Lights, camera, action: Time to shine for film at BAMPFA

BAMPFA as seen from corner of Oxford and Addison with exterior PFA screen. Photo Iwan Baan
BAMPFA’s exterior LED screen on Addison Street is just one of its many exciting new features. Photo: Iwan Baan/courtesy Diller Scofidio + Renfro and BAMPFA

The last coat of paint has been applied, the fixtures are all in place, and the hard hats have departed: it’s time to celebrate the re-opening of BAMPFA’s film programming. Yours truly managed to get a sneak peek of what’s in store for Bay Area cinéastes, and I can happily report that we’re all in for quite a treat.

Located at 2120 Oxford St. in downtown Berkeley, the new BAMPFA building is an open, airy, and naturally lit paradise for art enthusiasts and film fans. For the first time in 16 years, BAMPFA screenings will take place under the same roof — in this case, a gleaming curvaceous stainless steel roof — as the museum’s art galleries.

The new PFA features two screening rooms, with the Barbro Osher Theater serving as the Archive’s centerpiece. This 232-seat room is vastly superior to the ‘temporary’ space the Archive occupied for the last decade – and, dare I suggest, also a considerable improvement over BAMPFA’s previous ‘permanent’ home in the old Ciampi building on Bancroft Way.

PFA Photo Iwan Baan
The new BAMPFA’s 232-seat Barbro Osher Theater has a state-of-the-art Meyer Sound audio system. Photo: Iwan Baan/courtesy Diller Scofidio + Renfro and BAMPFA

The high-ceilinged Osher Theater may not have upholstered seats with cup-holders – this is not your neighborhood multiplex – but it does feature state-of-the-art equipment (ensconced in an exposed projection booth that allows visitors to admire the machinery that brings all things celluloid, and otherwise, to life) and a large screen with excellent visibility from all angles.


The Osher Theater is able to screen a variety of film formats, from 35mm archival prints to 4K digital projection. And the sound quality will be top-notch. Berkeley’s Meyer Sound has designed and outfitted the theater with its audio system. A stage is set up for live musical accompaniment for silent films, as well as lectures and interviews.

The smaller, 33-seat theater gives curators the ability to integrate film with exhibitions and other programs at the museum.

BAMPFA’s Film Library and Study Center, one of the best film reference services in the country, is much more accessible — and visible — than in its previous location. Researchers and the public have at their disposal two viewing rooms, two viewing carrels, more than 9,000 books, 150 journal titles, 10,000 posters and 55,000 film-stills, as well as countless screenplays, film festival programs and distributors’ catalogs.

In addition, the PFA boasts an exterior LED screen on the Addison Street side of the new Diller Scofidio + Renfro designed museum for occasional outdoor screenings.

Excited yet? Then also consider this: in addition to its physical improvements, BAMPFA will now offer programming 52 weeks a year. Those grim summer and winter months without the Archive will now be a thing of the past, and with a location near BART and multiple bus routes it’s more accessible than ever. Whatever excuses you previously had not to go to BAMPFA – you don’t have them any more.


The PFA's inaugural movie will be Ingmar Bergmann's Seventh Seal on
BAMPFA’s inaugural movie will be Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal on Feb. 3 at 7:30 p.m.

The BAMPFA theater opens to the public at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 3 with a screening of Ingmar Bergman’s Det sjunde inseglet (The Seventh Seal, 1957). Selected by Swedish Honorary Consul and Theater namesake Barbro Osher (who’ll be present for the screening), the film needs no introduction and remains one of the most beloved of all film classics. It’s hard to imagine a more suitable film to inaugurate the new building.

But wait, there’s more. Here are just a few of the programming highlights during the months ahead:

‘Cinéma Mon Amour: Guy Maddin’ (Feb. 12-14) includes a three-film selection of the eclectic Canadian’s tributes to silent cinema and two films that inspired his work, Lupu Pick’s Sylvester: New Year’s Eve (1923) and Josef Von Sternberg’s Dishonored (1931). Maddin will be in attendance to introduce each film.

‘Love Exists: Maurice Pialat’ (Feb. 5-March 25) is an exhaustive program focusing on the films of Pialat, a French director about whom, I must shamefully admit, I’m completely unfamiliar. That, of course, makes this series very attractive, with my interest particularly piqued by L’enfance nue (Naked Childhood, 1968), a film that’s been favorably compared to Truffaut’s The 400 Blows.

‘Jean Epstein’ (March 4-April 10) is a series examining the little seen work of this Polish-born filmmaker of the 1920s and 30s. Epstein is best known for his experimental 1927 feature La Chute de la maison Usher (The Fall of the House of Usher), but there’s much more to be discovered – and very little of his work is available on home video, so this is close to being a once in a lifetime opportunity.


Browse the full upcoming program of the new Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive.

Inside the Osher Theater on Sunday Jan. 31, the first day BAMPFA was open to the public. Photo: Ted Friedman
Inside the Osher Theater on Sunday Jan. 31, the first day BAMPFA was open to the public. Photo: Ted Friedman

Related:
New BAMPFA ready to open Sunday in downtown Berkeley (01.28.16)
BAMPFA builds temporary tent for its opening gala (1.22.16)
Master craftsman Paul Discoe puts his touch on new BAMPFA (12.24.15)
New museum gets ready to open in the heart of Berkeley (11.19.15) 
Berkeley Art Museum’s iconic building closes after 44 years (12.24.14)
Art museum chief: New space good for Town & Gown (02.13.13)
Palpable possibilities: Berkeley Art Museum’s home awaits (01.25.12)
New Berkeley Art Museum mixes old with eye-catching new (09.16.11)

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