Yud Yalkut Underground Film Fest

July 19th, 2011

On August 13, 2011 at 1 p.m. the Historical Society of Woodstock plans to hold a special screening of Jud Yalkut’s films, Clarence and Aquarian Rushes, at Upstate Films in Woodstock. Yalkut, an award-winning film and visual artist, will be on hand to introduce his work. Clarence is a short 16 mm experimental piece on Clarence Schmidt. Schmidt was a local sculptor and pop icon who lived in a found-art house atop Ohayo Mountain. His seven-story house was the subject of a Life Magazine article in the 1960s. The film includes some of the only footage taken of Clarence while living in his home—before it burned down in the winter of 1967 to 1968. The sound is by Mel Lyman, Jim Kweskin and the Lyman Family, and includes a narrative by Clarence Schmidt. The work was selected for the “Anthropological Film” program at the Film Forum in New York City and the “Flick Out” broadcast series on educational television in Houston, Texas. The second work on the bill, Aquarian Rushes, is 47-minute film and videotape of the Woodstock Festival of 1969. This film was selected for the Montreal International Festival of Film in 16 mm at the Musée des Beaux Arts; the Encounter with The American Cinema at Sorrento, Italy (selection of Martin Scorsese); and the Museum of Modern Art in Paris American Underground Film Weekend.

Yalkut was born in New York City in 1938. He was educated at the City College of New York and McGill University in Montreal, Canada. He taught film and video at the School of Visual Arts, the City University of New York and at New York University. He first came to Woodstock in 1959 and stayed at the Millstream Motel. From 1962 to 1968 he lived in Woodstock. His home was located across the road from the Shady post office. It was during this time that he connected with USCO, the media art collective. From 1965 to 1972 he was the principal filmmaker-in-residence for the group.

USCO was founded by Steve Durkee, Gerd Stern and Michael Callahan. USCO pulled together a psychedelic orchestra of film, color slides, kinetic sculpture, strobe lights and live actors. Jud Yalkut’s films Clarence and Aquarian Rushes were conceived and shaped by the USCO milieu. During Yalkut’s time in Woodstock he also was on the Group 212 faculty—over the Woodstock line in West Saugerties.

When the producers of the Woodstock Festival put out a bid to have the event filmed, Jud, on behalf of USCO, put out a proffer. He was slated to direct. The plan was to enlist members of the crowd to film parts with hand-held 8 mm mini cameras. At the last minute Michael Wadleigh was tapped to film the festival, because he had secured a distribution deal with Warner Brothers. Nonetheless, Yalkut and his team soldiered on and filmed the event. The resulting documentary has been shown on the underground film circuit ever since. It has 16 mm optical sound and the term “rushes” in the film’s title was used to evoke the era’s drug use.