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Movie Journal: Rise of the “Underground”

In the Summer 1961 edition of Film Quarterly, Stan Vanderbeek was the first person to refer to experimental filmmaking as the “underground.” A filmmaker himself, Vanderbeek was frustrated that his work and the films of his peers — such as Stan Brakhage, Hilary Harris, Robert Breer and Robert Frank — was not being considered as serious art by the broader cinematic culture.

Eventually, the term “underground film” would become part of the regular movie vernacular, but was it adopted slowly or quickly after its first appearance in 1961?

Jonas Mekas‘s “Movie Journal” column in the Village Voice was the main organ promoting experimental and avant-garde cinema in the early 1960s. A survey of the column from that time period has shown that Mekas did not use the term “underground film” very frequently.

At approximately the same time of the Film Quarterly issue, Mekas devoted a column on May 4, 1961 to three filmmakers. Mekas began the column with:

Stan Vanderbeek,

See full article on Underground Film Journal