Here’s a game I like to play. I’ll click on a news site — HuffPost, say, or Drudge — and look for the day’s weirdest headline. And once I find a particularly tawdry one (teacher-student sex! real estate scam! dismembered bodies! snake eats alligator!), I’ll bet myself a week’s salary that the dateline is from somewhere in Florida. Most of the time, I’m right.
“It has that history, because, you know, it’s where outlaws go,” says filmmaker Robbie Land. “It’s a crazy place.” (Oh, and for the record: I was born and spent the first few years of my childhood in Florida, so I feel entitled to throw some snark toward the Sunshine State.)
Screening Friday, June 24, at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia, the Film Love presentation “Robbie Land: Floridaland and Other Works” is a bill of short, experimental works from the Jacksonville native. (Land moved to Atlanta in 2002.) The 16 mm, handcrafted films aren’t specifically about Florida, nor its seamy side. In fact, Land says, there’s no specific theme tying them together, but the state and its landscape (natural and man-made) feature in several.
The title piece, “Floridaland” (2011, 20 minutes), has literally been a lifetime in the making. “It’s something I’ve been working on forever,” Land says. “And I was really ready to finish this.” The piece combines footage his father shot on Super 8 mm film, documenting family vacations at Florida theme parks in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s, with Land’s more recent visits to those same locations, many years later, using the same film format. “Super 8 was used so much as family video,” Land says. “I re-photographed a lot of what Dad shot, to create that mood, that cadence of these parks, and how I remember them.”
“Precipice” (2011, 7 minutes) features a dance performance, from Tampa, also shot in Super 8, then magnified and manipulated through editing to create a pointillist texture. “Old Florida Salt Marsh” (2011, 7 minutes) is what Land calls a direct animation, or handmade film. It’s a documentation of a northeast Florida location with certain images directly glued or taped to the celluloid. “You see the tape, the glue, the video artifacts,” Land explains. “So in a way, it runs along as if it’s a stream-of-conscious memory.”
“Micanopy Winter Wonderland” (2011, 5 minutes) takes us literally inside a seasonal diorama that was built by somebody inside an old jukebox. The mystery of the strange objet d’art’s provenance is one of the appeals to Land. “The people who own the jukebox don’t know who made it,” he said. “It was created in some logging town, and the fact that we don’t know the guy who handcrafted this is interesting.”
Last on the bill is “Elaine Drive” (above, first made in 2004 but newly revised by Land; 15 minutes). It’s named for the street in northern Jacksonville where Land grew up, and first wrestled with anxiety over the idea of infinity. “The concept, if you sit and think about infinity, there’s no end to the world, so how can there be an end to anything?” he asks. “I can sit down and go, ‘Oh my God, this is crazy,’ and freak myself out if I want to.”
He’s quick to add, “It’s not a horror film, or anything like that.”
“Robbie Land: Floridaland and Other Works.” 8 p.m. June 24. Land will introduce his films and answer questions. Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia, 75 Bennett Street, 404-367-8700. For more information, visit Film Love.