Film, Interview

INTERVIEW: The International Pancake Film Festival


We’re big fans of the International Pancake Film Festival here at the Hassle; for the past decade founders Damon Bishop and Cara Kuball have solicited and exhibited countless bits of cinematic weirdness about everyone’s favorite breakfast pastry (full disclosure: your author is not just an admirer of the IPFF, he’s also a contributor). Tonight, however, the brains behind the IPFF are planning something a little different: rather than showcasing the cutting edge of contemporary flapjack filmmaking, Bishop and Kuball will be taking to Harvard’s Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts with a program of their own archival collection, ranging from vintage cartoons and commercials to (gulp) classroom sex-ed films. We sat down with the IPFF overlords to get the lowdown on tonight’s hotcake happening!

BOSTON HASSLE: How did the idea for this exhibition come about?
INTERNATIONAL PANCAKE FILM FESTIVAL: As the co-founders of the International Pancake Film Festival (IPFF), folks often share with us anything and everything related to pancakes, including recommendations of old pancake-based films or just memorable pancake scenes from movies. The keystone of our archive collection is Winter of the Witch (1969), a short made-for-TV film the internet seems to remember fondly from its collective childhood. After a period of online negotiations with a collector in Massachusetts, some money was exchanged, some prayers were said in hopes we weren’t being scammed, and a print of Winter of the Witch was shipped to us from California. Once we had one archival pancake film, the floodgates opened and we were soon buying every syrup commercial and any cartoon that somehow involved pancakes.

The IPFF first screened a limited selection from our archive in 2014 at the pop-up Boston Contemporary Art Museum for Contemporary Art, Artists, and their Contemporaries. We’ve continued collecting since then, and as of April 2017 acquired the holy grail of pancake movies, a girls’ sex ed movie entitled I Got It! (A friend of the fest told us about this oddity years ago, and we’ve been searching for it ever since). Once we got it (!), we knew we had to share it, along with the rest of our collection, via an official IPFF Pancake Film Archive screening. Our friends at the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts were happy to help make this sweet little dream come true.

BH: Where did you find all of these clips?
IPFF: Most of the 16mm films came from online auctions; eBay is kind enough to send us an email whenever the word “pancake” shows up in their Film Stock category. A few have been acquired only after haggling with film collectors online.

I Got It! was first brought to our attention by our friend Mallory, who remembered watching it in her junior high health class. We were happy to see it briefly appear streaming online, but this access did not last long before the clip was pulled. Cara made it her personal mission to find a hard copy of this pancake period movie and ended up tracking the last remaining catalogued VHS copy to a school library in Denver, Colorado. In response to what must have been the weirdest email request they’d ever gotten, the librarians at Adams 12 Five Star Schools digitized the film and generously donated their VHS copy to the IPFF Pancake Film Archive!

BH:What’s the strangest pancake film you’ve discovered so far?
IPFF: To be honest, pancake films are all inherently a little strange. It’s really tough to pick just one, but I Got It! is definitely in the running for weirdest use of pancake batter we’ve encountered. It was produced by Procter & Gamble in the 1980’s for middle-school girls. Far be it from us to spoil the pancake plot of this gem, but it’s safe to say that, after watching it, you will never look at pancakes the same way again.

BH: Why do you think pancakes have inspired so many odd little films over the years?
IPFF: Because we keep asking people to make them for us, ha! But really: pancakes are pretty inoffensive, yet odd in themselves. Most people like pancakes in some form, so they provide positive associations while also being a remarkably neutral ground upon which to project all sorts of madness.

BH: What’s on the griddle next?
IPFF: 2017 marks the IPFF’s 10th birthday! We plan to celebrate hard, and invite everyone to join us. On the heels of our CCVA screening, we are packing up our griddles and heading to Detroit for our festival’s premiere there at Mike Kelley’s Mobile Homestead at MOCAD. We’re also currently hard at work on Vol. 2 of our cookbook, Table Scraps, and our 10th-anniversary original film program, IPFFX. Submissions are still open for both of these projects, which will premiere in Boston this fall.

The International Pancake Film Festival Archive Show
Wednesday, 7/26, 7:30 PM @ The Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts (Harvard) – pancake reception following the screening!
For more information on the IPFF, dig their website!

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