Avant-garde cinema emerged in direct conversation with the film criticism that contextualized, championed, and critiqued it. Writing about work that is premised on defying formulaic intelligibility, and which invites us to reach beyond language to other modes of interpretation, can be both challenging and thrilling—requiring the critic to draw on a deep historical knowledge and a finely-tuned sensory awareness. And reading such criticism can be at once an eye-opening entryway into better appreciating experimental cinema, and its own creative encounter with connections across image and thought.

On May 9, Film Comment Editors Clinton Krute and Devika Girish sat down with Amy Taubin, Genevieve Yue, and Ayanna Dozier, some of the best critics of the avant-garde working today, to discuss the history of the craft, the nitty-gritty of this niche beat, what good writing on avant-garde cinema looks and sounds like, and what to even call the genre—avant-garde? Experimental? The other cinema? The talk took place at DCTV’s Firehouse Cinema in Downtown Manhattan as part of this year’s edition of Prismatic Ground, an exemplary and boundary-pushing festival dedicated to experimental documentary. Throughout the inspired conversation, the group referred to a few exemplary passages written by the esteemed panelists. Read them here:

Amy Taubin (“Oceanic Feeling: Arthur Jafa’s new wavelength,” Artforum)

Genevieve Yue (“Re-Vision: Robert Beavers and The Sparrow Dream,’” Mubi Notebook)

Ayanna Dozier (“Risks and the Senses: Black Women in Experimental Film,” Screen Slate)