AFI National Video Festival

The American Film Institute's salute to film's electronic siblings – video and TV – in the pre-digital era.

Project Story

The National Video Festival was an annual four-day showcase for groundbreaking video and television presented at AFI in Hollywood and at the Kennedy Center in DC.

I was festival director and chief curator for three years.

Despite its name, the National Video Festival was international and eclectic: from premieres of new video by artists and independent producers – to retrospective screenings of innovative early TV and video – to guest curated presentations. We showcased new technology and rewarded the work of young, student video-makers.

Typically, at the four-day event we showed over 110 hours of work, over 150 titles. The Festival’s “main stage” was a state-of-the-art film and video theater. We had an additional four scheduled and two on-demand screening rooms and a large auditorium for panel discussions and audience overflow.

As curator, I selected the featured new work and technology, determined festival themes and invited guest curators to explore/develop these themes through special screenings, panels and presentations.

As director, I was responsible for festival staff hires, our budget and catalogue, and the student video competition – working closely with AFI operations and promotions staff.

Examples of Festival programming:

“Featured Screenings,” new work by media artists engaged in the creation of personal and   political, formally rich and conceptually involving moving-image art.

“A Tribute to Ernie Kovacs: Video Artist.” Kovacs, the wacky master comic, “was commercial television’s first video artist.”

“Point-Counterpoint: Controversy by TV,” a look at the media strategies and tactics of TV in the battle for votes and public opinion.

“The Video and Television Work of Jean-Luc Godard,” a retrospective including: Six fois deux/Sur et sous la communication and France/tour/détour/deux/enfants.

“The U.K. Model: British ‘Made-for-TV’ Movies,” seminal work for TV from writers Dennis Potter, Alan Bennett and David Leland, directors Mike Leigh, Neil Jordon, Stephen Frears, among others.

“Nicaragua and El Salvador: Art & Activism, Urgency & Ethics,” screenings of video/TV for social change.

“Conjuring: The Image of Music,” a panel focused on African, Afro-Caribbean and Brazilian music, convened by the drumming of Nigerian master musician and teacher, Babatunde Olatunji.

”Scenario du film passion“ by Jean-Luc Godard Four Days in July by Mike Leigh “Anthem” by Bill Viola. Photo by Kira Perov Whitney Commercial by Suzan Pitt The Kitchen Presents (Bill T. Jones) Doublecross by Lyn Blumenthal