“My films,” wrote Peggy Ahwesh in her 1990 Cineprobe notes, “are about the negotiation that an individual makes in the realm of the social and how we conform to and resist our duties as members in the culture.” This statement encapsulates artistic ideas around identity, gender, and sexuality taking root in a new decade and integrating aspects of critical theory, psychoanalysis, and punk rock. A home movie and amateur film aesthetic is on display in Martina’s Playhouse, a family picture in which roles are decidedly unfixed, to transgressive and progressive ends; Manohla Dargis remarked of the film, “If the unprecedented success of Pee-Wee Herman suggests (let’s hope) a potential crisis in masculinity, then Martina’s Playhouse signals that the equally artificial construct of femininity is ready to explode." The same could be said of The Deadman, a landmark feminist send-up of George Bataille, created in collaboration with Keith Sanborn and featuring an underground-star-studded cast led by Jennifer Montgomery moving through abjection and ecstasy. The two Ahwesh titles are preceded by Janie Geiser’s finely sinister animation Immer Zu, an enigmatic imagescape created from miniature sets and figures interwoven with selection from film noir soundtracks. Program 64 min.
Immer Zu. 1997. USA. Directed by Janie Geiser. 16mm. 8 min.
Martina’s Playhouse. 1989. USA. Directed by Peggy Ahwesh. With Martina Meijer Torr, Diana Torr, Jennifer Montgomery. Super 8mm, 16mm. 20 min.
The Deadman. 1989. USA. Directed by Peggy Ahwesh, Keith Sanborn. From a story by George Bataille. With Jennifer Montgomery, Scott Shat, Leslie Singer, Kevin Barrett, Ben Polsky, Raymond Quanta Le Gusta, Diana Torr, Beth Friedman, Griff Kwiat. 16 mm. 36 min.