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UCLA Film & Television Archive and the Hugh M. Hefner Classic American Film Program present

The Outré World of Rolf Forsberg

Parable (1964)
June 8, 2013 - 7:30 pm
Rolf Forsberg.

Susan King spotlights Rolf Forsberg in the Los Angeles Times.

Read what the Library of Congress had to say about Forsberg's Parable upon its inclusion on the National Film Registry.

A true auteur of the often unjustly unsung genre of sponsored films, Rolf Forsberg has written and directed a number of highly stylized expressionistic shorts that defy simple description, including the controversial and acclaimed Parable (1964), which was named to the National Film Registry last year. While many of Forsberg's films were made on assignment for major religious organizations, his complex body of work is unexpectedly provocative, independent and experimental. Illustrating key influences, including Bergman and Fellini, Forsberg employs enigmatic symbolism and poetic lyricism to create vivid, nightmarish allegories situated between the spiritual and the secular, heaven and hell. UCLA Film & Television Archive is pleased to celebrate Rolf Forsberg's uniquely humanist canon with a selection of some of his most notable films and a conversation with the filmmaker himself.

All films written and directed by Rolf Forsberg, except where noted. 

Special thanks: Mark Quigley, manager—UCLA Film & Television Archive Research & Study Center.

Watch a trailer for the program below. 

Parable (1964)

"Forsberg's film is thoughtful and beautifully handled." — Time Magazine

Directed by Rolf Forsberg, Tom Rook

Commissioned by the New York City Protestant Council of Churches for their 1964 World's Fair pavilion, Parable, with its European art house sensibilities, was highly controversial for daring to utilize allegory in depicting "Christ as a clown." Despite threats of violence and protests against the short, audiences and critics embraced the powerful work, with Newsweek proclaiming it "very probably the best film of the fair."

Screenwriter: R. Forsberg. Cast: Clarence Mitchell, Madhur Jaffrey, Saeed Jaffrey. 

16mm, color, 20 min. 

Antkeeper (1966)

Directed by Rolf Forsberg

Rolf Forsberg's surrealistic allegory concerns an antkeeper that transforms his son into an ant in order to save an ant colony from self-destruction. Produced for the Lutheran Church in America, the experimental short showcases Forsberg's uniquely stylized vision as well as the pioneering macro-photography of noted nature cinematographer, Robert H. Crandall (The Living Desert).

Screenwriter: Rolf Forsberg. Cast: Fred Gwynne (narrator), Madhur Jaffrey. 

16mm, color, 28 min. 

Ark (1970)

Directed by Rolf Forsberg

In this expressionistic precursor to the Sci-Fi classic Silent Running (1972), a modern day "Noah" cares for the last remnants of nature in a dystopian future. Produced for an independent production company, Rolf Forsberg's prescient ecological warning was extremely successful in 16mm distribution to schools, churches and civic groups and enjoyed a brief, limited theatrical run in Los Angeles.

Screenwriter: Rolf Forsberg. Cast: Howard Whalen, Leah Rochelle. 

16mm, color, 19 min. 

One Friday (1972)

Directed by Rolf Forsberg

Rolf Forsberg focuses his humanist lens on race relations in this provocative, independently produced short that was marketed as a classroom film intended to generate group discussion. As a toddler roams an unnamed idyllic suburbia, Forsberg juxtaposes the beauty of nature against the brutal violence wrought by armed combat between the races. An earnest call for peace and reconciliation and, viewed today, a problematic time-capsule of white anxiety regarding black militancy in the post-Watts-rebellion era.

Cast: Thor Forsberg. 

16mm, color, 14 min.