This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001

27Apr/12

TWI-NY TRIBUTE: AMOS VOGEL

Writer, activist, programmer, teacher, film lover, and all-around mensch Amos Vogel introduced independent and avant-garde cinema to America

Were it not for Amos Vogel, you would not be reading this right now, because we would not be writing it. After taking a film class with Professor Vogel at the University of Pennsylvania, we decided to pursue a graduate degree in cinema studies, with the help of a letter of recommendation from one of the giants of independent cinema. It was in his class that we first learned about Stan Brakhage, Michael Snow, Maya Deren, Bruce Conner, Hollis Frampton, and the other greats of experimental film. In 2003, we got to thank the mighty professor in person at a Tribeca Film Festival screening of the celebratory documentary Film as a Subversive Art: Amos Vogel and Cinema 16. The Vienna-born Vogel, who passed away on April 24 at the age of ninety-one in his Greenwich Village apartment, ran Cinema 16 from 1947 into the 1960s, screening alternative, avant-garde, foreign-language, scientific, and other controversial works that had never before been seen in America. In the documentary, director Paul Cronin follows Vogel as he walks around the Village, stopping by familiar places where his career began. Vogel also opens up his home and office to the camera for a fascinating look into his unique world. A radical leftist, he eagerly fought censorship to bring new ideas to adventurous moviegoers. All the while he was involved in a wonderful love story with his wife of more than five decades. Vogel also was the founder and first director of the New York Film Festival, where we would see him many a year, as well as the author of the seminal text Film as a Subversive Art, a watershed examination of the history of avant-garde cinema. Farewell, Professor Vogel; there was no one else quite like you.

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