Anthology Film Archives

FILMS FOR THE FAIR: THE WORLD’S FAIR & THE CINEMA

May 8 – May 19

The phenomenon of the World’s Fair (or International Exposition) came into being in the middle of the 19thcentury, and continues to this day to represent the occasion for a celebration of international unity, a platform for the demonstration of social, technological, and commercial advances or visions, a showcase for architectural experimentation, and of course an engine for tourism and national promotion. Outside of specialist circles, however, the role of the moving-image in the World’s Fair/Expo is rarely emphasized. Highlighting the various ways the cinema and the World’s Fair have been interconnected through the years (and timed to coincide with the 80thanniversary of the 1939 New York World’s Fair, not to mention the 55thanniversary of the 1964 edition), this film series encompasses films documenting the various Fairs and Expos, movies that were famously shown during the events, and, most intriguingly, some of the many films and moving-image installations that were commissioned specifically for the Fairs.

The series focuses in particular on a handful of Fairs and Expos, above all the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis, the 1939 and 1964 New York World’s Fairs, Expo 58 in Brussels (which featured an important film festival devoted to experimental filmmaking), and – the Fair that incorporated the moving-image more fully than any other – Expo 67 in Montreal (which was distinguished by the many experiments in multiple-screen presentations that it showcased).

The World’s Fair is a strange beast: a paradoxical mixture of shameless advertising and at times genuinely ambitious visions of the technological and social future. Above all, they constitute the opportunity for a society to construct myths of itself, past, present, and future – and these myths are quite literally constructed, resulting in spectacular but temporary built environments. The temporary nature of these grandiose built environments makes their cinematic portraits all the more fascinating. All films are fated to become documents of a vanished world, but all the more so those works that depict the elaborate fairgrounds of the World’s Fairs, which were built to impress but also to disappear abruptly almost immediately following each Exposition. The films screening here – which reflect or explore the many different facets of the World’s Fair phenomenon – depict worlds both imagined and lost.

Curated in collaboration with Caroline Golum, who wrote many of the program descriptions below. Special thanks to: Jerry Beck (Cartoon Research); Daniel Bish (George Eastman Museum); Eric Breitbart; Daniel Brantley, May Haduong & Edda Manriquez (Academy Film Archive); Jesse Brossoit (Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Centre); Heesok Chang; Robert Cordier; Stéphanie Côté, Catherine Gadbois-Laurendeau & Guillaume Lafleur (Cinémathèque Québécoise); Dennis Doros & Amy Heller (Milestone Films); Skip Elsheimer (A/V Geeks); Genevieve Fong (Eames Office); Monika Gagnon; Paul Gordon & Tina Harvey (Library and Archives Canada); Jane Gutteridge & Tamara Ivis (National Film Board of Canada); Larissa Harris, Hitomi Iwasaki, Vyoma Venkataraman & Louise Weinberg (Queens Museum); Peter Kelly (Cinema Guild); Anthony Kinik; Marleen Labijt (EYE Film Institute); Caroline Martel; Craig Moyes; Kristie Nakamura (WB); Steven Palmer; Elena Rossi-Snook (New York Public Library for the Performing Arts); Lynanne Schweighofer (Library of Congress); William Stingone & Thomas Lannon (NYPL, Manuscripts and Archives Division); Arianna Turci & Arnaud Van Cutsemand (Cinémathèque Royale de Belgique); and Todd Wiener & Steven Hill (UCLA Film & Television Archive).

The series is presented in collaboration with the Queens Museum, whose home – the New York City Building in Flushing Meadows Corona Park – was built to house the New York City Pavilion at the 1939 World’s Fair. The building again housed the New York City Pavilion in 1964, when the extraordinary architectural model, the Panorama of the City of New York, was created for the Fair. The Panorama still exists, and is open to the public as part of the Museum’s collection. For visiting hours and other info, visit: queensmuseum.org/

“Films for the Fair” is presented with generous support from the Quebec Government Office in New York; special thanks to Jean-Pierre Dion & Caroline Dufresne.

One additional World’s Fair program will follow in July: a very special live presentation of KINOAUTOMAT: ONE MAN AND HIS HOUSE (Radúz Činčera, Ján Roháč & Vladimír Svitáček, 1967), an interactive movie – presented in the Czechoslovak pavilion at Expo 67 – whose plot is determined by the audience. More details will be available in the July-September calendar.

Upcoming Screenings

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