film Festival’s “Portraiture, Performance, and Industry: The Documentary Fringe and the Avant-Garde” program. Patrick is managing editor of Cine-File Chicago (a weekly Chicago guide to independent and alternative cinema), founder of the White Light Cinema series and festival director of Chicago’s Onion City Experimental Film & Video Festival.

“Babbit Blast” was originally a sponsored film Jack made for the Reserve Mining Corporation, who mined Tachonite in the surrounding area. According to Jack, they would ” drill holes 50 feet deep every 10 feet for a quarter of a mile, fill them with explosives and then blow them in a sequence to loosen a huge amount of rock which would be hauled to a rock crusher and made into pellets.” They hired Jack in 1961 to shoot an explosion at high speed (10,000 frames/second) when they presumed that one of their explosives was defective. It took the company two months to set up an explostion, so a lot was riding on Jack to successfully capture it in one go. What resulted were two 16mm. films, one unfortunately color faded and the other (which Patrick is screening) in good shape.

CFA first screened the film back in 2007 as part of “The Big Picture” series at Chicago’s Gene Siskel Film Center (series curated by Michelle Puetz and Andy Uhrich). This was the first time the film was recontextualized as an experimental or “accidental” avant-garde film. The film’s slow motion explosion has meditative qualities that at times resemble a far-distant nebula coming into existence via supernova explosion. We’re super excited that Patrick has chosen Jack’s film for his program, and that he too is placing this film into new frameworks. When I asked Jack if he ever thought this film would be screened as an experimental film, he replied, “No, I would never have thought it would be the least bit interesting to anyone.”

For more information on the Iowa City Documentary Film Festival’s schedule, click here.

& for more information on CFA’s Jack Behrend Collection, click here.