Interview with Lynne Sachs
Can you talk a bit about your background and what led you to filmmaking?
As a girl, I always loved to paint and write poetry. Since I had never
seen an experimental film, I had no real desire to create one. Then I
happened to stroll into some films by Marguerite Duras and Chantel
Ackerman in Paris when I was about 19. Like a flash of lightening, I
discovered there was a place where I could put all of my ideas about
images and words in a non-narrative vessel that had no formula other
Can you talk about a moment, a film, a screening that really
inspired you to become a filmmaker?
Looking back on the influential films I saw as a child, I think I
should mention “Finian’s Rainbow” by Francis Ford Coppola, “Billy
Jack” by Tom Laughlin, “Walkabout” by Nicolas Roeg, and “Children of
Paradise” by Marcel Carne. These were movies I saw as young person
that turned my world upside-down. “Billy Jack” is an intense, very
political, very macho, kind of hippie movie that I am embarrassed to
say so rocked my world that I went to see it about five times when I
was ten years old.
What is the genesis of “Photograph of Wind”?
One spring afternoon in 2001, I was standing in my backyard watching
my daughter Maya playing in the grass. As I stared intently at her, I
realized that my relationship to her fleeting youth was somehow
similar to that of my teacher Gunvor Nelson’s with her own daughter in
her film “My Name is Oona” (1969). In this film, Gunvor stares at Oona
who is riding with blissful abandon on a horse at the beach. Oona is
free to run with the animal wherever she may choose, and yet she is
somehow lovingly reigned in by the gaze and concern of her mother.
Through the fabric of the celluloid in both its clarity and its
obscurity Gunvor weaves an intimate, oneiric homage to her daughter.
On the soundtrack (recorded with Patrick Gleason and inspired by
American composer Steve Reich), she creates a musical litany made of
the sound of Oona speaking her name over and over. Perhaps it was
seeing this film that compelled me to pull out my 16mm camera to film
my daughter running as many circles as she could before falling
dizzily to the ground. I called this short cine-poem “Photograph of
What were some of the film’s influences?
I was very influenced by the films that Robert Frank made of his own
children. I am not sure where he wrote this but somewhere he used the
expression “photograph of wind” and it spoke to me in a profound way.
Can you elaborate on the process of making the film? How
important is the process to you?
Sometimes I make very complex collage films. This is just the
opposite. “Photograph of Wind” is a very spare work that combines two
shots. In these two images, we see the collision of black and white
and color, a human being and the leaves of a tree. But in the
juxtaposition, I think we witness the sense of a fleeting childhood
and the last moments of summer. No matter how tightly we grasp the
moment, it will go away.
Can you contextualize “Photograph of Wind” in relationship
to your body of work overall. Does this film relate to themes that you
typically explore or is this film a departure?
I have been exploring women’s experiences through so much of my work,
going back to my first short film “Still Life with Woman and Four
Objects” (1986). I like investigating my own discoveries about my
life – from getting my period, to having children, and all the things
in between. Specifically, I have made about five films with my
daughters. We all enjoy diving into the creative process together.
How does your point of view as a mother and a woman inform your
filmmaking? (Some women have felt that if they were to be taken
seriously as filmmakers they had to be “closeted” mothers or choose
between the two. Is that something you have encountered?)
Being a mother makes me feel like I can run outside to look at a
flower bursting from a branch – carrying a camera or dragging along
one of my children – and I have an audience with whom to share the
experience. On a more somber note, I also made a film about an
Israeli mother and filmmaker who was killed with her children in a
political conflict. The film is called “States of UnBelonging” and
making it allowed me to explore what it means to take risks as a
mother and an artist.
Does your role as a filmmaker inform how you see yourself as a mother?
I think that by being an artist, and in my case a filmmaker, we can
share an excitement about making things with our children. Life feels
like a universe of possibilities, and the measures of success are not
so much commercial as personal.
Did you have reservations about including your kids in the
project? Can you share a story about the process of working with your
I did not have reservations. Making this film with my daughter was
just a continuation of our play – at least for her. For me, of
course, I had to spend days in the optical printing room transforming
the original footage into the dreamy, high-contrast motion you see on
How do you balance teaching, making films, your family, life,
etc? Can you share a day in your life doing this balancing act?
I am not sure I have found a balance, but I guess that I try to
translate the joy I have for teaching to my relationship with my kids.
Both are oriented toward young people of course, but my students just
stay the same age and my daughters grow up. The hard part is not to be
too much of a teacher with your own children.
We have shared the rationale behind putting together the Kid on
Hip program. Do you have any thoughts on being included in this group
of films as a screening program?