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 Feat. Dir. Penelope Spheeris and Mark Toscano

Rustic Theatre
Friday 20th, September
3.00 – 4.30 PM


A rare presentation of the short films of Penelope Spheeris. These early works reveal a filmmaker confidently and gleefully subverting cinematic rules, matching the rebellious, anarchic spirit of her subjects. Her themes uncannily chime with the current zeitgeist from dystopian futures and trans-love to reclaiming the female body and exploring the boundaries of documentary. Spheeris’ high profile work in Hollywood sometimes overshadows just how pioneering, and radical this side of her career has been.


As a child Penelope Spheeris lived with her family in different trailer parks throughout southern California. Working as a waitress, she put herself through film school. She worked as a film editor and a cinematographer before forming her own company in 1974. ROCK ‘N REEL was the first Los Angeles production company specializing in music videos. She produced, directed, and edited videos for major bands through the Seventies and Eighties, concluding her music video work with the Bohemian Rhapsody video for Wayne’s World.

The filmmaker behind the groundbreaking cult documentary trilogy The Decline of Western Civilization (1979-1997) a visceral, record of Los Angeles’ evolving music subcultures, cut her teeth with early independent features, including Suburbia (1983) and Dudes (1987) These films capture the alienation and defiance of communities at the margins of American society. In the 90s Spheeris became well known as the director of landmark Hollywood comedies, including Wayne’s World (1992) and The Beverly Hillbillies (1993) Penelope’s iconoclastic stories document the American dream gone bad, and have a wild time doing it.


Mark Toscano is a filmmaker, curator, and film preservationist based in Los Angeles. He works at the Academy Film Archive, where he specializes in the curation, conservation, and preservation of artists’ films. He works with the collections of over 100 filmmakers, and has overseen the conservation and preservation of hundreds of films, including work by Stan Brakhage, Barbara Hammer, Chick Strand, Tacita Dean, Penelope Spheeris, Gus Van Sant, Pat O’Neill, Suzan Pitt, and many others. He has curated and presented programs at MoMA, Arsenal, Eye Filmmuseum, Centre Pompidou, and more. He is a programmer with Los Angeles Filmforum, and has lectured at various universities on experimental film and archiving, as well as teaching in the Experimental Animation department at CalArts.