As a filmmaker and a long-term progressive activist, I have been thinking and talking about the connection between our media practice and the crisis that is our current political situation. From the environment to reproductive health to immigration, Donald Trump is trying to dismantle every aspect of the Obama legacy.
How do you return to a sensation of not knowing when you do indeed now know? I am going to try to revisit the days before Hurricane Sandy, to piece together the moments and the sensations we all experienced prior, during and after the storm.
Back in 2004, I proposed to my husband Mark Street that I start a Torah study group for our half-Jewish-half-secular-humanist (the only unofficial faith or –ism he would embrace) 9 and 7 year-old daughters Maya and Noa Street-Sachs. He agreed reluctantly and skeptically, convinced that this passing fancy of mine for constructing a homemade form of religious learning would certainly go the way of Pilates or learning to cook.
In San Francisco in the mid-1980s, I saw Chris Marker’s “Sans Soleil”. I witnessed his mode of daring, wandering filmmaking with a camera. Alone, he traveled to Japan, Sweden and West Africa where he pondered revolution, shopping, family, and the gaze in a sweeping but intimate film essay that shook the thinking of more filmmakers than any film I know. Marker’s essay film blended an intense empathy with a global picaresque. Simultaneously playful and engaged, the film presented me with the possibility of merging my interests in cultural theory, politics, history and poetry — all aspects of my life I did not yet know how to bring together – into one artistic expression.
We are here to discuss the various ways digital technologies have, and have not, impacted experimental filmmaking. There was a time, in the mid-1990s, if not before, when some people argued that digital technologies were revolutionary and that they would fundamentally change filmmaking. Now that the dust has settled, or at least started to settle, and we can look back over the last fifteen or twenty years, the “digital revolution” might not seem like a revolution at all. We want to talk about both what has stayed the same and what has changed in experimental filmmaking thanks to the advent of digital technologies.
“Naming an international film festival after a term for subjectivity is, in my mind, a radical stance. Rather than taking the more obvious city or country identified name, which brings attention to the community, the Punto de Vista festival celebrates a first person cinema based on the documentary practice of working with reality, that privileges the expression of ideas over the dissemination of information.”
“In 2009, I completed The Last Happy Day, a film that uses both real and imagined stories about Sandor Lenard, a distant cousin of mine and a Hungarian medical doctor. (See text above for description). Several years ago I traveled to Sao Paolo, Brazil to film Sandor’s eighty-five year old wife, Andrietta. She described in vivid, almost dreamy, detail her husband’s macabre work. I listened to her recount his daily contact with the detritus of war, wondering to myself why we so rarely think about who is responsible for “cleaning up” the dead. Later in the film, Andrietta’s graphic, realistic recollections stir visual ruminations on this futile act of posthumous, cosmetic surgery.
I AM NOT A WAR PHOTOGRAPHER is what I’ve decided to call a group of five films I’ve made over the last thirteen years. After breathlessly watching Christian Freil’s “War Photographer” (2001), the utterly transformative documentary on the life of James Nachtway, print journalism’s quintessential career war photographer, I knew that Nachtway’s remarkable credo —
“Every minute I was there, I wanted to flee. I did not want to see this. Would I cut and run, or would I deal with the responsibility of being there with a camera?”