Tag Archives: A Month of Single Frames

Culture Club: Watching A MONTH OF SINGLE FRAMES by Lynne Sachs and VEVER by Deborah Stratman

By Giulia Rho
March 8, 2021
Club Des Femmes
https://www.clubdesfemmes.com/portfolio-item/culture-club-watching16/


MUBI is screening A Month of Single Frames (from Mon 8 March) and Vever (from Tues 9 March) to mark International Women’s Day 2021.

To support their programming, MUBI are offering 30 days’ free viewing (starting whenever you choose) of all the films on their platform to Club des Femmes’ readers and friends!

Ways of Seeing with Barbara Hammer


“I am overwhelmed by simplicity. There is so much to see”, recites an ageing Barbara Hammer from her diary. An entry that dates back to 1998, when the filmmaker was conducting a one-month residency in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, with only the dunes and the ocean to keep her company. “I feel compelled to do absolutely nothing. There is nothing to do”, she recounts, as the camera shows us the artist taking a shower outside, in the nude, at ease with her backdrop of sun-scorched sand grass. These moments appear suspended in time, at once very distant from me and very close, like memories of my own from my college years in Boston and weekend escapes to the coast. I find myself wondering how Barbara Hammer could extract these images from my mind, as they soar away from me into the past.

Lynne Sachs, who directed Barbara to read selected excerpts from the diary out loud for her film A Month in Single Frames (2019), edits together the artist’s unused footage with oneiric lyricism, giving us brilliant frames of pure light, extreme closeups of flowers and time lapses of clouds journeying through the expansive American sky. Fractals of colors artificially created by Barbara with rainbow gel flags overlap and fade out into the hues of the scarce vegetation, and the changing sunlight on the dunes. Barbara’s own shadow appears now and then, stretched along the beach, reflected in her own artmaking, a self-inscription that travels to us, in this moment in time, and reminds us of the woman behind the camera, the body around the voiceover. The communion of human and natural, of feminine bodies and flora is a long-standing trope in Barbara Hammer’s filmmaking, appearing since her early shorts Dyketactics (1974) and Menses (1974). Naked women frolic and fuck unperturbed by the open space surrounding them. I often think of them as a Flower Child Eve, who upon eating the forbidden fruit and realising she is naked, instead of covering herself with leaves, shrugs it off, and revels in her own skin.

Bugs, strands of grass and little toys populate A Month of Single Frames, inhabiting it like a doll house, an artificial space that seems to encompass “the expanse called life” as a terminally ill Hammer looks back to it. Like in the most famous still from this film: a little glass contains the whole ocean.

Back when the film was released in 2019, none of us could have imagined the emotional resonance a film about the smallness of life would hold just a year later. And yet, this Thoreauvian Cape Cod, this meditation on the passing of time and the beauty of everyday, now insistently reminds me of my Instagram feed, which, during several lockdowns, has filled with little pleasures and stolen moments of domesticity. The arrangement of fruits in a colourful bowl when the light hits just right, a pet that appears to be smiling at the camera, the corner of a white building slashing the blue sky, can now all bring tears to my eyes. As part of my PhD practice, I spend most days researching images of the banality of beauty, captured by a past generation of feminist filmmakers of which Hammer was part. I survey their movies like a detective, waiting for hints of these lives gone by, and I continually find my own.  The re-evaluation of the mundane preached by Thoreau and Whitman and exemplified by the American avant-garde has returned in our habit of documenting days that follow one another in a blur and posting the most fleeting joys online.

The attempt of recounting an experience of solitude through connection reiterates Lynne Sachs’ strategy of making a film with and for Barbara Hammer, repurposing the artist’s unused footage. “You are alone. I am here with you in this film. There are others here with us. We are all together”, Lynne writes, over the image of a stick drawing invisible lines in the sand. I detest that everything reminds me of the pandemic, of the present moment, rather than taking me away from it. But I love the invitation Barbara and Lynne’s collaboration extends to look at the simple and habitual like the richest treasure: “everything waits expectantly to be discovered”.

If A Month of Single Frames dwells on the natural world, Vever (2019) by Deborah Stratman revisits another trope in Barbara Hammer’s repertoire: travel. The original footage was shot in 1975 by Barbara in Guatemala, at the end of a motorcycle trip that got her away from the Bay Area, heartbreak and a troubled affair. “I needed to get away and drive”, she tells Stratman over the phone; a tremor in her voice betrays her old age. The film is bursting with energy and color, the market streets are busy, and the soundtrack of drums and flutes urges us to search the crowd expectantly, as if Barbara herself was about to appear straddling her BMW motorcycle like the heroine in an action movie. Instead, a text runs over the screen, a testimony of defeat, and failure of the artist to capture reality. We discover from the voice over that Hammer never printed the film herself because she had no “political content or personal context” to justify spending what little money she had. What motivated her to shoot this film in the first place? “I left without an intention, except to drive”, she recounts. Once the film ran out, she simply turned around and went back to San Francisco, as if the camera was the navigator.

Tribal etchings appear in answer to these doubts. The music now assumes a magical or religious tone and the human world succumbs to the jungle. It is almost an invocation, a response to the inability to master art that the text on the screen has been telling us about. In fact, the music sounds familiar. I wonder if I’m getting hypnotized, or if a memory inside me is stirring. Where have I heard it? Before I can find an answer, images from the market return. Except now it’s the end of the day, it is quieter. Over the phone, Barbara hurriedly tells Stratman that she needs to go. The screen is already black. She truly has gone, too far for us to reach her. And yet the quote we are left with reads: “great Gods cannot ride little horses”, a Haitian proverb that immediately reminds me of a picture I saw of Barbara sitting on her bike, a beautiful, powerful butch iconography. And she doesn’t feel so far anymore.

I barely have the time to smile to myself when Maya Deren’s name appears in the credits. The music that sounded so familiar is quoted from Meshes in the Afternoon, coincidentally the film that Hammer credits in her biography Hammer! (2015)as her major inspiration for becoming a filmmaker. And so, all the pieces of the film fall into place: the tribal designs, the Haitian references, the meditations on art and power. They are from Maya Deren’s own practice, and especially her religious beliefs. Barbara might have embarked on her journey to South America alone and hurting, but Stratman’s film retrospectively gives her companionship. Vever connects three generations of women and offers them to us. As we’ve learnt in Sachs’ film, we are alone together.

In voodoo tradition, which Deren studied and practiced, everything is connected unpredictably and non-hierarchically. These divine linkages are evoked through drawings like the ones that appear in the film, in fact homonymously called ‘vevers’. Once again, I can’t help thinking about our contemporary summoning practice. How we engage in invocations of another that we cannot see, who isn’t sharing our space and yet we believe to be present, at the other end of our technology. Vever opens with a loud dialing tone, a wait, before Hammer picks up the call and Stratman asks: “can you hear me okay?”. How familiar this ritual of connection has become to us all, endlessly trapped in Zoom waiting rooms repeating vocabulary from a séance. “Just barely”, replies Hammer, as the film shows her hand receiving a bowl of soup from an Indigenous woman. She is there, physically preserved in the film, in the company of Maya Deren’s words and music. And I wonder if the whole film isn’t an invocation of them, for their art to reach us today. I spend so much time with them and artists like them for my PhD that I have come to consider them friends. They aren’t, after all, that much further in time and space than my real-life friends, isolated together as we are.

Watching these films on the occasion of International Women’s Day I am left hopeful of the connections we are able to draw. Like the intricate and vibrant designs the women in Vever weave in their tapestries and clothes, so we are tethered to one another across location and generation. Surely our political practice has evolved and expanded, but we still have so much in common with the women who have come before us. I often think of philosopher Luce Irigaray’s reminder that “we already have a history” (Sexes and Genealogies, 19), and her warning against being led to believe that the past is rags rather than riches. We need to cultivate our genealogy, reworking the old in order to create something new, much like Sachs and Stratman do in their collaboration with Hammer. The possibilities to easily access their movies on MUBI is an opportunity to witness such history and interact with it. Our contemporary digital feminism can help make invisible bodies and stories visible and part of a larger discourse, like a whole ocean in a glass of water.

Walker Art Museum to Screen Sachs & Minh-ha Program

Walker Art Museum 
https://walkerart.org/calendar/2021/collection-playlist-reassemblage-and-a-month-of-single-frames-for-barbara-hammer

Collection Playlist: Reassemblage and A Month of Single Frames (for Barbara Hammer)

Trinh T. Minh-ha, Reassemblage, 1982. Image courtesy the Walker Art Center, Ruben/Bentson Moving Image Collection.

VISITING GUIDELINES

WHEN
Apr 20–May 4, 2021

WHERE
Virtual Cinema

DIRECTED BY
Trinh T. Minh-ha and Lynne Sachs with Barbara Hammer

A film from the Walker’s Ruben/Bentson Moving Image Collection is paired with a contemporary work that is not in the collection. The two works resonate with timeless, conceptual connections.

Whose film is it? Contemporary artists Trinh T. Minh-ha, Lynne Sachs, and the late Barbara Hammer address various forms of truth-telling and collaboration in cinema. Minh-ha challenges traditional ethnographic films, drawing attention to ways they are conspicuously shaped by the storyteller’s colonial standpoint. Sachs and Hammer elevate the possibility of shared authorship by conceiving a film shaped by Sachs’s vision of Hammer’s material.

Screening right here for free beginning at 10 am (CDT) April 20 until May 4.

“A Month of Single Frames” – Films to Watch on Mubi – Our Culture Mag

Our Culture Mag
Films on MUBI in March, 2021
By MODESTAS MANKUS
FEBRUARY 19, 2021
https://ourculturemag.com/2021/02/19/films-on-mubi-in-march-2021/

MUBI, the go-to film subscription service, has revealed their list of films for March. The list includes Notturno (2020), a superb documentary by the award-winning filmmaker Gianfranco Rosi. To accompany Notturno, MUBI will also stream Rosi’s Boatman (1993), Below Sea Level (2008), and El Sicario, Room 164 (2010).

March for MUBI will also include Chloé Zhao’s debut film Songs My Brothers Taught Me. Whilst also adding two films, The Girl (1968) and Binding Sentiments (1969), by feminist Hungarian director Márta Mészáros who is celebrating her 90th birthday this year.

The current list of films on MUBI in March 2021.

1 March | The Imperialists are Still Alive! | Zeina Durra

2 March | Chinese Puzzle | Cédric Klapisch | The Spanish Apartment Trilogy

3 March | Inflatable Sex Doll of The Wastelands | Atsushi Yamatoya | Keiko Sato: Pinku Maverick

4 March | Catch Me Daddy | Daniel Wolfe

5 March | Notturno | Gianfranco Rosi | Luminaries

6 March | Cute Girl | Hou Hsiao-Hsien | Hou Hsiao-Hsien Focus

7 March | Fight Club | David Fincher

8 March | A Month of Single Frames | Lynne Sachs | Ways of Seeing With Barbara Hammer

9 March | Vever (for Barbara) | Deborah Stratman  Ways of Seeing With Barbara Hammer

10 March | Below Sea Level | Gianfranco Rosi | The Splendor of Truth: The Cinema of Gianfranco Rosi

11 March | Los Conductos | Camilo Restrepo | Debuts

12 March | Songs My Brothers Taught Me | Chloé Zhao

13 March | Computer Chess | Andrew Bujalski

14 March | A Prophet | Jacques Audiard | Double Bill: Jacques Audiard

15 March | A Colony | Geneviève Dulude-De Celles

16 March | The Green, Green Grass of Home | Hou Hsiao-Hsien | Hou Hsiao-Hsien Focus

17 March | El Sicario, Room 164 | Gianfranco Rosi  | The Splendor of Truth: The Cinema of Gianfranco Rosi

18 March | The Legend of the Stardust Brothers | Macoto Tezuka | Rediscovered

19 March | Sonita | Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami | HRWFF

20 March | Tigerland | Joel Schumacher

21 March | Dheepan | Jacques Audiard | Double Bill: Jacques Audiard

22 March | The Girl | Márta Mészáros | Independent Women: The Pioneering Cinema of Márta Mészáros

23 March | Oleg | Juris Jursietis

24 March | Gushing Prayer | Masao Adachi | Keiko Sato: Pinku Maverick

25 March | South | Morgan Quaintance | Brief Encounters

26 March | That Cold Day in the Park | Robert Altman

27 March | The Fountain | Darren Aronofsky

29 March | Binding Sentiment | Márta Mészáros | Independent Women: The Pioneering Cinema of Mára Mészáros

30 March | The Boys From Fengkuei | Hou Hsiao-Hsien | Hou Hsiao-Hsien Focus

31 March | Edvard Munch | Peter Watkins | Portrait of the Artist

Read more: Films on MUBI in March, 2021 – Our Culture https://ourculturemag.com/2021/02/19/films-on-mubi-in-march-2021

“A Month of Single Frames” included in AEMI program

AEMI
02/18/2021

WATCH HERE: https://vimeo.com/ondemand/yearinreview2

2020: A Year in Review (Programme 2)

aemi’s second Year in Review programme continues to wrestle with the impact and consequences of this particular moment in time while also showcasing some of the best international artist moving image works that have helped sustain us through a period of profound change. The films in both Year in Review programmes evolve thematically; where the first programme largely dealt with a more singular psychological space: pursuits of personal development often pointing to stimulation and isolation survival tactics, Programme 2 suggests some pathways to a future defined by collective forms of participation.

We begin then with Onyeka Igwe’s No Archive Can Restore You effectively interlinking concerns common to the two programmes. Several of the films in this programme speak to the potential of spaces that connect people, considering also the roles of interlinking past and present communities within these spaces, and the future value and affect of culture developing within these environments. Music also continues to play a significant part in this programme, however the emphasis now is on highlighting togetherness through creativity and publicness, and through shared experiences of political resistance, intent and play.

This programme is available in the Republic of Ireland

A special thank you to LUX, London, and to Video Data Bank at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago vdb.org, supporting partner of this screening


Works featured
No Archive Can Restore You – Onyeka Igwe (2020, 5 min 54 sec)
A Month of Single Frames – Lynne Sachs with and for Barbara Hammer (2019, 14 min)
Lore – Sky Hopinka (2019, 10 min 16 sec)
Queering di Teknolojik – Timothy Smith (2019, 8 min 30 sec)
Seize Control of the Taj Mahal – Glenn Belverio (1991, 12 min)
Here is the Imagination of the Black Radical – Rhea Storr (2020, 11 min)
They Parlaient Idéale – Laure Prouvost (2019, 28 min 30 sec)


about aemi on demand
aemi-on-demand is an online platform through which aemi makes curated programmes of experimental film and artist moving image work available to Irish audiences. This initiative increases and diversifies access to aemi programming and guarantees artists’ revenue for their work outside the context of in-person events. Programmes on aemi-on-demand will remain live for a fixed duration on a long-term basis, thereby giving audiences the time necessary to engage with a rich variety of content.

Kino Rebelde to Represent Lynne Sachs’ Catalogue Internationally

http://www.kinorebelde.com/kino2020/lynne-sachs-retrospective/

Kino Rebelde has created a retrospective that traces a delicate line connecting intimacy, power relations, violence, memory, migration, desire, love, and war in Lynne’s films. By looking at each of these works, we can see a director facing her own fears and contradictions, as well as her sense of friendship and motherhood.  Moving from idea to emotion and back again, our retrospective takes us on a journey through Sachs’ life as a filmmaker, beginning in 1986 and moving all the way to the present.

With the intention of allowing her work to cross boundaries, to interpret and to inquire into her distinctive mode of engaging with the camera as an apparatus for expression, we are delighted to present 37 films that comprise the complete filmmography, so far, of Lynne Sachs as visual artist and filmmaker. Regardless of the passage of time, these works continue to be extremely contemporary, coherent and radical in their artistic conception.


About Kino Rebelde

Kino Rebelde is a Sales and Festival Distribution Agency created by María Vera in early 2017. Its exclusively dedicated to promotion of non-fiction cinema, hybrid narratives and experimental.

Based on the creative distribution of few titles by year, Kino Rebelde established itself as a “boutique agency”, working on a specialized strategy for each film, within its own characteristics, market potential, niches and formal and alternative windows.

This company supports short, medium and long feature films, from any country, with linear or non-linear narratives. They can be in development or WIP, preferably in the editing stage.

The focus: author point of view, pulse of stories, chaos, risk, more questions, less answers, aesthetic and politic transgression, empathy, identities, desires and memory.

Kino Rebelde was born in Madrid, but as its films, this is a nomadic project. In the last years María has been living in Lisbon, Belgrade and Hanoi and she’ll keep moving around.

About María Vera

Festival Distributor and Sales Agent born in Argentina. Founder of Kino Rebelde, a company focused on creative distribution of non-fiction, experimental and hybrid narratives.

Her films have been selected and awarded in festivals as Berlinale, IFFR Rotterdam, IDFA, Visions Du Réel, New York FF, Hot Docs, Jeonju IFF, Sheffield Doc/Fest, Sarajevo FF, Doclisboa and Viennale, among others.

María has a background as producer of socio-political and human rights contents as well as a film curator.Envelope

vera@kinorebelde.com


Lynne Sachs (1961) is an American filmmaker and poet living in Brooklyn, New York. Her moving image work ranges from documentaries, to essay films, to experimental shorts, to hybrid live performances.

Working from a feminist perspective, Lynne weaves together social criticism with personal subjectivity. Her films embrace a radical use of archives, performance and intricate sound work. Between 2013 and 2020, she collaborated with renowned musician and sound artist Stephen Vitiello on five films.

Strongly committed to a dialogue between cinematic theory and practice, she searches for a rigorous play between image and sound, pushing the visual and aural textures in each new project.

Between 1994 and 2009, Lynne directed five essay films that took her to Vietnam, Bosnia, Israel, Italy and Germany – sites affected by international war – where she looked at the space between a community’s collective memory and her own perception. 

Over the course of her career, she has worked closely with film artists Craig Baldwin, Bruce Conner, Ernie Gehr, Barbara Hammer, Chris Marker, Gunvor Nelson, and Trinh T. Min-ha.

“A Month of Single Frames” at Rosendale Theatre Screening & Exhibition of Schneemann and Hammer

Women in Experiment: Carolee Schneemann and Barbara Hammer
02/15/2021
Rosendale, NY
http://www.rosendaletheatre.org/2021/02/15/women-in-experiment-carolee-schneemann-and-barbara-hammer/#films

The Rosendale Theatre is excited to offer the program Women in Experiment: Carolee Schneemann and Barbara Hammer from March 12-14. March is Women’s History Month in the U.S., and International Women’s Day is observed across the planet on March 8.

Carolee Schneemann and Barbara Hammer are both major American filmmakers who have influenced visual and filmic arts in several wide spheres. Carolee Schneemann was known for her multi-media works (film, performance, installation, painting) on the body, narrative, sexuality and gender. Barbara Hammer, feminist filmmaker and pioneer of queer cinema, made over 90 moving image works as well as performances, installations, photographs, collages and drawings.

Both filmmakers were friends and mutual admirers, born in the same year and died within 10 days of one another. Their connections to our local area (including the Women’s Studio Workshop, the Woodstock Film Festival, and the Rosendale Theatre) are maybe more poignant for us locally, but their international reach as artists and mavericks speaks freedom and creativity out loud and in all languages.

WOMEN IN EXPERIMENT: CAROLEE SCHNEEMANN AND BARBARA HAMMER

SECTIONS:
The Program Schedule
Online Films Package
About the Filmmakers
About the Films
About the Panelists
Film Event at the Theater
Rosendale Theatre Lobby Exhibit

THE PROGRAM SCHEDULE:

March 12-14 with SELECT FILMS AVAILABLE until March 16.
CLICK HERE to find out information about the films, or to preorder tickets.

Saturday, March 13: TWO PANEL DISCUSSIONS through the Rosendale Theatre Live streaming.

Sunday March 14 |  2 – 6 PM | $10
In-Theatre Media Gallery & Short Films AT THE THEATRE
 
CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE YOUR TICKET


Rosendale Theatre’s walk-through media gallery. Timed entry tickets available: Pond and Waterfall (1982), Lesbian Whale (2015) (Barbara Hammer); Plumb Line (1968-71), Vulva’s School (1995) (Carolee Schneemann)
Safety Protocols for In-Theatre Event:

  • Capacity is limited
  • Timed entries into program
  • Temperatures taken at door
  • Masks must be worn
  • Social distancing enforced

ONLINE FILMS PACKAGE or Individual Films Available:

Full Package: (good from March 12-14)  $30 or $5 each movie.

CLICK HERE to preorder tickets or watch when available.

Stand Alone Movie: (good from March 12-16)


ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS:

Carolee Schneemann October 12, 1939 – March 6, 2019

Carolee Schneemann was born in Pennsylvania, and received a BA in poetry and philosophy from Bard College and MFA from the U of Illinois. She was based locally, living at the line between New Paltz and Rosendale, in an 18th century Huguenot farmhouse, about 3 miles from the Rosendale Theatre.

“Carolee Schneemann is one of the most important artists of the postwar period. Her work in a range of media—painting, film, video, dance and performance, constructions and installations, the written word, and assemblage—presents an unparalleled catalogue of radical aesthetic experimentation.” —notes on the publication Carolee Schneemann Unforgivable

investigations into gender and, in her own words, “forbidden aspects of the female experience” laid the groundwork for much feminist art of the 1980s and 90s.

“Prior to Schneemann, the female body in art was mute and functioned almost exclusively as a mirror of masculine desire.” — Jan Avgikos, Artforum

“Carolee Schneemann was a visionary. She challenged taboos and was undaunted by censorship, including cancelled screenings of her 1967 film Fuses, bans on imagery documenting her 1975 performance Interior Scroll, and attacks on her later political work… Her language is the visceral, yet intensely political, language of the body, of gesture, of sensuality and eroticism. Even today, she remains radical.” — Joy Garnett, National Coalition Against Censorship

“A feminist visionary and one of the most influential artists of the late 20th century.” _The New York Times

Her work has been exhibited around the world, she has received numerous international awards, and she published several books and taught at many institutions.

Barbara Hammer, May 15, 1939 – March 16, 2019

In the early 1970s Hammer studied film at San Francisco State University. After seeing Maya Deren’s film Meshes of the Afternoon, she was inspired to make experimental films about her personal life. After coming out as a lesbian she “took off on a motorcycle with a super-8 camera” and in 1974 filmed Dyketactics, widely considered to be one of the first lesbian films.

Hammer sought to deconstruct and disempower the narratives and structures that oppress women in general and lesbians in particular. From her earliest experimental work, her films are playfully and relentlessly challenging of accepted norms and taboos.

In Barbara’s words, “As a visual artist who primarily uses film and video in experimental, nonlinear time based work, my practice includes performance, installation and digital photography. I embrace critical and formal complexity while promoting an active and engaged audience. Thematically, my work deconstructs a cinema that often objectifies or limits women. My work makes these invisible bodies and histories visible. As a lesbian artist, I found little existing representation, so I put lesbian life on this blank screen, leaving a cultural record for future generations.”

Barbara received over 50 career awards and honors, and more in individual film awards and grants. Besides her extensive body film and video works, Barbara published several books and many articles.

“Hammer prefers the term ‘actionary’ to ‘visionary’ in describing the work of other queer artists she has documented and promoted over the decades. On the basis of this show, I’d say both terms apply to her.” – Holland Cotter, New York Times

“A testament to the singular combination of sincerity and irreverent humor that characterizes [Hammer’s] sex-positive feminism. . . . Hammer’s work reminds us that visibility is a political act.” – Artforum (review of Hammer’s book, Evidentiary Bodies)

“Barbara Hammer is a true cinematic pioneer; her tremendous body of work continues to inspire audiences and artists alike.” —Jenni Olson, LGBT film historian

Primarily based in New York City, Barbara spent time in the Hudson Valley/Catskills area. She exhibited at the Woodstock Film Festival, SUNY Ulster, and the Rosendale Theatre.

ABOUT THE FILMS:

Fuses(Carolee Schneemann; 1964-67, 29:37, color silent)
Schneemann’s self-shot erotic film remains a controversial classic. “The notorious masterpiece… a silent celebration in colour of heterosexual love making. The film unifies erotic energies within a domestic environment through cutting, superimposition and layering of abstract impressions scratched into the celluloid itself… Fuses succeeds perhaps more than any other film in objectifying the sexual streamings of the body’s mind” — The Guardian, London  
 
Kitch’s Last Meal (Carolee Schneemann; 1973-76, 54:11, color, sound)
This film documents the routines of daily life while time passes, a relationship winds down, and death closes in.

The Great Goddess (Barbara Hammer; 1977, 22:16 b&w sound)
 
Would You Like to Meet Your Neighbor: A NY Subway Tape (Hammer, 1985, 12:39, color sound) Would You Like to Meet Your Neighbor? A New York City Subway Tape finds Barbara Hammer (wearing a mask made of subway maps) conducting gonzo interviews with subway riders, getting their thoughts on the city, their fellow passengers, and navigating public space.
 
Snow Job: The Media Hysteria of AIDS (Barbara Hammer; 1986, 7:42, color sound)
“I first heard of AIDS in 1985 when I was teaching at Columbia College in Chicago. I noticed the strange and inflammatory articles in the newspapers and I asked my students to collect hysteric headlines for me. And so I began my work on Snow Job: The Media Hysteria of AIDS. I examined the public ignorance, stigmatization, and just plain wrong attitudes towards this new illness. By making a snow storm of newspaper clippings I could show what a ‘snow job’ the media was making.” — Barbara Hammer
 
Catscan (Schneemann; 1988, 12:46, color sound)
Catscan is a group performance within a chaotic density of projected images and office furniture, motivated by Egyptian funerary rituals of mourning, grief and spirits of the dead. It sustains aspects of Schneemann’s previous works built with dream instruction, positing the interchange of intimacy and physicality, the erotic and the obscene, the incubation of dream enactment. Catscan centers on the death of a beloved cat as a means to ritualize more universal mourning and to bring forward ghosts of the past. As a ritual consecration, Schneemann, blindfolded, dances out of 20 yards of red fabric wound around her body.The performance, which had a duration of approximately 90 minutes and variously featured 5 to 8 performers, included a slide projection system, 15 video monitors, ladders, furniture, suitcases, and debris.

Still Point(Barbara Hammer; 1989, 9:14, color sound)
Still Point whirls around a point of centeredness as four screens of home and homelessness, travel and weather, architecture and sports signify the constant movement and haste of late twentieth century life. “At the still point of the turning world, that’s where the dance is,” wrote T.S. Eliot in “Burnt Norton,” the first poem of Four Quartets. Hammer seeks a point of quiet from which all else transiently moves.
 
 
Americana I Ching Apple Pie (Schneemann; 2007, 16:37, color sound)
Writes Schneemann: “The ‘Americana I Ching Apple Pie’ recipe was first enacted in my Belsize, London kitchen in 1972. Unfortunately, the original footage disappeared with the man doing the documentation who may have been working for the CIA. The next presentation was May ’77, as a cooking event for the Heresies Magazine performance and jumble sale benefit. With the exception of a dozen apples, flour, maple syrup, and eggs which I brought, all the cooking ‘material,’ utensils, and props were discovered in the jumble. Objects which functionally approximated actual cooking utensils were used: nails, hammers, an arrow, a flower pot, ball bearings, rags, a watering can. The cook’s apron was a ripped mini skirt with which I covered my hair. As I state in the performance, ‘traditionally you need an apron, but it doesn’t matter where you put it.’

 
Infinity Kisses (Schneemann: 2008, 9:18, color sound)
Infinity Kisses – The Movie completes Schneemann’s exploration of human and feline sensual communication. It incorporates extracts of the original 124 self-shot 35mm color slide photo sequence, Infinity Kisses, in which the expressive self-determination of the ardent cat was recorded over an eight-year period. Infinity Kisses – The Movie recomposes these images into a video, in which each dissolving frame is split between its full image and a hugely enlarged detail.

 
Maya Deren’s Sink(Hammer; 2011, 29:08, color sound)
Maya Deren’s Sink explores Deren’s concepts of space, time and form through visits and projections filmed in her Los Angeles and New York homes. The project began after Hammer discovered a sink formerly owned by Deren at Anthology Film Archives and embarked on an homage to the “Mother of American Experimental Cinema.”

Hammer re-imagines Deren’s film locations of the 1940s in the present, providing entry into intimate spaces and former times, reclaiming the places that inspired the influential filmmaker. Hammer interweaves the performance of an actor, as well as the voices of the current home owners, Judith Malina, Carolee Schneemann, Ross Lipmann and others. The meditation on space and architecture investigates the relationship between private and public spheres, creating a unique architectural portrait of Deren.

The experimental soundtrack is created from the music of Teiji Ito (Deren’s third husband), Tavia Ito, and Teiji’s daughter.

 
Welcome to This House (Barbara Hammer; 2015; 78:54, color sound)
Welcome to This House is a feature documentary film on the homes and loves of poet Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979), about life in the shadows, and the anxiety of art making without full self-disclosure. Hammer filmed in Bishop’s ‘best loved homes’ in the US, Canada, and Brazil believing that buildings and landscapes bear cultural memories. Interviews with poets, friends, and scholars provide “missing documents” of numerous female lovers. Bishop’s intimate poetry is beautifully performed by Kathleen Chalfant and with the creative music composition by Joan La Barbara brings Bishop into our lives with new facts and unexpected details.

“As an artist I believe that the architectural structures in which I live and work influence the art I make. I went in search of Bishop’s homes to explore the buildings and the poetry and paintings she made in them. This quest took me to her childhood home in Nova Scotia, to Camp Chequesset on Cape Cod, to Vassar College where she went to school, and to her homes in Key West, Brazil, Cambridge and Boston.

“Bishop was in the closet to the outside world, but she seemed to have as many lovers as she had homes. I globe trotted on her trail and found more and more female lovers emerging from interviews with friends, colleagues, critics and poets. Bishop was a lusty woman and I respect that, but writing openly of these experiences wasn’t possible due to her need for privacy propelled by the homophobia of the times. In addition, and maybe partly responsible for her reticence, was the childhood trauma she experienced of her mother’s breakdown and confinement in an institution. The understanding of this significant loss following the death of her father when she was an infant, and her conflicted need both to stay still and to move brought me to a closer reading of published and unpublished poems where I found intimate disclosures in her poetry.” — Barbara Hammer

 
A Month of Single Frames (for Barbara Hammer) (Lynne Sachs; 2019, 14 min)
In 1998, filmmaker Barbara Hammer had a one-month artist residency in the C Scape Duneshack which is run by the Provincetown Community Compact in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The shack had no running water or electricity. While there, she shot 16mm film with her Beaulieu camera, recorded sounds with her cassette recorder and kept a journal.

In 2018, Barbara began her own process of dying by revisiting her personal archive. She gave all of her Duneshack images, sounds and writing to filmmaker Lynne Sachs and invited her to make a film with the material.

“While editing the film, the words on the screen came to me in a dream. I was really trying to figure out a way to talk to the experience of solitude that Barbara had had, how to be there with her somehow through the time that we would all share together watching her and the film.  My text is a confrontation with a somatic cinema that brings us all together in multiple spaces at once.” — Lynne Sachs  


ABOUT THE PANELISTS

Saturday, March 13, 4:00 pm: Panel on Carolee Schneemann

Moderator: Rachel Churner, Director of the Carolee Schneemann Foundation. She is also an art critic, editor, and faculty member at Eugene Lang College at The New School. She owned and operated Churner and Churner, a contemporary art gallery in New York, from 2011 to 2015. 

Peggy Ahwesh, Filmmaker. A true bricoleur, she has produced a broad range of works through the approaches of storytelling, improvisation, image appropriation and visual essay forms in an inquiry into cultural identity and the role of the female subject.  Recent shows include: Queer Paranormal, Usdan Gallery, Bennington, VT; Private Lives, Public Spaces; MoMA; and Unsettled States, Center for New Media, Baruch College.  Ahwesh is represented by Microscope Gallery, Brooklyn.

Dr. Juan Carlos Kase, Associate Professor of Film Studies at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. His research, which has been published in Discourse: Journal for Theoretical Studies in Media and Culture, Millennium Film Journal, The Moving Image, and OCTOBER, concerns the overlapping aesthetic, historical, and political registers of experimental cinema, documentary, art history, performance, and popular music within American subcultures.”

Erin Zona, Director Women’s Studio Workshop. Worked with Carolee before her death to republish Schneemann’s 1972 book: Parts of a Body House Book.

Parts of a Body House Book was originally published in 1972 by Beau Geste Press, which was run by Felipe Ehrenberg in Devon, England. This reprinting is a facsimile of Carolee’s personal copy from the first edition. Her intentions were to paint the back cover of each book and create a new set of hand interventions for the present day. This publication was in production at the time of her death in 2019. All hand interventions including corrections, stamping, staining, drawing, and highlighting were recreated to the artist’s exact wishes. Each copy in this edition is signed by Carolee’s beloved feline, La Niña, using a pigment mixed from beet juice and dirt gathered from the grounds of Carolee’s eighteenth century farmhouse in New Paltz, NY. 

This book includes the first publishing of an excerpt from Schneemann’s Sexual Parameters ChartAmericana I Ching Apple Pie, film positives from two of Carolee’s films, notes and sketches on Kinetic Painting, a very special menstrual-blood-blotted paper work, and more. 

In the exhibition catalog for her retrospective Kinetic Painting, Schneemann writes, “Parts of a Body House Book (1972) is a prototype for my big book. Each element in this edition was culled from mounds of related material. It is a releasing of the recent past into the present. A unitary life view – all about the same thing… and I can’t say what IT IS. But see it, live it.”


Saturday, March 13 at 7:00 pm: Panel on Barbara Hammer

Moderator: Sally Berger, film and media curator, writer, and art consultant in experimental, non-fiction and independent film, video installation and digital media. She is a Visiting Instructor, Visual Studies, Haverford College. Previously, she worked at The Museum of Modern Art (1986 -2016) as a curator in the Department of Film and co-founder and director of Documentary Fortnight, an international festival of non-fiction film and media (2001 – 2016). At the Museum she organized numerous contemporary film and media exhibitions, retrospectives and artist presentation series. She received an MA from New York University, Tisch School of the Arts in Cinema Studies and a BA in Media Studies from Fordham College at Lincoln Center.

Florrie Burke, Executor and Director of Barbara Hammer Art Legacy.
She is an international expert on human trafficking, worker exploitation and trauma. 

Sarah Keller, associate professor of art and cinema studies at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Her research focuses on experimental form, film experience, and feminist issues in cinema. Her book on the career of experimental filmmaker and artist Barbara Hammer, Barbara Hammer: Pushing Out of the Frame, is forthcoming in Fall 2021 for Wayne State University Press’s Queer Screens series.  

Lynne Sachs, Filmmaker. “For more than thirty years, Lynne Sachs has constructed short, bold mid-length, and feature films incorporating elements of the essay film, collage, performance, and observational documentary. Her highly self-reflexive films have variously explored the relations between the body, camera, and the materiality of film itself; histories of personal, social, and political trauma; marginalized communities and their labor; and her own family life, slipping seamlessly between modes, from documentary essays to diaristic shorts.” (Edo Choi, Asst. Curator, Museum of the Moving Image)

As of 2020, she has made 37 films. The Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema, Festival International Nuevo Cine in Havana, China Women’s Film Festival and Sheffield Doc/Fest have all presented retrospectives of her work. She received a 2014 Guggenheim Fellowship in the Creative Arts. Tender Buttons Press published her first book Year by Year Poems in 2019.  On the occasion of the January, 2021 virtual theater release of her latest feature, Film About a Father Who, the Museum of the Moving Image is currently presenting a career-ranging survey of Lynne’s work. 


FILM EVENT AT THE THEATER

In-Theatre Media Gallery & Short Films AT THE THEATRE
Sunday March 14, 3-6 pm
CLICK HERE to Buy in advance event ticket $10

Movies on the Screen: 

  • Plumb Line (Schneemann; 1968-71, 14:27, color sound)
  • Pond and Waterfall (Hammer; 1982, 15:00, color silent)
  • Vulva’s School (Schneemann; 1995, 7:15, color sound)
  • Lesbian Whale (Hammer; 2015, 6:35, color sound)

Safety Protocols for In-Theater Event:

  • Capacity is limited
  • Timed entries into program
  • Temperatures taken at door
  • Masks must be worn
  • Social distancing enforced

The dissolution of a relationship unravels through visual and aural equivalences. Schneemann splits and recomposes actions of the lovers in a streaming montage of disruptive permutations: 8 mm is printed as 16 mm, moving images freeze, frames recur and dissolve until the film bursts into flames, consuming its own substance.

Plumb Line(Schneemann; 1968-71, 14:27, color sound)
The dissolution of a relationship unravels through visual and aural equivalences. Schneemann splits and recomposes actions of the lovers in a streaming montage of disruptive permutations: 8 mm is printed as 16 mm, moving images freeze, frames recur and dissolve until the film bursts into flames, consuming its own substance.

 Pond and Waterfall

Pond and Waterfall (Hammer; 1982, 15:00, color silent)”Hiking in Point Reyes National Seashore I came upon a vernal pool with an intriguing and mysterious underwater world. I optically printed swimming underwater to slow the movement to a meditative rhythm. I hoped that the appreciation of the clarity and beauty of water would lead us to better protect it.” — Barbara Hammer

“The camera eye is like an amphibian that sees on two levels in its journey from underwater in a safe pond down to a violent, turbulent ocean. Early in the silent film shot north of San Francisco we see an homage to Monet’s Nymphiades in the faded raspberry color of the step-printed underwater lilies. The painterly effects of the printing make the water seem viscous. Pushing through clouds of fish eggs, fronds and algae, the camera establishes a sense of intimacy and connection in a natural ecosystem. But this amiable underwaterscape acquires ominous overtones as the camera/amphibian surfaces. Splashes strike the lens, and the rock of the ocean surf is destabilizing and disorienting. One of the most provocative foreshadowing ambiguities occurs when the half-submerged camera tracks the tip and slosh of the horizon, echoing the mood change from underwater confidence to vulnerability to natural forces, a passage from balance to defiance.” — Kathleen Hulser, “Frames of Passage: Nine Recent Films of Barbara Hammer,” Centre Georges Pompidou

 Vulva’s School

Vulva’s School (Schneemann; 1995, 7:15, color sound) 

A performance in which Schneemann personifies an irrepressible vulva, which engages two animal hand puppets in a clamorous deconstruction of sexual bias in French semiotics, Marxism, patriarchal religions and physical taboos.

 Lesbian Whale

Lesbian Whale(Hammer; 2015, 6:35, color sound) 

ROSENDALE THEATRE LOBBY EXHIBIT:

Poster(s), pictures, ephemera courtesy of the Carolee Schneemann Foundation and the Barbara Hammer Art Legacy, and the book: Parts of a Body House Book, courtesy of the Women’s Studio Workshop:

 Front (left) and back (right) covers of Carolee Schneemann, Parts of a Body House Book

Carolee, Barbara & Gunvor (Lynne Sachs; 2018, excerpt); 

Parts of a Body House Book was originally published in 1972 by Beau Geste Press, which was run by Felipe Ehrenberg in Devon, England. This reprinting is a facsimile of Carolee’s personal copy from the first edition. Her intentions were to paint the back cover of each book and create a new set of hand interventions for the

Kinetic Painting present day. This publication was in production at the time of her death in 2019. All hand interventions including corrections, stamping, staining, drawing, and highlighting were recreated to the artist’s exact wishes. Each copy in this edition is signed by Carolee’s beloved feline, La Niña, using a pigment mixed from beet juice and dirt gathered from the grounds of Carolee’s eighteenth century farmhouse in New Paltz, NY. 

This book includes the first publishing of an excerpt from Schneemann’s Sexual Parameters ChartAmericana I Ching Apple Pie, film positives from two of Carolee’s films, notes and sketches on Kinetic Painting, a very special menstrual-blood-blotted paper work, and more. 

In the exhibition catalog for her retrospective Kinetic Painting, Schneemann writes, “Parts of a Body House Book (1972) is a prototype for my big book. Each element in this edition was culled from mounds of related material. It is a releasing of the recent past into the present. A unitary life view – all about the same thing… and I can’t say what IT IS. But see it, live it.”
 

KQED: Now Playing! – Lynne Sachs at the Roxie

Now Playing! SF Alums and Urban Film Fest Find the Connective Threads

KQED
By Michael Fox
February 11, 2021
https://www.kqed.org/arts/13892725/now-playing-sf-alums-and-urban-film-fest-find-the-connective-threads

This week’s offerings commemorate the intersection of Valentine’s Day and Black History Month with an overlap of class reunion.

The Films of Lynne Sachs
Opens Feb. 12
Roxie Virtual Cinema

“This is not a portrait,” states Lynne Sachs, near the end of Film About a Father Who, after the last in a string of revelations. “This is not a self-portrait. This is my reckoning with the conundrum of our asymmetry.” Shot on a procession of film and video formats from 1965 though 2019, Sachs’ fascinating new film isn’t therapy, either.

Sachs studied and made films in San Francisco from the mid-’80s through the mid-’90s, bridging the experimental film and documentary worlds. Several of her pioneering works from that period, including The House of Science: a museum of false facts (1991), are included in the Roxie’s accompanying shorts program “Inquiries Into Self and Others.” A second collection, “Profiles in Courage,” showcases Sachs’ recent work, including A Month of Single Frames (for Barbara Hammer).

Sachs’s films are, generally, intentionally unpolished, willfully undercutting the popular presumption that the job of documentaries is to provide answers. Film About a Father Who excavates her (now-elderly) dad’s messy, lifelong love life through a pastiche of loose ends, unanswered questions and unresolved emotions. The film imperceptibly gets deeper and darker as it goes, ultimately amassing the power of an indictment.

Show Me What You Got
Feb. 12, 14–15
VOD

Svetlana Cvetko lives in L.A. and shoots all over the world, but her roots as a filmmaker are in the Bay Area. After gravitating to San Francisco from the former Yugoslavia several years ago, Cvetko took film classes and turned her eye from photography to cinematography. She was a quick study, making narrative shorts while shooting local docs like Charles Ferguson’s Oscar-winning Inside Job, Jacob Kornbluth’s Inequality for All and Jason Cohen’s Silicon Cowboys.

Cvetko’s wonderful and wise second feature as a director, Show Me What You Got, is infused with an L.A. vibe filtered through the French New Wave. Shot by Cvetko in joyous, handheld black-and-white, the movie depicts a ménage à trois between a barista-slash-artist (Cristina Rambaldi), the son of an Italian TV soaps star (Mattia Minasi) and a would-be actor (Neyssan Falahi) postponing his return to Tehran.

A seductive yet mature study of love, freedom and responsibility, Show Me What You Got returns for a virtual run after screening at the Mill Valley Film Festival in 2019. Play dates are limited, so hurry and schedule your play date (pun intended).

SF Urban Film Fest
Feb. 14–21
Online

Film festivals continue to test and tweak virtual models, trying to conjure the group experience of live screenings and the connective threads of community. The first is a hard nut for anyone—even Sundance—to crack. This year’s SF Urban Film Fest, though, has mastered the second challenge, of bringing people together online to brainstorm on issues and seed solutions.

The theme of this year’s edition is “Wisdom Lives in Places,” which evokes the street-level experience and expertise on offer in the films as well as the accompanying panel discussions. The program “People-Led Solutions: Models of our Shared Future” centers on evictions and homelessness and features local filmmaker Irene Gustafson’s collaboration with the Tenderloin ensemble Skywatchers, reimagining the city, as our own. An inspiring group of activists and advocates convenes after the film program.

Who can resist an event called “Times Like These: An Inflection Point for Food & Our Cities”? The film component includes Aaron Lim, Anson Ho’s uplifting short doc about a young man doing his part and more to keep Chinatown restaurants going through the pandemic. The diverse group talking turkey following the films includes La Cocina Program Director Geetika Agrawal. Bring your wisdom; join the conversation.

THE FILMS OF LYNNE SACHS Curated by Craig Baldwin at the Roxie (San Francisco)

THE FILMS OF LYNNE SACHS 
Curated by Craig Baldwin 

https://www.roxie.com/the-films-of-lynne-sachs/

Film About a Father Who +

Two Sidebar Programs

Starts February 12

Fresh from her early 2021 retrospective at New York City’s Museum of the Moving Image, filmmaker Lynne Sachs returns to San Francisco where she lived and went to school (SFSU & SFAI) between 1985 and ‘95. It was here that Lynne really immersed herself in our city’s experimental and documentary community, working closely with local artists Craig Baldwin, Bruce Conner, Barbara Hammer, Gunvor Nelson and Trinh T. Minh-ha and spending time at the Film Arts Foundation (RIP), Canyon Cinema, SF Cinematheque, and Other Cinema.

“For more than thirty years, artist Lynne Sachs has constructed short, bold mid-length, and feature films incorporating elements of the essay film, collage, performance, and observational documentary. Her highly self-reflexive films have variously explored the relations between the body, camera, and the materiality of film itself; histories of personal, social, and political conflict; marginalized communities and their labor; and her own family life, slipping seamlessly between modes, from documentary essays to diaristic shorts.” – Edo Choi, Assistant Curator of Film, Museum of the Moving Image.

Accompanying our Bay Area premiere of Sachs’s Film About a Father Who, the Roxie offers two accompanying shorts sidebars programmed by filmmaker and Other Cinema curator Craig Baldwin.

Special thanks to Other CinemaCanyon Cinema, and Cinema Guild for their support in organizing this program.

FILM ABOUT A FATHER WHO 

Over a period of 35 years between 1984 and 2019, filmmaker Lynne Sachs shot 8 and 16mm film, videotape and digital images of her father, Ira Sachs Sr., a bon vivant and pioneering businessman from Park City, Utah. Film About a Father Who is her attempt to understand the web that connects a child to her parent and a sister to her siblings. With a nod to the Cubist renderings of a face, Sachs’ cinematic exploration of her father offers simultaneous, sometimes contradictory, views of one seemingly unknowable man who is publicly the uninhibited center of the frame yet privately ensconced in secrets. In the process, Sachs allows herself and her audience inside to see beyond the surface of the skin, the projected reality. As the startling facts mount, Sachs as a daughter discovers more about her father than she had ever hoped to reveal. (74 min., 2020, A Cinema Guild Release)

Critic’s Pick! “[A] brisk, prismatic and richly psychodramatic family portrait.” – Ben Kenigsberg, The New York Times

“Sachs achieves a poetic resignation about unknowability inside families, and the hidden roots never explained from looking at a family tree.” – Robert Abele, Los Angeles Times

“Formidable in its candor and ambition.” – Jonathan Romney, Screen International

Tickets for FILM ABOUT A FATHER WHO will be available on February 12

SACHS SHORTS SIDEBARS

Sidebar 1: INQUIRIES INTO SELF AND OTHER

Still from “The House of Science: a museum of false facts”

Still Life with Woman and Four Objects (4 min., 1986)
Sermons and Sacred Pictures (29 min., 1989)
The House of Science: a museum of false facts (30 min., 1991)
Which Way Is East: Notebooks from Vietnam (made with Dana Sachs) (33 min., 1994)

“As sidebar to her fresh Father feature, here is the first of two shorts programs, showcasing the astonishing cinematic artistry of Lynne Sachs…all made during her san fran years and recently digitally restored. Her ‘89 Sermons offers an early glimmer of her sensitivity to both marginalized communities and their archives, as she gracefully threads ultra-rare ‘30s & ’40s footage from Rev. LO Taylor into a tapestry of visibility and respect for Memphis’ Black community. Her facility for celluloid extrapolation is demonstrated in even more creative ways in House of Science, a personal essay on female identity, told through found footage, poetic text, and playful experimental technique. Which Way is East raises its eyes to engagements in international waters, and to insightful exchanges with her expat sister Dana, towards new understandings of and in the oh-so-historically charged Republic of Vietnam.  Opening is Lynne’s first ever 16mm, Still Life.” – CB

TRT: 96 min.

Tickets for Sidebar 1: INQUIRIES INTO SELF AND OTHER will be available on February 12

Sidebar 2: PROFILES IN COURAGE

A Month of Single Frames (for Barbara Hammer) (14 min., 2019)
Investigation of a Flame (45 min., 2001)
And Then We Marched (4 min., 2017)
The Washing Society (co-directed with Lizzie Olesker) (44 min., 2018)

“Characteristically, Sachs speaks in first person to cultural difference and dissent, here particularly valorizing acts of resistance and struggles for justice. Her collaboration with the recently deceased lesbian maker Barbara Hammer keynotes this ‘Solidarity’ set, with Lynne literally framing/finishing her mentor’s last project. Younger allies are also acknowledged in Sachs’ inspiring 2017 celebration of women’s political power on contested Washington, DC turf. The 2001 Investigation is a tribute to the courage and conscience of the epochal Berrigan-led burning of Baltimore draft records, made while Sachs was teaching in that town. And the local debut of The Washing Society, produced with playwright Lizzie Olesker, stakes their support of NYC’s low-paid laundry workers—mostly women of color—in even another radiant illumination of the little-seen truths of contemporary race/class inequity.” – CB

TRT: 107 min.

Tickets for Sidebar 2: PROFILES IN COURAGE will be available on February 12

Film Dienst – First person # 3: A conversation with filmmaker Lynne Sachs

Film Dienst
Saturday, February 6th, 2021
By Esther Buss 
https://www.filmdienst.de/artikel/46116/kracauer-blog-lynne-sachs-interview

A conversation with the US filmmaker Lynne Sachs about the importance of the autobiographical in her films

  1. From the beginning of your career as an artist and filmmaker you were in one way or another present in your films: as a body, as a voice, or with certain‚ chapters’ of your own (family) history. Why was this personal or autobiographical approach important to you, why is it still relevant?

Presence in a film comes in a variety of forms.  When I used to cut the actual film footage with a guillotine splicer, I felt that my finger prints on the celluloid were the beginning of my engagement with both the celluloid material and the moment that it signified through the images I had collected with my camera.  Of course, that haptic connection has now disappeared with the intervention of the digital.  Still, in our current time, every image or sound that you collect, be it your own or a found one, is a document of a thought. During the first decade of my filmmaking practice, almost every film I made included some image of my own body, sometimes clothed, sometimes not. It almost became a joke in my family. ”Oh, there she is again!” But, for me, this was a way to subvert the subject/object paradigm of the camera. I needed to flow back and forth, as if through the mechanism of the lens itself.  The presence of my body paralleled the presence of my words, whether experienced aurally as voice-over or on the screen through my hand-written gesture.  Today, we all recognize the inundation of media in our lives.  With the sensation of feeling this material as either an assault or caress (depending on your mood as you scroll through your cell phone just before going to sleep at night), each of us must find a way to register awareness and critique.

  1. Although you choose a personal approach, you represent yourself (and others) more in a fragmented way than as ‚authentic’ characters. What is the idea behind this?

Seeing my work through your eyes is a revelation, actually.  I would not have articulated my approach this way, and yet I completely agree with your assessment. I have never identified with storytelling and, in turn, the effort to create a character. This homage to narrative tradition I find reductive and limiting, in the same way that I would find writing a conventional feature film script to be deeply restrictive. One of the words I despise most in today’s parlance is the word “template”.  When I discovered that there are templates for writing feature film screenplays, I felt like weeping.  When one uses the word “personal” to describe their work, I think they are claiming ownership for all aspects of the creative process, from the structure to the content.  Yes, I do feel an affinity for a more fragmented depiction of another person because I want to make clear that my ability to understand is determined by my point of view. These fissures give someone watching the film the possibility of providing the glue, the connections, the linkages that always circle back to their own life experiences.

  1. How do you deal with the double position of being the author and the figure of your films at the same time?

Sometimes I make films that are very clearly an outgrowth of my own identity as a white Jewish woman born in the United States in 1961. I can’t change any of that and I can’t simply hide one part and flaunt another. Other times, I make films that don’t make those ingredients so apparent, even though they are always there.  Even when my voice, my writing or my body are not there, we all know that my position is influencing every decision I make, how person is framed, how a sound is heard, which music is included, which images are given the space to thrive and which are punished for their very existence.

  1. When speaking about her autifictional novel The Cost of Living, the British writer Deborah Levy characterized her literary (female) subject as a person who is not herself, but who is ‚close’ to her. Who are you in your films?

Deborah Levy’s sense of her own presence in her work is very intriguing, even candid. This reminds of a cultural theory observation by filmmaker, poet and teacher Trinh T. Minh-ha in her essay “Speaking Nearby” (1992) which I quote here:

“There is not much, in the kind of education we receive here in the West, that emphasizes or even recognizes the importance of constantly having contact with what is actually within ourselves, or of understanding a structure from within ourselves. The tendency is always to relate to a situation or to an object as if it is only outside of oneself. Whereas elsewhere, in Vietnam, or in other Asian and African cultures for example, one often learns to “know the world inwardly,” so that the deeper we go into ourselves, the wider we go into society.”

Trinh was a professor of mine in graduate school. I am convinced that her practice of transposing her understanding of herself to her earnest, but always recognizably incomplete, effort to project on others had an enormous impact on my work.

  1. In your films about family members like your father in Film About a Father Who (2020) or The Last Happy Day (2009), which tells of a distant cousin of yours, you sometimes seem to dissolve as the authorial voice, or to put it another way, you pass on your voice – for example to your siblings or children. Is this also a form of giving up some of the power that one has as a narrative authority?

Hmmmm. This makes me think very hard about my process. That’s what a good interview does. Thank you for giving me this chance to be introspective. On one level, I am very committed to a non-hierarchical way of working, one that does not privilege my perspective over another person’s. On another level, perhaps I am ashamed of expressing my thoughts or feelings in a singular voice so I depend on others to prop me up.  Both of these films are part of a triptych of films, the third of which is States of UnBelonging (2005).  The intention with this three-part endeavor was to grapple with the ways we can and cannot understand another human being.  States of UnBelonging looks at a woman in Israel-Palestine who was total stranger to me.  The Last Happy Day is a fragmented portrait of a distance relative, so one degree closer, in a way, to me. Film About a Father Who is, obviously, about my dad. That was supposed to be the easiest, and ultimately it was the most difficult.  Closeness and intimacy somehow became an obstacle. I end up relying on others to give me clarity.

  1. In A Month of Single Frames, your film with images, sounds and notes by the now deceased experimental filmmaker Barbara Hammer, I was very taken with your expanding the First Person Singular. What gave you the idea of this grammatical shift?

Oh, I am thrilled to be talking about voice, language and grammar all in one question. In A Month of Single Frames I decided that I would use the expanded Second Person that includes an ambiguous “you”. It could be the “you” that we usually find in a correspondence with another person.  Or, it could be the “you” that embraces all of us in one sweeping address.  When I write the word you, the viewer might think I am talking to Barbara Hammer, who is no longer alive but through cinema can be included in this dialogue. Or, the viewer may feel that I am addressing them.  It’s kind of wonderfully unclear, which might be an accident or might be intentional. I will never tell.  

This is how I see you. This is how you see yourself. 

You are here. I am here with you. 

This place is still this place. This place is no longer this place. It must be different. 

You are alone. I am here with you in this film. There are others here with us. We are all together. 

Time    less    yours   mine 

(On Screen text by Lynne Sachs from A Month of Single Frames)

  1. For some time, personal or autobiographical narratives are strongly present in documentary filmmaking. How would you explain the strong interest in the personal in these times?

My interpretation of this current enthusiasm for the personal narrative has to do with our interest in knowing who is speaking to us. So much media in our lives is delivered to us without this clarity of positionality. We are forced to discern and to guess how who someone is affects what they are saying to us.  Maybe it is refreshing to have this kind of transparency. 

Okto Community TV: A Tribute to Barbara Hammer by Lynne Sachs

OKTOSKOPE
A Tribute to Barbara Hammer by Lynne Sachs
Episode from Sun, 31.01.2021
https://www.okto.tv/de/oktothek/episode/60105ce43bdc4

The American filmmaker Barbara Hammer, who died in 2019, was considered the grande dame of queer-feminist cinema. Her experimental documentary films, which deal with topics such as identity, sexuality and physicality, have shaped several generations of women filmmakers. Lukas Maurer visited her friend and collaborator, the director Lynne Sachs, in Brooklyn and had a conversation with her about the avant-garde icon as well as her “Tribute to Barbara Hammer”. For this obituary, Sachs used DYKETACTICS, OPTIC NERVE and VITAL SIGNS selected three exemplary films and combined them with the very personal obituary A MONTH OF SINGLE FRAMES.