Free Radicals (film)

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Free Radicals
Directed by Len Lye
Music by Bagirmi tribe of Africa
Release date
  • 1979 (1979)
Running time
4 minutes
Country United States

Free Radicals is a black-and-white animated film short by avant-garde filmmaker Len Lye. Begun in 1958 and completed in 1979, Lye made the film by directly scratching the film stock. The resulting "figures of motion" are set to music by the Bagirmi tribe of Africa.

In 2008, the film was added to the United States National Film Registry.[1]

Free Radicals appears on the DVD Rhythms, a collection of short films by Lye.[2]

In Experimental Animation : the origins of a new art, Len Lye's recollections of making Free Radicals are quoted: "I made Free Radicals from 16mm black film leader, which you can get from DuPont. I took a graver, various kinds of needles. (My range included arrowheads for romanticism.) You stick down the sides with scotch tape and you get to work with scratching the stuff out. … … You hold your hand at the right height and act is if you were making your signature. It goes on forever. You can carry a pictographic design in your head and make a little design. You can't see what you're doing because your hand is in the way. That's why those things have that kind of spastic look." [3]


  1. ^ "Cinematic Classics, Legendary Stars, Comedic Legends and Novice Filmmakers Showcase the 2008 Film Registry" News from the Library of Congress (30 December 2008)
  2. ^
  3. ^ Russet, R (1988). Experimental Animation : origins of a new art. New York: De Capo Press. ISBN 0-306-80314-3. 

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