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American Avant-Garde Cinema from 1970 to the Present

4. 1976 to the Present

2. 1976–1988

  1. Scott MacDonald

Published Online: 13 NOV 2011

DOI: 10.1002/9780470671153.wbhaf073

The Wiley-Blackwell History of American Film

The Wiley-Blackwell History of American Film

How to Cite

MacDonald, S. 2011. American Avant-Garde Cinema from 1970 to the Present. The Wiley-Blackwell History of American Film. 4:2:71.

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 13 NOV 2011


Much of what has happened during the past three decades of American avant-garde film history is a result of the explosion of creativity that characterized the 1960s and early 1970s.1 Not only did a remarkable number of interesting filmmakers emerge during this moment, but filmmakers who had been productive during the 1950s and 1960s found a new audience. The American film society movement, energized by Amos Vogel's Cinema 16 in New York and Frank Stauffacher's Art in Cinema in San Francisco and Berkeley, spread across the nation during the late 1940s and the 1950s, and began a transformation in American film awareness that culminated during the next decade, producing a very wide range of interesting avant-garde films, plus an abundance of what Gene Youngblood (1970) called “expanded cinema” (that is, multimedia presentations and happenings that expanded the use of motion pictures beyond the movie theater), as well as the beginnings of what came to be called “video art.” Much of the creative energy of this moment was devoted to rebelling against conventional American society and in particular against the social standards that had come to seem “normal” during the 1950s and early 1960s. This rebellion took two general forms, evoking the traditional distinction between the Apollonian and the Dionysian in Greek art.


  • avant-garde film;
  • personal cinema;
  • recycled cinema;
  • found-footage film;
  • feminist cinema;
  • ethnic cinema;
  • hand-made cinema;
  • cinema and place;
  • devotional cinema;
  • meditative cinema