Filmmaker Eli Jacobs-Fantauzzi kicks off this year’s Cinematheque series

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An image sent to Occidental students by the MAC department to promote filmmaker Eli Jacobs-Fantauzzi's cinematheque event. The Occidental

For the first event of this year’s Cinematheque series, the Media Arts & Culture (MAC) department hosted artist and filmmaker Eli Jacobs-Fantauzzi, a filmmaker and activist, Jan. 28. The event, “Una Platica Con: an artist talk with Eli Jacobs-Fantauzzi,” featured a presentation on Jacobs-Fantauzzi’s filmmaking process and a discussion of clips from his work. The talk was moderated by this year’s event facilitator, MAC Professor Vivian Lin.

Jacobs-Fantauzzi is the co-founder of Defend Puerto Rico, a multimedia project designed to document and celebrate Puerto Rican creativity, resilience and resistance. Jacobs-Fantauzzi said he founded the project to connect with his heritage and raise money to alleviate the devastation from Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

“I don’t want it to be me taking away from the culture. I want to help the culture build back and expand,” Jacobs-Fantauzzi said during his presentation.

Currently, Jacobs-Fantauzzi is traveling the world working on his new film “Bakosó: Afrobeats of Cuba” and curating his 12th annual “Fist Up” film festival, according to the MAC Department’s Facebook page. “Fist Up” is a presentation of films that place emphasis on shared global experience. According to the “Fist Up” website, the festival aims to create visual parallels between people’s lived experiences with other experiences from around the world.

While presenting the audience with a more in-depth understanding of his works, Jacobs-Fantauzzi allowed for questions and discussion among the audience between each clip.

Jacobs-Fantauzzi said he captures these moments because he wants to accurately portray the cultures he is capturing and honor them. He describes his filmmaking process as “participatory action filmmaking,” which aims to amplify the stories he captures, instead of telling their stories from his perspective.

“I want to be a part of a movement and document it from the inside, rather than just being a fly on the wall,” Jacobs-Fantauzzi said during his presentation. “I believe that as long as you’re there with a camera, you’re changing what’s happening in the scenario already.”

According to MAC Professor Broderick Fox, the Cinematheque series was founded in 2005 in an effort to connect Occidental with the greater LA community. The series explores questions of media and representation and each year the series focuses on a different specific theme, according to Fox. This year’s theme is “Media for Social Change.”

According to Lin, who coordinated the event and contacted artists to participate, this year’s Cinematheque series had to shift to a remote format, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Lin said she took this as an opportunity to contact artists who were not in the immediate LA-area to participate in the series.

“When I found out that the spring semester would be remote, I had to rethink the structure of my initial idea and decided to take advantage of the online environment by bringing in speakers that may not have been able to travel to Los Angeles,” Lin said via email.

In an effort to keep engagement high, Lin said she looked for a variety of artists who utilized multiple participatory methods.

“I was looking for a variety of filmmakers, artists, educators who engage communities using various participatory methods — such as theatre, photography, video or art-making workshops in order to create a collective work,” Lin said via email.

According to Lin, the series will conclude with a collaboration between students and a local community partner. This year the International Women’s Network Against Militarism, will create a permanent work for the college.

Lin also said that the class will collaborate with Professor of Urban & Environmental Policy (UEP) Martha Matsuoka of the Center for Community Based Learning. Their partnership will culminate in a showcase featuring the work of students enrolled in the “Media Activism Through Participatory Video” class at the semester’s last Cinematheque event.

Moving forward, Lin said she hopes the events can serve as an intimate, welcoming space for audience members to participate. According to Lin, there are a number of other events lined up going forward in the series. The next event is the documentary film screening of “Game Girls” (2018) with a discussion with its director Alina Skrzeszewska. The film is centered around a series of workshops for women on Skid Row with drama therapist Mimi Savage from the “Studio for Expressive Arts LA,” located in Glendale.

You can sign up for the next event in the Cinematheque series on Feb. 18 here.