Since the Exploding Cinema began the moving image landscape has shifted substantially; a proliferation of home-grown screening ventures have come (and many state supported ones gone). Further afield has come the microcinema boom in the US, as well as a host of entrepreneurial distribution initiatives retailing work at 'affordable' (i.e. non limited edition) prices. These artist/filmmaker/activist run initiatives have spanned the spectrum of cultural and aesthetic approaches, some maintaining the 'short film as calling card' orthodoxy that still seems the mainstay of many established festival ventures, others with a more accommodating approach to the diversity of work being produced.
The Exploding Cinema's open policy has meant that the diversity of work shown has - to a certain extent - been a matter of chance and circumstance. Of course the kind of person who would show their film at an open access show is a matter of self-selection. Despite the culturally engaged and receptive audiences to be found at an Exploding Cinema show, it's noticeable how few filmmakers from the 'traditional' experimental sectors have ever ventured to show their films there.
The group originally sprang up as a response to the elitism and aridity encountered in such institutionalised sectors, and perhaps its coming into being was interpreted as some kind of oppositional practice. It was a criticism, but simultaneously it was an attempt to pursue a non-hierarchical and inclusive approach to screening work - a welcome to all-comers.
This approach, along with a flexibility in methods of screening, presentation and negotiation of spaces, has encouraged many makers to produce work especially for the show - some utilising the 'liveness' of the situation, others as a target and deadline to get things made. It also casts the individual audience member as the arbiter of what's good or bad - as the show is a conduit rather than a filter.
But is the work on show any good? Personally, I'd say it's 50:50 on a bad day, much higher on a good one. But the range of work is extraordinary: from live multi-screen performances to re-scored 1920's home movies, personal first films to polished mini epics, absurdist dramas to heartfelt documentaries. It is work that you are unlikely to have the chance to see anywhere else, and it's an engaging - and culturally engaged - live event. And so people have come back time and time again.
Group photo from 2000 - a publicity 'photo from an 'interview' with the group in 'Filmwaves' (a copy of which is held in Exploding Cinema folder in the Study Collection).