Manuel Ocampo: God Is My Copilot

Engaging, observant, and wickedly ironic, Phillip Rodriguez’s 1998 hour-long profile of Filipino-born painter Manuel Ocampo belongs with the best of the genre. Ocampo, whose gaudy, surreal, disturbing canvases incorporate images and motifs from religious and pop culture, first won the attention of the west-coast art scene in the late 80s. Yet Rodriguez punctures the pretensions of an art world that latches onto controversy while turning its pets into celebrities: connoisseurs such as Dennis Hopper and Julian Schnabel explain why Ocampo’s art appeals to them, then the sweet-looking Ocampo dismisses their psychological theories. The filmmaker is even more penetrating in his exploration of how colonialism and the Catholic Church inform Ocampo’s grotesque and violent visions, and the biographical tidbits he uncovers–Ocampo’s staid middle-class upbringing, his infatuation with comic-book superheroes–speak volumes about the rebellious impulses behind the painter’s levelheaded facade. On the same program, Ifti by Columbia College grad Hajira Majid; the 20-minute video documentary provides a fond if perfunctory introduction to Ifti Nasim, the Pakistani-born Chicago poet whose writings in Urdu have earned wide recognition for their passion and innovation. Majid will attend the screening. Film Center, Sunday, April 11, 4:00, 773-871-1977 or 312-443-3737.

–Ted Shen

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): film still.