Cryptofiction is excited to present five films by Lynne Sachs including: “Which Way is East” (1994); “Investigation of a Flame” (2001); “States of UnBelonging” (2005); “Your Day is My Night” (2013); and “Epistolary: Letter to Jean Vigo” (2021).
Lynne discovered her love of filmmaking while living and studying in San Francisco where she worked closely with artists Craig Baldwin, Bruce Conner, Barbara Hammer, Gunvor Nelson, and Trihn T. Min-ha. During this time, she produced her early, experimental works on celluloid which took a feminist approach to the creation of images and writing— a commitment which has grounded her body of work ever since.
From essay films to hybrid docs to diaristic shorts, Sachs has produced 40 films as well as numerous projects for web, installation, and performance. She has tackled topics near and far, often addressing directly the challenge of translation — from one language to another or from spoken work to image. These tensions were investigated most explicitly between 1994 and 2006, when Lynne produced 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 subjective perceptions.
Over her career, Sachs has been awarded support from the Guggenheim Foundation, the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Jerome Foundation. Her films have screened at venues such as the Museum of Modern Art, Wexner Center for the Arts, the Walker and the Getty, and at festivals including New York Film Festival, the Sundance Film Festival, Punto de Vista, DocAviv, and DocLisboa. Retrospectives of her work have been presented at the Museum of the Moving Image, Sheffield Doc/Fest, Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema, Festival International Nuevo Cine in Havana, and China Women’s Film Festival. Her 2019 film “A Month of Single Frames” won the Grand Prize at Oberhausen Festival of Short Films in 2020. In 2021, both the Edison Film Festival and the Prismatic Ground Film Festival at the Maysles Documentary Center awarded Lynne for her body of work in the experimental and documentary fields.
Cryptofiction: Interview with Lynne Sachs
Cryptofiction is an international distribution and production platform based in London, UK.
With over 25 years of combined experience as filmmakers and over a decade as distributors, our team is devoted to bring the attention and viewership deserved by the remarkable and courageous titles that we represent. In addition to distribution services, we offer a wide range of production support for rising and established moving-image makers.
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Our top priority is to foster excellence amongst an intergenerational community of visionaries and to help younger talent meet and rise in conjunction with established filmmakers. Our on-demand platform is a virtual extension of our distribution agenda. Dedicated to supporting and promoting excellent independent cinema from around the globe, we have carefully curated an exciting set of programs consisting of a mix of young and established filmmakers. As part of our ongoing programming, we offer a new range of films and thematics every 3 months. Unlike similar commercial platforms, we do not and will not operate on a subscription basis. Our viewers are encouraged to browse and watch their desired programs whenever they wish. We are hoping this platform would become a viable means to generate passive income for the remarkable artists and filmmakers that we represent.
In addition to our on-demand services, we run an annual virtual film festival also dedicated to global intergenerational discourses on relevant thematics and contemporary issues. Supplementing these platforms are a series of one-off events and surprise programmings that bring timely attention to the work of filmmakers as unique socio-political struggles arise.
Mania Akbari (b. Tehran, 1974) is an internationally acclaimed artist and filmmaker. Her provocative, revolutionary and radical films were recently the subject of retrospectives at the BFI, Lon- don (2013), the DFI, Denmark (2014), Oldenburg International Film Festival, Germany (2014), Cyprus Film Festival (2014) and Nottingham Contemporary UK (2018). Her films have screened at festivals around the world and have received numerous awards including German Independence Honorary Award, Oldenberg (2014), Best Film, Digital Section, Venice Film Festival (2004), Nantes Special Public Award Best Film (2007) and Best Director and Best film at Kerala Film Festival (2007), Best Film and Best Actress, Barcelona Film Festival (2007). Akbari was exiled from Iran and currently lives and works in London, a theme addressed in ‘Life May Be’ (2014), co-directed with Mark Cousins. This film was released at Karlovy Vary Film Festival and was nominated for Best Documentary at Edinburgh International Film Festival (2014) and Asia Pacific Film Festival (2014). Akbari’s latest film ‘A Moon For My Father’, made in collaboration with British artist Douglas White, premiered at CPH:DOX where it won the NEW:VISION Award 2019. The film also received a FIPRESCI International Crit- ics Award at the Flying Broom Festival, Ankara.
This week’s memo is kind of wild – there was a lot going on. Some of the highlights include various conversations around truth and the ethics of documentary filmmaking, discussions about the lack of online screenings for fall film festivals this year, award announcements from BlackStar, Locarno and DokuFest, and an excellent piece from Isabel Ochoa Gold on cinema and its relationship to cat videos. There is much to dig through, so buckle up and enjoy!
– Jordan M. Smith
Octet Of Lynne Sachs Documentaries Coming to Criterion Channel Matthew Carey reports at Deadline: “A collection of documentaries from acclaimed filmmaker Lynne Sachs is coming to the Criterion Channel in October. The streaming platform will showcase seven Sachs films beginning October 1, ranging from the 1994 short Which Way Is East to her most recent work, including E•pis•to•lar•y: Letter to Jean Vigo, an exploration of the French director’s classic 1933 film Zero for Conduct (Zéro de Conduite). On October 13, the Criterion Channel will exclusively stream her latest feature documentary, Film About a Father Who, which examines Sachs’ relationship with her unorthodox father, Ira Sachs Sr, whose children include Lynne and fellow filmmaker Ira Sachs Jr.”
The streaming platform will showcase seven Sachs films beginning October 1, ranging from the 1994 short Which Way Is East to her most recent work, including E•pis•to•lar•y: Letter to Jean Vigo, an exploration of the French director’s classic 1933 film Zero for Conduct (Zéro de Conduite).
On October 13, the Criterion Channel will exclusively stream her latest feature documentary, Film About a Father Who, which examines Sachs’ relationship with her unorthodox father, Ira Sachs Sr, whose children include Lynne and fellow filmmaker Ira Sachs Jr.
“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,” the director has written. “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.”
Penelope Bartlett, director of programming at the Criterion Channel, commented, “The Criterion Channel is thrilled to present the exclusive streaming premiere of Lynne Sachs’ Film About a Father Who this October. This raw and deeply personal excavation of the filmmaker’s complex family history will be accompanied by a number of Sachs’ experimental shorts, many of which also focus on exploring familial dynamics and family histories.”
Sachs’ work was the subject of a career retrospective at the Museum of the Moving Image this year and at Sheffield Doc/Fest last year. Sachs has been the recipient of support from the Guggenheim Foundation, the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Jerome Foundation.
“Since the 1980s, Lynne Sachs has created cinematic works that defy genre through the use of hybrid forms and cross-disciplinary collaboration, incorporating elements of the essay film, collage, performance, documentary and poetry,” according to the director’s website. “Her highly self-reflexive films explore the intricate relationship between personal observations and broader historical experiences. With each project, Lynne investigates the implicit connection between the body, the camera, and the materiality of film itself.”
The Criterion Channel programming will include a newly-recorded interview with Sachs discussing her work. Complete details on the Sachs’ documentaries coming to the platform:
Debuting on the Criterion Channel Oct. 13:
FILM ABOUT A FATHER WHO (2020) 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 is her attempt to understand the web that connects a child to her parent and a sister to her siblings.
Debuting on the Criterion Channel Oct. 1: E•PIS•TO•LAR•Y: LETTER TO JEAN VIGO (2021)
In a cinema letter to French director Jean Vigo, Lynne Sachs ponders the delicate resonances of his 1933 classic Zero for Conduct in which a group of school boys wages an anarchist rebellion against their authoritarian teachers.
MAYA AT 24 (2021) Conscious of the strange simultaneous temporal landscape that only film can convey, we watch Maya in motion at each distinct age.
GIRL IS PRESENCE (2020) During the 2020 global pandemic, filmmaker Lynne Sachs and her daughter Noa collaborated with Anne Lesley Selcer to create Girl is Presence. Against the uncertain and anxious pandemic atmosphere, inside domestic space, the ‘girl’ arranges and rearranges a collection of small and mysterious things.
THE WASHING SOCIETY (2018) Collaborating together for the first time, filmmaker Lynne Sachs and playwright Lizzie Olesker observe the disappearing public space of the neighborhood laundromat and the continual, intimate labor that happens there. With a title inspired by the 1881 organization of African-American laundresses, The Washing Society investigates the intersection of history, underpaid work, immigration, and the sheer math of doing laundry.
WIND IN OUR HAIR (2010) Inspired by the stories of Argentine writer Julio Cortázar, yet blended with the realities of contemporary Argentina, Wind in Our Hair is an experimental narrative about four girls discovering themselves through a fascination with the trains that pass by their house. A story of early-teen anticipation and disappointment, Wind in Our Hair is circumscribed by a period of profound Argentine political and social unrest.
THE LAST HAPPY DAY (2009) During WWII, the US Army hired Sachs’ Hungarian cousin, Dr. Sandor Lenard, to reconstruct the bones of dead American soldiers. Sachs’ portrait of Lenard, who is best known for his translation of Winnie the Pooh into Latin, resonates as an anti-war meditation composed of letters, abstracted war imagery, home movies of children, and interviews.
WHICH WAY IS EAST (1994) When two American sisters travel north from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi, conversations with Vietnamese strangers and friends reveal to them the flip side of a shared history. Lynne and Dana Sachs’ travel diary of their trip to Vietnam is a collection of tourism, city life, culture clash, and historic inquiry that’s put together with the warmth of a quilt.
The most important question for us in a post-pandemic period was:
Do we really need a film festival?
Even when we haven’t return to a total recover, we still need
vaccination the total of our population, people are now suffering so many
losts, and the virus is still out there.
But the answer to all of this is questions is yes! we need to make
reality, the festival again here in Banja Luka. If we believe in images as a
language of encounter, in the role of the independent voices and the power of
the community, then a film festival is not a distraction or a non-essential
activity. It’s actually a necessary coming together.
We want to make sense of our moment, and to try to re-imagine how
important is the art in our past time of isolation, in our daily life and in
our dreams of a common future.
See you in the cinema soon, and please:
Don’t forget your mask!
The selection of this year proposes a fluid cartography that
explore our current situation as humans. It is more than evident that the
pandemic changed the whole society and these dramatic changes and new scenarios
also affect films, cinemas and the way “we see”. The current situation with
Covid-19, will also be reflected in this year’s festival program, not only in
terms of safety measures and limited audience, but also in the form we propose
the narrative of this edition that we name it: Re-imagine audio-visions: The
present as our future.
For the image of this edition (the poster) we selected the
portrait the now famous cover of the Italian magazine La Domenica del Corrier
(16, December of 1962), by Walter Molino, where we can see a saturated street
of New York, with people in their individual transportation, in a kind of an
“individual-personal bubble”, that is actually a “singoletta” (personal
bicycle), imagined by Molino as a solution for traffic, but with the pandemic
and the social isolation in context, we cannot avoided to connected his
retro-futuristic creative projection of our surreal present, here is why we
re-call the edition; The present as our future. With this premise in mind, our
selection departs precisely from the future. The first day of Cinema Parallels,
we will open with: Space Dogs režija: Elsa Kremser and Levin Peter, followed by
Lúa vermella režija: Lois Patiño, both films projecting contexts in resemble
mirror format, we will see realities from an equidistant visualities.
With this premise in mind, our selection departs precisely from
the future. The first day of Cinema Parallels, we will open with: Space Dogs
režija: Elsa Kremser and Levin Peter, followed by Lúa vermella režija: Lois
Patiño, both films projecting contexts in resemble mirror format, we will see
realities from an equidistant visualities.
The second day of the festival we will have Srećan Božić, Yiwu
(Merry Christmas, Yiwu) režija: Mladen Kovačević, followed by LYNNE SACHS
TRIBUTE with the Washing Society, Tornado, The Small Ones and E•pis•to•lar•y:
Letter to Jean Vigo. The second day we are focused on a retro-visor mirror,
about our social and geo-political contexts, and the last day of festival is
dedicated to the personal, to our bodies, to our house and intimate spaces,
this day we take “our dressing mirror”, we will project Things We Dare Not Do,
režija: Bruno Santamaría.
We will close with a regional documentary selection of shorts that
we name PARALLELS JOY: Sunce, vrati se (Sunshine, Come Back) režija: Milica
Jokić, Korijeni režija: Stefan Tomić, Osamdeset dinara (Eighty Serbian Dinars)
režija: Inma de Reyes, University of Disaster and Dreaming of Prey to Grasp
Shadow režija: Radenko Milak and Zašto mama vazda plače? (Why is Mom Always
Crying?) režija: Karmen Obrdalj.
The pandemic has severely hit the entire audiovisual sector and
the situation remains critical in many places, therefore, it is important to
organize a film festival, but also, is important to support international and
local filmmakers and films. We think in the cinema as a place of resistance; we
believe that seeing a movie with other people in a theatre is a powerful and
irreplaceable experience, and also is a key place for the encounter with other
visions and expand our points of view, at the end, is all about to be exposed
to different contexts, realities and images, and from there try to understand
us more and more as society, as humans.
See you at the cinema!
Thursday, June 10
Dogs / Dir. Elsa Kremser and Levin Peter / 91 min. / 2019
/Austria – Germany
with Simon Peter, Sound Designer of the film)
20.30 Red Moon Tide Dir.
Lois Patiño / 84 min. / 2020 / Spain
Friday, June 11
18.00 Merry Christmas, Yiwu / Dir.
Mladen Kovacevic / 94 min. / Serbia
(panel discussion with representatives of the Confucius Institute, University
of Banja Luka) 20.30 FOCUS ON LYNNE SACHS The Washing Society / 44
min. / 2018 / United States Tornado / 4
min. / 2002 / United States The Small Ones / 3
min. / 2006 / United States E•pis•to•lar•y: Letter to
Jean Vigo / 5 min. / 2021 / United States
Saturday, June 12
18.00 Things We Dare Not Do / Dir. Bruno Santamaría / 75 min. / 2020 / México 20.00 PARALLELS
JOY: DOCUMENTARY SHORT FILM SELECTION
Sunshine, Come Back/ Dir. Milica
Jokic / 12:23 / 2017 / Serbia The Roots / Dir. Stefan Tomic
/ 15:40 / 2020 / Bosnia and Herzegovina Eighty Serbian Dinars / Dir.
Inma de Reyes / 10 min. / 2019 / Serbia University
of Disaster / Dir. Radenko Milak / 13:21 / 2017 /
Bosnia and Herzegovina Dreaming of Prey to Grasp Shadow / Dir. Radenko Milak / 6:45 / Bosnia and Herzegovina Why is Mom Always Crying? /
Dir. Karmen Obrdalj / 15:38 / 2019 / Bosnia and Herzegovina
(Q&A: Panel with short film directors, producers, artist and filmmakers)
Parallels is devoted to supporting independent and innovative films, screening
cinema of the real in all it’s forms and diversity, through a special
curatorial selection of international and regional contemporary films in the
heart of the Balkans.
Cinema Parallels will celebrate its second edition during spring in Banja.
Cinema Parallels is organized by Video Kabinet developed with the support of
the Ministry of Culture of the Srpska Republic and in partnership with Gradsko
should ask questions, for which there are often no answers, that it is the
basis for the exchange of ideas. Films encourages critical thinking, freedom of
expression and creativity, and only then ceases to be goods and entertainment
and become culture and art. A culture makes the identity of a city, state, or
country. In this context, a festival of contemporary cinema is absolutely
necessary for Banja Luka as a epicenter of the Republic of Srpska.
Parallels born in 2019, with the main idea to develop a place to share, an
encounter of unique points of views that are been able to question our world.
We are dedicated to program and support moving-image works with singular voices
in productions from all around the world in different formats, capturing
reality from a different perfective and a wide range of contemporary
non-fiction, and bring this productions to the city.
our festival, like all other cultural projects was postpone.
the possibility of a virtual encounter, buy finally we decide to continue in
2021. We wait until now to recover experiences, audience and images, with the
firm and original purpose to keep confronting our world. Believing that films
are a point of encounter and a universal language, keeping the idea that in our
unprecedent time, conversations and encounters are now act of resistance.
Collective audiovisual project that leads to a set of letters filmed for the love of cinema.
Garbiñe Ortega, artistic director of Punt de vista, conceived the creation of a collective audiovisual project in which several filmmakers made a filmed letter addressed to another filmmaker they did not know personally and which was as far away as possible from the his own cinema. Thus was born ‘The letters that were not also are’.
short films that find a new dimension when shown together. The result is
an exciting journey through their affinities, their admiration and their
creative processes. These are the letters that make it up:
Deborah Stratman to Nancy Holt Lynne Sachs to Jean Vigo Alejo Moguillansky to Michelangelo Antonioni Raya Martin to Wes Craven Jessica Sarah Rinland to Chick Strand Diana Toucedo to Danièle Huillet Beatrice Gibson to Barbara Loden, Nina Menkes and Bette Gordon Nicolás Pereda to Chantal Akerman
Zumzeig Cine is a cooperative and participatory cinema with programming and other cultural activities in Barcelona, Spain.
US experimental filmmaker, photographer
and poet Lynne Sachs’ new short E•pis•to•lar•y: Letter to Jean Vigo (screening
June 6 as part of Let’s Start Again at the Sheffield Doc Fest) offers an
unusual meditation on the events of January 6, 2021, when protesters stormed
the United States Capitol in Washington.
Sachs’ point of reference appears to be
French anarchist director Jean Vigo’s 1933 film Zéro
de conduite, about school kids staging a revolt against their teachers.
Vigo’s film, though, doesn’t feature in the short. Instead, alongside TV
footage of the riots in Washington, Sachs includes clips from Peter Brook’s
1963 screen adaptation of William Golding’s novel Lord
Of The Flies, in which a group of British school kids stranded on a desert
island behave in barbaric fashion.
Several years ago, Sachs was at the Punto
De Vista documentary festival in Pamplona. There, she met Vigo’s then very
elderly daughter, Luce Vigo. “One night, she and I were walking back to the
hotel together, and it was snowing. It was in March so nobody was prepared. We
were walking through these wonderful old alleyways of Pamplona where the bulls
run at other times of the year. We had to hold hands. It was such a bond that
we became dear friends just through that tactile intimacy.”
Luce died in 2017. However, Sachs still
thinks very fondly of her and talks admiringly about how Luce fought for her
father’s legacy. That’s one reason why her new short refers to Vigo in its
A key difference between Zéro de conduite and the attack on the
US capitol is that most viewers will identify with the rebellious kids in the
former film but only die-hard Trump supporters are likely to approve of the mob
that attacked Washington.
“I love Zéro
de conduite and I love their [the kids’} misbehaviour and I love that
they challenge the authorities, the teachers and the older generation. They
have this whimsy and irreverence,” Sachs reflects. “Then I look at a film and a
novel like ‘Lord Of The Flies’…”
One question her film asks is when do “we
go from innocence to culpability?” The storming of the Capitol just didn’t seem
like an example of playful, Vigo-like revolt. It was far more sinister than that.
“I’ve made a lot of films about protests
and so I like the idea of breaking the law when you believe that it is the
wrong law. I really do! I am a total believer in civil disobedience but this
was not civil disobedience. This was violence.”
On January 6, Sachs remembers she was
giving an interview about her feature doc Film About A Father
Who (which screened in the Sheffield Doc Fest last
year). She and the journalist were both taken aback by what was going on in
Washington. “We were like, what is happening right now! Then both of us went
back to our normal life. Both of us were checking it on our phone. It seemed it
unravelled in this way we couldn’t predict. Going back to Zero De Conduite, it was naughty protest and
then it turned…it turned into violence, I could say violence for violence’s
In the film Sachs includes a line that
“childhood isn’t swathed in innocence.” Ask her what kind of kid she was herself
and she replies: “I’ve got to say I was a pretty well behaved little girl…I
don’t have a sinister period in my childhood.”
It was many years later, in 1999 with the
high school shootings at Columbine, that she realised just how dark childhood
could sometimes turn. “I already had two children at that point. I remember
very, very vividly watching the reports from the high school in Colorado and I
remember thinking what would it be like to be the parent of a boy or a child
who killed for intention and killed because killing was something that brought
Sachs has recently started The Company We Keep, a new essay film
inspired by the hundreds of business cards from people she has met all over the
world. “I am interested even in the forensics of the cards and the
fingerprints,” she says of the project. Some of the cards are over 30 years
old. The film will give her a chance to explore what has happened to the cards’
The director cites Chris Marker’s San Soleil as a big influence on the
work. She once collaborated with Marker and admires the way his films “allow
for constant detours but then comes back to the vertebrae point.”
Sachs’ brother Ira Sachs is an acclaimed
filmmaker whose most recent feature Frankie premiered
in Cannes in 2019. Yes, they do support each other. They also have a sister,
Dana, who is a successful author and journalist. So where did all
this creativity come from? “My mother used to say she lets us do what we wanted
to do – and she was very good at buying crayons.”
Letter to Jean Vigo was
commissioned by Punto De Vista director Garbiñe Ortega as part of a Filmed
Letters collection, in which authors addressed their creations to other
filmmakers. “She (Ortega) asked 10 of us to make a film and they gave each of
us 400 Euros. Actually, my film did not cost that – so I made a profit!”
E•pis•to•lar•y: Letter to Jean Vigo is a UK premiere at Sheffield Doc
Fest as part of Let’s Start Again, Sun 6 June.
The film will be featured in the section Rebellions https://sheffdocfest.com/festival/2021/explore/strand/rebellions?page=1 The global pandemic of the past 15 months has shone a light on the unjust systems of power and rapacious forms of exploitation that define our contemporary world. With these inescapable revelations comes a clear and unambiguous need for rebellion. In an era that will be remembered both for an unimaginable force majeure, and a global reckoning with hierarchy and domination, mass movements and collective actions have been essential survival strategies, transmitted around the world largely through visual media. Widespread conversation about anti-Blackness, police violence, white supremacy and prison abolition, paired with crackdowns on protest in the name of public health, lead us to reframe contemporary resistance and historic struggles. The films in Rebellions illuminate cinema’s role in documenting – and tangibly contributing to – the myriad forms of resistance that continue to persist worldwide, pandemic or not.
Right now everyone could more or less agree that we could all use a new start: countries, societies, people. An impending American civil war and the assaults on the US Capitol make us finally ask the question: What if Women Ruled The World?
Civil War Surveillance Poems (Part 1) by Mitch McCabe, USA, 2020, 15min UK premiere
The first iteration of a five-part feature film of speculative experimental nonfiction, which contemplates an impending American civil war via lyrical nonfiction, mixing call-in radio, twenty years of verité footage from the filmmaker’s archive, and robots. The film is partly a nostalgic political travelogue and partly a pre-war surveillance record, deconstructing our past, future and present political moment, with its clashing ideologies.
E•pis•to•lar•y: letter to Jean Vigo by Lynne Sachs, USA, Spain, 2021, 05min UK premiere
In a cinema letter to Jean Vigo, Lynne Sachs ponders the French filmmaker’s 1933 classic Zéro de conduite, in which school boys wage an anarchist rebellion against their authoritarian teachers. Thinking about the January 6, 2021 assault on the US Capiol by right-wing activists, Sachs wonders how both innocent play and calculated protest can quickly turn into chaos and violence.
Two Minutes to Midnight by Yael Bartana, Germany, Netherlands, 2021, 48min UK premiere
Two Minutes to Midnight is the final stage of a four year transdisciplinary series by Yael Bartana. A group of actors gather on a stage. They are playing the all-female government of an imaginary nation. Together, they discuss the global emergencies of our male-dominated reality. The performance examines the impact that female-led governments would have on the way that international crises are resolved.
Sheffield Doc/Fest Q&A with Cintia Gil and Mitch McCabe
“I do not believe childhood is swathed in innocence” writes Lynne Sachs in her carta filmada to Jean Vigo, which traces the life of the child at play to his (yes, his) imminent revolt and the seemingly inevitable descent into violence. How did we get from Zéro de conduite (1933) to insurrection at the US capital, from petites diables to building the gallows?…we are increasingly living in a world where monstrous men who commit atrocious crimes can no longer be redeemed by the reminder that they too were once children.”
In its young history Punto de Vista (International Documentary Film Festival of Navarra) has staked out a distinguished identity, owing foremost to a progressive agenda and an experimental ethos. What might be designated vanguard elsewhere is de rigueur here (mapping an affinity, for example, with festivals in Yamagata and Ann Arbor as focal points in an alternate cinema landscape). With an emphasis on the personal over the prestigious, the program remains conspicuously reflexive: film as an engagement with the audience as much as the medium itself, leaning into its own sense of materiality.
I recall a conversation from the 2016 edition with a local (whose husband as it happened was a projectionist for the festival), in which she expressed incredulity that people were sitting through movies of such outlandish obscurity (the confounding film in question was Michael Snow’s La Région Centrale, 1971, a veritable axis of experimental cinema). “It’s like something you’d see at the Tate in London,” she reproached, offering an involuntary compliment to the festival itself. Conceiving of Baluarte – the festival’s starkly modern granite home – as akin to the Tate Modern is probably an instructive way of approaching the festival. You can still bring the kids (indeed Punto de Vista offers filmmaking workshops for youth), but keep in mind that the climate is one of careful curation. Those seeking the “heroic artists of the photochemical avant-garde” (as per a Robert Fenz tribute) may feel perfectly at home.
The 2021 edition felt especially intentional, on evidence alone but also in the context of the pandemic, in which, ever-hungry for cinema, we may have failed to notice that an online festival is a contradiction of sorts. Can one feast alone? Fortuitously, Punto de Vista’s calendar dates put it at the fringes of the virus timeline; narrowly evading the early dark days and, a year on, emerging upon latter light. Thus this year the festival was able to accommodate in-person attendance while also offering a remote platform, a consolation of sorts to those of us who couldn’t be privy to actual public screenings, or the more visceral iterations of the program – such as the light and sound explorations of Lois Patiño and Xabier Erkizia in the local planetarium.
Also site-specific was a listening session for The Works and Days: The Black Sections, a sound collage that emerged out of C.W. Winter and Anders Edström’s geographic epic of fourteen months in a mountain village in Kyoto Prefecture, Japan (The Works and Days (of Tayoko Shiojiri in the Shiotani Basin). The film itself justifiably earned the Grand Prize for Best Film, and is deserving of an entry all its own to do it justice.
Roaming the festival’s retrospectives (Holt, Vogel) one could feel the texture of time embedded in the grain of film stock, and the sensation bled (like light of course) into much of the contemporary Official Selection, where artists consciously employed celluloid for its expressive and political possibilities. This was no aesthetic coincidence, but rather a statement of intent, artistic director Garbiña Ortega effectively acting as chasseur des images in support of the festival’s boggling, and beguiling, tagline: Las cosas que no fueron también son.
What wasn’t but also is. What to make of this strange koan, metered out on the festival poster like a poem, imposed on an image of a landscape split by different focal points? The strange syntax alluded to cinema’s torque of time, both its evidential and spectral attributes, and to the enigmas of actuality and actualising. It also informed the theme of the festival’s continuation of correspondencias,1 in which several filmmakers were asked to make filmed letters addressed to auteurs whom they did not personally know and existed beyond their own cinematic orbit. The correspondences that once weren’t now also are.
But the idea for me found traction in the unsuspecting session dedicated to the collective work of the agency Forensic Architecture, whose methodologies involving spatial architecture and digital modeling are used to investigate cases of human rights violations (one example: the the killing of Harith Augustus). Researcher Nicholas Zembashi’s Zoom presentation was typically banal (as the format goes), but it keenly delineated the firm’s methodology that recruits both technology and philosophy in profound measure. The simple premise, that “there are still gaps in vision” even in, or on account of, our ever-digitised surveillance society, was not radical, but the notion that prevailing ideologies (call them power structures) often thrust us into such gaps was compelling. Locating this “site of inhibited vision, where our knowledge is often obfuscated,” is the intent of their forensic model, using data from existing audiovisual evidence (body and dash cams, CCTV, open source) to extrapolate a faithful rendition (often via 3D animation, VR, and digital mapping) of what is excluded from view. What wasn’t (seen) also is (made visible).
Forensic Architecture’s conception of an “indexical surreality” is certainly not without relevance to any current consideration of the filmic image (indeed Zembashi’s modest presentation brought to mind nothing less than Theo Anthony’s latest riff All Light Everywhere). It occurred to me that a more prosaic (or perhaps just less technologically refined) instance of investigative aesthetics was unfolding within the festival’s main slate, which tends not to discriminate against short and medium length endeavours. Although the modalities at work contrasted beyond distinction, there was a commonality among the analogue and hypermedia alike in their respective acts of imaginative reconstruction, and retelling. The previously unimaginable was given contours, illuminated, and subject to a new kind of accountability.
Miranda Pennell’s Strange Object considers how the mysterious ruins of a desert habitat are fitted into an archive, images of this once civilised but now isolated landscape smudged with the fingerprints of unknown historians. The brittle traces of imperialism have been removed from their source, imprinted on a page in an album, its legacy of barely perceptible dimensions revealing a damning point of view upon closer inspection. Such aerial images could only have originated from a plane, and such planes only from the command of bombardment. The historical view coincides with its own instance of destruction. The “strange objects” are undisclosed fortresses that were in fact Dervish settlements established by Mohammed Abdullah Hassan, leader of colonial resistance in the Anglo-Somali war. He is said to have mistaken his airborne assailants for angels only until his white robe was singed by flames (but perhaps such legend is spoken only in the patois of empire).
A propulsive montage of photographic stills constructs Jorge Moneo Quintana’s archival portrait of the Basque capital, Vitoria-Gasteiz. In Ictu Oculi (begiak hesteko artean) – “in the blink of an eye” – assembles a cumulative, seven-decade account of a city block through the ages, as the convent of St. Francis, a gothic marvel made of stone and founded by Assisi himself, is reduced to rubble and eventually makes way for…..a bank. The found footage (some of which originates from glass plates) comes to life by way of a rapid editing scheme, superimpositions, and an elastic sound design composed of field recordings and synthesised score. A city symphony that hardly strays from a fixed position but ranges instead through time, the film was especially resonant among locals, winning the audience award.
The inevitable slippage that occasions any attempt to describe a given work becomes a formal device in Riccardo Giacconi’s appositely titled Ekphrasis, in which a narrator guides the viewer through a slideshow of images from south Tyrolean territory during the time of the 1939 “Option Agreement” (Die Option or Südtiroler Umsiedlung, the option being Nazism in Austria or Fascism in Italy). Descriptions home in on seemingly innocuous features – hair, uniforms, social formations – to reveal darker details such as right-armed salutes, destruction, and pageantry of power. Voice and image do not consistently align, and the implied “you” of the viewer is situated in varying degrees of proximity to an unfolding narrative of increasingly ominous detail. Distant spectator becomes participant observer, ultimately subsumed by violence.
Cryptic and complicated like much of the Tyrolean conflict itself, the piece obliquely engages in contestations of Heimat and Vaterland, and concludes on an image that references the name of one embedded Alexander Langer, a writer and advocate of multi-ethnic co-existence. That his graffitied name is disparaged at the site of a railway station bombing in 1986 only further complicates any forensic inquiries in this film that began as a sound installation, its imagery previously only inferred.
Deep in a village in Chiapas a truck selling canisters of propane gas makes the rounds, blaring jingles to potential customers as it winds through the town’s dirt and cobblestone byways that plunge into the verdant landscape. There are mangos for sale by the roadside, and even the town’s antiquated central loudspeaker broadcasts the availability of local pork to the resident “gentle homemakers”. The sense of a patent ethnography, condensing several years of shooting into what feels like a day, is disrupted when a Zoque woman takes to the airways to advocate on behalf of a women’s indigenous group, intent on recovering land rights and historical memory in the long wake of the Chichonal volcanic eruption that devastated their village (seen covered in ash in the film’s opening newsreels from 1982).
Charles Fairbanks’ and Saúl Kak’s ( ( ( ( ( /*\ ) ) ) ) ) (Echoes of the Volcano) proceeds to take in the languid village tableaux in fixed shots and aural dispatches: a dog naps on the pavement, a pig escapes its pen, a paletero pushes his cart, a billfold is stolen, tortillas are for sale, mariachis for hire, and a preacher peddles forgiveness. A random encounter on the street finds soundman Kak (himself a Zoque speaker from nearby El Guayabal) demystifying his microphone to a group of kids who want to know if he’s “working with the gringo” (an offscreen Fairbanks). Where the film operated in a register of composed but playful deference, it now became host to these more candid interlocutors, boys whose families were displaced from nearby towns by the Chichanol eruption. “Our Grandmothers died there,” tells one, his face crowding the frame. A final long shot, of kids being kids as they retreat back into a life of anonymity, offers an impromptu but symbolic image of diasporic unity among the Zoque.
From the pain of displacement to the sorrow of exile: a diaristic portrait of a life lived clandestinely (in Tunisia, in spite of the Arab spring, homosexuality remains criminalised under old French colonial law) turns the everyday into the epic, and the intimate political. Mouaad el Salem’s This day won’t last feels necessarily both slack and urgent, disembodied and deeply inhabited. A white curtain flutters in a door frame, the fronds of a palm appear stubbornly inert, and a colony of ants scurries on terrazzo tile; all are images that betray a life lived in fear, in waiting, with the mostly unseen director considering for the first time “how to leave my country”. More personal snapshots – a package of cigarettes strapped to a bare torso, lipstick traces on a cropped face – may be tossed off but land potently (some images are not at liberty to remain meaningless). A double exile awaits in this inhalation of a film, as he who flees must also surrender his family. A Markerian cat tellingly appears throughout, providing comfort, bearing witness.
“Be good, if you can’t be good, be good at it”, and “cheer up you miserable mortal” read a few notable salutations from the letters received by a Scottish woman (the director’s mother) who emigrated to the US in the ‘70s in search of a better life. How do you create a cohesive memoir, she asks, filmed now by her daughter at home in Scotland. “It’s hard,” she confesses, holding a magnifying glass to an old photo album that seems to store her memory more faithfully than her own recollection. Liberty: An Ephemeral Statute (Rebecca Jane Arthur) thus becomes a displaced/delayed home movie filmed in part abroad, a generation removed, as a daughter searches in her mother’s footsteps, using her letters from friends and family as an epistolic framework through which a floating record of the present becomes personally anchored to the past. Images of New York, San Francisco and Honolulu (Irene Dunn made good on her wanderlust), all appear hopelessly vintage on account of the super 8 footage, and are contrasted with domestic scenes back in the kingdom of Fife, where rain gathers on the clotheslines and rosehips. The act of filmmaking invokes a parallel passage by the director who, by tracing the autonomous arc of her preceding mum, is shaping her own destiny as well. (Coincidentally, the film rhymed nicely with Glimpses from a Visit to Orkney in Summer, 1995, Ute Aurand’s silent Bolex ode to Margaret Tate, subject of a tribute at Punto de Vista 2015).
Simon Liu’s Signal 8 travels in the opposite direction, the view of an expat now gazing upon the city he left behind. Hong Kong lends itself to pop nostalgia, but Liu seeks out more marginal spaces, with only brief lyrical glimpses of the harbour’s old fishing boats buoyed in the purple light of dusk, or a fireworks display above the skyline scored to the Ronettes. Instead, the overflow of a fish market aquarium and the stray light travelling on an escalator evoke the eerie calm of the ordinary. A civic construction worker shown labouring over an open pit becomes an uneasy metaphor for the city’s precarious future. The sound design registers an intimate voice humming a melody (suggesting the insouciant presence of a wandering director), but is eclipsed by the discordant noise of the city itself, unable to pick up any clear reception. Not the most recent dispatch from Liu – Signal 8 was edited before the citywide protests over the extradition bill – but it nevertheless feels prescient in its anxiety.
The blanched and blindingly bright expanse of an industrial saltworks on the 28th parallel separating Baja north from south is the site of Santiago Bonilla’s mesmeric Paralelo 28. An abstract and otherworldly depiction of machine and matter on a grand scale, Bonilla’s portrait seeks out the human – and perhaps uniquely canine – presence within the saline science fiction. In the bowels of machines he captures portraits of welders at work and rest, illuminated by the blue light of flame or staring down the lens of the camera. Their hands are worn but steady. Over the radio waves can be heard crane and truck operators chatting idly, circulating a story of a one-eyed dog known to have poached the welders’ lunches. The tale functions as a kind of sound gag amid the literal and symbolic weight of such arduous labour, while its visuals haunt with their ghostly light. Is this the way a welder sees after the eye protection is removed, shards of light shimmering across the optic plane, or is it the view of a fabled one-eyed dog roaming the vast wasteland of the Exportadora de Sal in Guerrero Negro?
Elsewhere in Mexico’s interior a chorus of voices is culled together in a sonic nocturne, telling of the strange menace and spiritual succor of the desert’s night sky in Felix Blume’s Luces del desierto (Desert Lights). Unidentified voices tell of a sky radiant with colour or pierced with fireballs, host to stars that appear to walk or compete with gadgets, full of apparitions or the vestigial trails of migrants. Both eye and ear become attuned to the desert’s expanse of night sky. The sound of cowbells, whinny of horses, and howl of wild desert animals grounds the floating perspective but resists orientation. Tales emerge from the depths, conjuring a supernatural spell: of a ritual pyre through which believers leap, a rabbit transformed into an owl and then a cactus, a bloodsucking she-spirit who takes children, and a beautiful young woman who suddenly becomes old. Other lights reveal less mystery: men hunting rabbits by truck, lamp and rifle; a guard inspecting the cars of a passing train; a wedding on a basketball court beneath a play of fireworks. Oneiric, haunting, soporific, this enigmatic tale is an unclassifiable piece that bodes well for sound artist Blume’s foray into visual media.
A seance of a quite different nature attends Pablo Alvarez-Mesa’s Bicentenario, in which the anniversary of Simón Bolívar falls under a far more circumspect gaze than its honorary ceremonies and monuments would avow. The film begins with found footage of the 1985 Palace of Justice siege in Bogotá, as rather striking images of military armour breaching the Supreme Court unfold while a civilian (in tuxedo) proceeds to feed the pigeons in the adjoining Bolívar Square. But any semblance to an historical documentary ends there, and a more impressionistic project ensues: voices can be heard whispering in convocation of El Libertador, and the camera (Bolex) begins its tour of the the liberator’s path, commencing upon what is now a verdant pasture of grazing cows.
Alvarez Mesa’s visual schema suggests that over the graves of ancestors not only will grass grow but drones too will fly, and where the birth of a nation began young girls today are idly rollerblading on its pavements. Less ironic than ambivalent, however, the film’s itinerary reveals a liberation mythos that has, over time, become obscured and ineffectual by nostalgia to the ravages that have plagued the country in the intervening years. An appetite for despotism is part of such a legacy of liberation, and a war-to-the-death mentality continues to inform cartel and political violence. But the celebrations must go on, with school children dressing the part and reenacting battle scenes while enlisted battalion soldiers are obliged to conduct performative displays of loyalty and historicity.
“Flicker the candle, Bolívar” implores the hushed voice of the clairvoyant, channeling the presence of the patrón of this modern country (but failed Gran Colombia super-state). “There is grief” she continues, “and sorrow. The violence runs very deep.” In this interminable wait for a sign from its liberator, in the wish to find continuity with the past, it is precisely the unspoken pain dredged by the medium that Bicentenario gives voice to. It is the voice of mourning – given tone and texture in the patina of 16mm – drowned out by the noise of so many parades.
Award winners proved dynamic in their very simplicity. While the computer generated images of fans swaying at Hillsborough stadium in Nicolas Gourault’s This Means More keenly brought to mind the work of Forensic Architecture (albeit of lesser consequence), such simulation was a far cry from the starkly analogue means employed by Morgan Quaintance to evoke a south London of his youth in Surviving You, Always, which was awarded the Jean Vigo prize for Best Director. Punk and melancholic, this effecting love letter also feels like a rejoinder to the temptations of nostalgia. A retrospective glance at a year of psychedelic weekends finds the director, via wistful on-screen text, lamenting the loss of lucidity incurred by the promise of drug-induced insight. Cue the wizened voice of Timothy Leary over coarse black and white portraits of ‘80s house parties, and the uncertain virtues of cellular wisdom become increasingly ill-attuned to the realities facing a black middle schooler in a constant state of exile, who avoids his housing estate and school to evade escalating conflicts. “Becoming nobody” in a spiritual sense was not particularly sound advice for someone already risking personal and social alienation.
All the functions of consciousness are the work of a chemical process, intones Leary, as Quaintance meanwhile relays in few words the promising but sad history of a failed relationship. So, too, is film the work of a chemical process, his images seem to reply in defense, likewise employed toward the raising of consciousness. This is the film’s stinging irony, sharpened by its contrapuntal narratives driven in oppositional tension. Memory is slurred like the frames that stutter and halt, only to be resurrected with utter clarity in the hindsight of desire. The silence of the written narration produces an uncanny intimacy, as if this might be the first instance of a long-held privacy or inner monologue finally released into the world. It also begs status as poetry: “You stood in the doorway to stop the dogs getting out. I was running to avoid the rain.” Quaintance’s film reminds us that, forever seeking to step outside ourselves, we may have lost sight of the simplest steps back in.
Perhaps the less said, and more seen, of Jayne Parker’s Amaryllis – a study (awarded Best Short) the better. And that might be the point, except that this film appears to transcend any nominal intent, rather organically engaging perception to an exquisite extent; such are the saturations of color and play of texture within the fact of a singular red flower. The miracle of the blossom – behold supple pistil, witness delicate anther and filament of stamen – coincides with its miraculous rendering on film, both acts of photosynthesis, a metabolism of light. The ephemeral film could function as a visual distillation of Elaine Scarry’s essay “Imagining Flowers”, in which “the daydreamed blossom….expresses the capacity of the imagination to perform its mimesis so successfully that one can not be sure that an act of perception has not actually taken place.”2
Writer and curator Alexander Horwath (former director of the Austrian Film Museum) once rather pointedly responded to a BFI documentary poll not with “ten isolated, shrink-wrapped canonical works” but a seminar instead, “a format closer to what I think is at the heart of the ‘documenting impulse’ – putting one thing in relation to another thing, and then to another thing… One of those things is always ‘the machine’, the film medium and its specific capacities. The second of those things is always ‘the world’, ‘actual life’ – whatever we mean by it.”
Films in dialogue with each other is, of course, what comes to define a festival’s character, ideally more interrogative than didactic in conception. In the case of Amos In Wonderland, the dizzying tribute to cinema legend Amos Vogel by compatriots Horwath and Regina Schlagnitweit, the question was: how do you curate a curator? No point in mimicking Vogel’s own programs, they concede, instead mapping Vogel’s curiosities into both a chronological reflection of his emigré experience and as an encounter with the historical forces of the ongoing moment. As with German cultural theorist Aby Warburg’s attempt, by means of the creation of an atlas, to trace a certain afterlife of cultural affect, so too did Vogel and now Horwath and Schlagnitweit seek “to allow its spectators to experience for themselves the “polarities” that riddle culture and thought.”
The idea of film as a subversive art might thus be seen as a project in perpetuity, not necessarily transgressive in the context of its immediate milieu, but in the unforeseen dissonance and resonance it might induce in relation to future trauma and pleasure. To wit, how does one watch Nicolás Peredas’ epistolic quotidian-inspired ode in his letter to Chantal Akerman – in which he proposes to rent his sister’s Coyoacan flat to the Belgian director – in light of the inclusion of Saute ma ville (1975) in the Vogel program? (Querido Nico, are you mad? Have you not seen the condition of her kitchen?!). The loss of Akerman only becomes more devastating by the doubling of such proximities.
The dialogue expanded, refracted, mutated; leaving one to consider, for example, if in Tunisia one is free to watch Keneth Anger films? Could one speculate a link between Anger’s seminal Fireworks (1947) and Mouaad el Salem’s This day won’t last, both portraits of desire under radically different conditions of suppression (and both filmed at home out of sight from their families)? Production credits from Brussels suggested that El Salem succeeded in leaving his native Tunis which, in the parallel cinematic universe offered up in the Vogel program, also acted as a site of refuge sixty years earlier for young Algerians displaced by the war in J’ai huit ans (Olga Poliakoff, Jann Le Mason, 1961). A film of profound and heartbreaking economy born under the actual aegis of Franz Fanon, its montage of children’s war-torn drawings offers an unsettling, and unprecedented, view of colonial violence. The title condemns both a war too long and a childhood cut short.
So it was that the viewer moved through the various states of Amos: from a program devoted to ‘Secrets and Revelations’ (title of a chapter from Vogel’s tome) to one of ‘Children Have Their Own Laws’ (taken from Franz Cižek, painter and father of the Child Art Movement in Vienna). “I do not believe childhood is swathed in innocence” writes Lynne Sachs in her carta filmada to Jean Vigo, which traces the life of the child at play to his (yes, his) imminent revolt and the seemingly inevitable descent into violence. How did we get from Zéro de conduite (1933) to insurrection at the US capital, from petites diables to building the gallows? Perhaps a riposte could be located in the Vogel-inspired Rentrée des classes (Jacques Rozier, 1956), in which a snake loosed in a schoolroom by a mischievous boy is ultimately returned to its river source, having frightened all but harmed none. The boy is seen pausing for moments of reverie in the water under a midday sun, simply floating. Pedagogy, with its vested interest in codes of conduct, might acknowledge that instances of revelation can prove more instructive than rules. But then again, we are increasingly living in a world where monstrous men who commit atrocious crimes can no longer be redeemed by the reminder that they too were once children (see also: Raya Martin to Wes Craven).
Horwath’s proposed “lessons” in documentary, like Vogel’s before him, were considered fertile for those willing to take the time “to return from our fictitious paradise of ‘nonfiction’.” Such ‘time’, at its essence, takes looking as infinitely variable, informing the movement from what wasn’t to also is. Deborah Stratman, in her contemplative missive to Nancy Holt situated in and around the Great Salt Lake, intimates the power but also the limits of cinema in the face of history. Her salutation – “For the time being…In the interim…In the course of time…From day to day” implicitly asks: What more can cinema be than a monument to the provisional? And wasn’t that also the point of all the sublime toiling Holt and Smithson did out in the desert?
Or was cinema, to borrow the phrase ironically invoked by Nicolás Pereda, just a means of putting a uniform on an eye that was otherwise naked? It was reassuring at least to think that Punto de Vista, much like the deserved description of Vogel in the program, was fearless, and was wise about the ambiguous constellations of power, enlightenment, and pain. On second thought, the festival was less like the Tate Modern and more akin to stepping into the home office of Vogel, papered over by a history of pictures, all of them resonant by virtue of being beyond our imagination, either on account of impossible beauty or unimaginable cruelty. The seventh art could still teach us how to be more at ease in our discomfort, and find agency in counter-perspective.
Following my review of her latest, “Film About a Father Who” (2020) which I saw as part of her exhibition at the Museum of the Moving Image in New York, I sat down with Lynne to dive deeper into this poignant and revealing film.
Going through all this footage, was it ever just too painful? Did you ever think “I need to walk away from this”?
In a sense, every film I made since ’91 is a walk away from this film. For example, I made a film with my sister in 1994 called “Which Way is East?” She was living in Vietnam as a journalist. In the early ‘90’s she was one of the first journalists to be there and I went there with her to kind of understand the Vietnam War from the perspective of Vietnamese people. It’s very much from that of two sisters, two women, what we notice. It’s definitely not from a former soldier who is going back to Vietnam would notice. That film was made and finished in ’94 and it was a run to my sister but away from the Dad film. I actually started that film as a triptych, “Film About a Father Who,” that was about the ways that you can know about another person. I made this film that was about my Dad, and then I made a film about a woman who was a filmmaker and a mother who lived in Israel and how her life got wrapped up in the violence of the Middle East. She was a total stranger but ..I felt a connection to her. So, I made that film called “States of Unbelonging.” And then I made a film about a relative of mine. I never met him but during WWII he lived in Europe, in Rome specifically. He was a doctor and he reconstructed the bodies of dead American soldiers. I called it “cosmetic surgery” and it was all about his letters. He was kind of connected to me but also a stranger.
So, there were these three degrees of how you can know another person and you would think the one about my father would be the easiest but it was hardest because it was painful, there was shame. There was an inability to find distance, and also even aesthetically I would look at film footage that I had shot all through the ‘90’s and the Aughts, I would look at the mediums and not like it, it didn’t look as good! I would be very judgmental of it. Until I had this flip, which you articulated very well, this is the skin and the texture of that era, so why not celebrate it? I made “States of Unbelonging” in 2005 and the film about my cousin was called “The Last Happy Day” in 2009 so I kept doing other things because it felt more possible and less intimidating.
I noticed that in your ending credits, you suggested the diagramming of a sentence? Maybe I read too much into that.
Oh, yes! Oh, yes-you got it! I did a lot of diagramming in junior high school…I thought that they had stopped teaching diagramming because my daughters never learned it which I thought was a shame. But my editor assistant, Rebecca has a very good friend of hers who does animation, went to an all-girl Catholic school and at least in 2010 let’s say, they were teaching diagramming. When I said to the two of them I want my credits to be this ambiguous play between a family tree and diagramming, because both of those are sort of structuring devices we can use to introduce people to relationships.. [the animator] got it…I don’t think she had ever done credits before but she had done animation. In my mind I was so insistent that it had to be something like that and she just got it and she went way beyond what I ever expected…The thing is I could have made my life a lot easier in this film if I had a family tree early. I could have eliminated the mystery, my mystery, my confusion. If I gave you a family tree than you would get clarity like that! I didn’t want that and I didn’t really care at all if you would finish this film and you would know…you would probably know that I’m the oldest. You didn’t have to know the order of everything else because things were more associative and I didn’t want it to be so rigid that way. I wanted it to be more amorphous and for you to keep asking questions, even about your own family.
…This brings up something I’ve never talked to anyone about in relation to “Film About a Father Who” which is, this is a film about a parent. I’m a mother. Everybody writes about this film being about a daughter but it’s really a film about a parent. Actually, maybe more because I didn’t understand all the responsibilities of being a parent, I didn’t understand the expectations, the complexities of how you live your life in relation to these other people. And the idea that you leave an imprint. I realize in talking to you, that I couldn’t finish it until I had become a parent because that allowed me to move into this other zone, not exclusively being a daughter. I could handle a lot more once I had my children and once I knew how much guilt is involved in being a parent; like, did I make the wrong decision? Maybe my Dad didn’t have that superego that said, “Don’t do that, that’s going to make your child feel bad!”
We’re almost out of time, so what’s next?
Oh, that’s a fun question! Well, I have been spending a lot of time on the distribution of the film. It’s distributed through Cinema Guild. I’m a filmmaker more than a director so because of that I’m used to traveling…I like talking to the audiences. Sometimes I do workshops, I try to put together shows in little storefronts… but we’re not doing that now. Working with my distributor has been a lot of work and pleasure. What a treat that’s been! I’ve also probably made around four or five short films since the pandemic. They’re all plays between sound and image. For example, I made a film which was a commission for a film festival in Spain called Punto de Viste which is a super interesting film festival in Pamplona. They asked ten filmmakers around the world to make a film and they gave us each 400 Euros, which is enough to make a digital film. The film was supposed to be a letter to a filmmaker who had been important to us who was no longer alive. I chose Jean Vigo, he made “Zero for Conduct” (1933) and “L’Atalante” (1934) and he was a filmmaker in the 1930’s. He only made three films but he is very beloved to people in the experimental and documentary film world. His film “Zero for Conduct” is 45 minutes and it’s about boys in a boarding school, who take over the boarding school. It’s very anti-authoritarian. They’re very adorable, and feisty and crazy and it’s all about childhood anarchy in the 1930’s. It’s a great film. On January 6th, when the rioters broke into the Capitol and the violence ensued, I started to think about when playing becomes dangerous. I made this short film as a letter to John Vigo but it uses footage from the January 6th breach. I also cut it into a film that Peter Brook made, “Lord of the Flies” (1963). In “Lord of the Flies” you see these boys that have landed on this island and they become very violent. They endanger one another and themselves so that space between beautiful anarchy and violence was interesting, so I made that film. I don’t think short films are calling cards to the big ones. I like making films of all lengths… so it has been kind of exhilarating. I [also] have a big project that has something to do with Ida B. Wells. It’s a collaboration with a friend of mine who teaches African American studies. Ida B. Wells was a journalist who researched lynching. She comes from Memphis which is where I come from so there are stories I want to explore related to her life.
It’s been a whole year since the Navarra International Documentary Film Festival, Punto de Vista, had the unhappy honour of being the last “real-world” Spanish film festival before the COVID curse drove everything online. Now, it’s back for a 15th edition, having lost none of its edgy, alternative and boundary-pushing spirit. Running between 15 and 20 March, the festival will follow a blended format, with online screenings complementing events and activities scattered all across Pamplona. Those lucky enough to attend in person will find a brand-new venue: La Plaza, a big tent pitched front and centre outside the Baluarte, the festival’s headquarters. Meanwhile, an online component will be delivered through the platform Festival Scope.
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Headed up by Artistic Director Garbiñe Ortega and Executive Director Teresa Morales de Álava, the festival team have announced that this year’s closing film will be Las cartas que no fueron también son, a new project in which a diverse coterie of contemporary filmmakers (Beatrice Gibson, Nicolás Pereda, Deborah Stratman, Lynne Sachs, Raya Martin, Jessica Sarah Rinland, Alejo Moguillansky and Diana Toucedo) each present a cinematic homage to a colleague they have never personally met, from Jean Vigo to Chantal Akerman to Michelangelo Antonioni.
As per previous editions, the line-up for Punto de Vista 2021 is divided into seven main sections: the Official Section will host 32 titles selected from submissions from all over the world; Retrospectives is dedicated to influential film curator Amos Vogel and artist Nancy Holt; DOKBIZIA presents an interdisciplinary kaleidoscope of work by artists including Lois Patiño, CW Winter, MaríaSalgado, VeraMantero, XabierErkizia, FermínJiménezLanda, OierEtxeberria and SamGreen, each exploring their own ways of relating to reality; Punto de Vista Labs offers a privileged space for cocreation and sharing expertise; and Artists in Focus will include a project shot on 16-mm film by RobertFenz, the latest project by Gonzalo García Pelayo and Pedro G Romero, Nueve Sevillas, a Pointof View session with researcher NicholasZembashi from Forensic Architecture and a discussion with sound artist Lawrence Abu Hamdan. Other highlights are a series of special screening programmes including X Films, Paisaia (curating recent work by Basque/Navarro filmmakers) and the festival’s annual Education Programme, which seeks to inspire the budding cinephiles of tomorrow.
Punto de Vista 2021 will kick off with Dardara [+], by Navarra-born director Marina Lameiro, which documents the farewell tour of rock band Berri Txarrak. It will also present the world premiere of Tengan cuidado ahí fuera by Galician filmmaker Alberto Gracia, winner of X Films 2020 (read more here). The official section will also showcase a number of short and mid-length titles, such as Sisters with Transistors [+], the work of artist Lisa Rovner: an enthralling story of how electronic music was shaped by a talented troop of pioneering women. Also in the running is feature film The American Sector, directed by Courtney Stephens and Pacho Velez, a road trip shown in snatches that hunts down various sections of the Berlin Wall now installed as public monuments in the USA and The Works and Days (of Tayoko Shiojiri in the Shiotani Basin) [+], by CW Winter and Anders Edström. This coproduction between the USA, Sweden, Hong Kong, Japan and the UK, the winner of the Encounters section at the 2020 Berlinale, clocks in at a runtime of eight hours, offering an insightful portrait of a farming family in the lush Kyoto mountains, their lives shifting with the seasons and the times.