Walker Art Center pushes the envelope with ‘Expanding the Frame’ film series


Anyone who loves cinema knows that once the awards season hoopla is over, thought-provoking, interesting cinematic offerings are few and far between until the following fall when studios release the movies they hope will garner awards consideration. How perfectly timed, then, is the Walker Art Center’s film series Expanding the Frame, which begins on January 12th.

This is the second year for the series after meeting great success last year, and over the next seven weeks the series will include ten films from a number of countries including Germany, Romania, the United States, and Poland.

Summer of Love, the first film in the Expanding the Frame series, begins on January 12th. The final selections in the series, films by Ulrike Ottinger, run February 22nd through the 24th. For information and tickets, see the Walker’s Web site.

Sheryl Mousley, film curator for the Walker, explains that the series’s title is inspired by the fact that the filmmakers chosen are those who “use frame in a different way” and will hopefully provide a new layer in how “Minnesota people see film.”

Mousley views film as a medium that “keeps things fresh and helps us understand the world we currently live in” by defining our times through use of “language of the day.” The films chosen for the Expanding the Frame series accomplish this by “helping us understand cultures outside of our own.”

The film starting off the series, Summer Love, is directed by Poland’s Piotr Uklanksi and travels outside the “normal” frame by offering a unique take on the classic American Western. Uklanksi sets his story against the demise of communism in Poland. Summer Love is not being released theatrically, so catching it at the Walker may very well be the only way to see it on the big screen.

4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days, one of the series’s more high-profile films, is one of the series’s two offerings from Romania. Directed by Cristian Mungiu, the film tells the story of a young woman’s planned abortion during a time when abortions are illegal in Romania. Mungiu’s film walked away with the Palme d’Or at Cannes this past year and is Romania’s official selection for the Best Foreign Film Academy Award. Its screening in this series on January 30th will occur weeks before its theatrical release in the Twin Cities.

Perhaps the most intriguing selection also has the strongest local connection. Danny Williams, a director of many Andy Warhol Factory films, is the uncle of St. Paul native Esther B. Robinson, also a film director. Robinson will introduce A Walk into the Sea: Danny Williams and the Warhol Factory, a documentary that has already received numerous awards, including Best Documentary at the Berlin Film Festival. The documentary focuses on Williams’s emergence into Warhol’s life as well as Williams’s mysterious disappearance back in 1996.

According to Mousley, by far the most difficult task involved narrowing down the final list, knowing that terrific films would by necessity be left out. She hopes to continue to find venues where such films can be viewed—she specifically planned Expanding the Frame in the quiet months of January and February to offer something innovative and interesting for moviegoers.

Stephen Sporer (sporer@macalester.edu) works at Macalester College in St. Paul and has reviewed films for KTFM, San Antonio’s most popular radio station. He recently moved to the Twin Cities from New York, where he studied theater at Sarah Lawrence College as well as acting and singing at a wide range of venues.