LACMA cancels film program 1


This is a bizarre personal twist to a story affecting our community.

On Tuesday July 28 I did something I have never done before. I sent a proposal for a series on dance and film to Ian Birnie, the erstwhile head of LACMA’s superb film program. 

The subject was choreographer Jack Cole whom I have been researching for an L.A. Times story. Birnie had expressed his interest in how many famous 1950s musicals feature Cole’s work — and the fact that no one knows about it. Perfect programming fodder for LACMA.

The next day, Wednesday July 29, LACMA announced the cancellation of the 40-year program and Birnie’s firing.

How weird is that? In fact I would not take my proposal anywhere but to Ian Birnie. Ian’s steady presence running this rigorous program in the heart of Los Angeles for the last 13 years; his deep knowledge and passion; and his accessibility to the normal Joe put him in a rare category. 

Here’s an L.A. Weekly article that recounts contrast between Birnie and his boss, Michael Govan

Here, L.A. Times film critic Kenneth Turan fumes in his column.

Read film critic Richard Schickel’s op-ed piece in Saturday’s L.A. Times .  

Here’s a blog item by Doug Cummings.

In a press release written in admirable corporatese (e.g., Birnie is not being canned, he’s being “restructured,” although he has done a “marvelous job”), LACMA Director Michael Govan says how necessary it is to put the kabosh on the underfunded program and instead install one featuring “artist-created” films. This comment has Truffaut, Kurosawa and John Ford turning over in their graves … and it’s putting *me* into an early one.

We have formed a FaceBook group called Save film at LACMA. Please sign on.


One comment on “LACMA cancels film program

  1. Doug Aug 2,2009 1:01 pm

    Thanks for the link and your continued coverage of this travesty to Los Angeles culture.

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