Tag Archives: epistolary

In Their Own League – Interview with Lynne Sachs

In Their Own League 
March 30, 2021
By Joan Amenn 

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!”

Were almost out of time, so whats 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.

Cineuropa – “Las cartas que no fueron también son” at Punto de Vista

Punto de Vista’s 15th edition opts for a blended format
by Alfonso Rivera
15/03/2021 – The Navarra International Documentary Film Festival gets under way on 15 March, with a vibrant programme of events in Pamplona and online

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.

(The article continues below – Commercial information)

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 PatiñoCW WinterMaría SalgadoVera ManteroXabier ErkiziaFermín Jiménez LandaOier Etxeberria and Sam Green, 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 Robert Fenz, the latest project by Gonzalo García Pelayo and Pedro G RomeroNueve Sevillas, a Point of View session with researcher Nicholas Zembashi 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.

Punto de Vista announces the invited filmmakers for the program “The letters that were not also are

Punto De Vista Film Festival

The collective audiovisual project, which proposes eight contemporary filmmakers to write a filmed letter to another director, will be part of the closing of the festival.

Rebeca Esnaola, Minister of Culture and Sports of the Government of Navarra, Garbiñe Ortega, artistic director of Punto de Vista and Teresa Morales de Álava, executive director of Punto de Vista, presented this morning at a press conference the complete program of the festival that will be held will be held in Pamplona from March 15 to 20. During the meeting, the publication of this year co-published with La Fábrica, Cartas como movies , was announced, which continues the one carried out in 2018 and continues to gather fascinating letters between creators, this time focused on contemporary filmmakers. It has also been presented The letters that were not also are, a collective audiovisual project in which several contemporary filmmakers have made a filmed letter addressed to another filmmaker in the history of cinema whom they have not met personally and which will be screened for the first time at the closing of the festival.

The letters that were not also are
Garbiñe Ortega, artistic director of Punto de Vista, devised the creation of a collective audiovisual project with the collaboration of the filmmaker Matías Piñeiro in which several filmmakers will make a filmed letter addressed to another filmmaker in the history of cinema that they did not know personally and that he was as far away as possible from his own cinema. Thus was born The letters that were not also are .

Beatrice Gibson, Nicolás Pereda, Deborah Stratman, Lynne Sachs, Raya Martin, Jessica Sarah Rinland, Alejo Moguillansky and Diana Toucedo make this collection of eight short films that find a new dimension when shown together and that will premiere at the closing of the festival. The filmed letters are addressed to people as diverse as Jean Vigo, Wes Craven, Chantal Akerman, Chick Strand, Michelangelo Antonioni, Danièle Huillet, Barbara Loden, Nina Menkes, Bette Gordon or Nancy Holt. The result is a passionate journey through his affinities, his admiration and his creative processes.

Letters as Films
This book is the result of an extended project that took shape in 2018 – with the publication of Correspondences: Letters as Films.– and that since then he has continued to gather fascinating letters between filmmakers to trace unthinkable connections and relationships with the aim of drawing new genealogies and film families. This year, Punto de Vista publishes by the hand of La Fábrica a second volume of correspondence, now focused on contemporary filmmakers understood as artists who have been active until relatively recently.

It is a book that allows different readings, where relationships between letters and images, time jumps, non-explicit thematic sub-chapters, small sequenced tributes – such as the one dedicated to Harun Farocki, or to a generation of American avant-garde cinema – are proposed, and imaginary epistles written for this project by filmmakers of the present and aimed at filmmakers in the history of cinema, living or dead, that they have not met.

Punto de Vista’s programming will be made up of seven large sections following the line of previous editions. The Official Section will present 32 films selected from proposals from all over the world; the Retrospectives will be dedicated to the influential curator Amos Vogel and the artist Nancy Holt; DOKBIZIA , a meeting that will bring together artists from different disciplines such as Lois Patiño , CW Winter , María Salgado , Vera Mantero , Xabier Erkizia , Fermín Jiménez Landa , Oier Etxeberria or Sam Green to share their way of relating to reality; the Punto de Vista Labs, as a space for the exchange of knowledge and collective creation; Contemporary Spotlights, which will include the 16 mm works of Robert Fenz , the screening of Pedro G. Romero’s latest film Nueve Sevillas , the Point of View session with researcher Nicholas Zembashiof Forensic Architecture or the meeting with the sound artist Lawrence Abu Hamdan . We also find the Special Sessions , made up of programs such as X Films or the meeting of Basque-Navarrese filmmakers Paisaia and, finally, the Educational Program , which continues to open the festival to new audiences.

In person, online and with a new outdoor space: La Plaza
The 15th edition of Punto de Vista will be held in person, complying with all security measures. In addition, the festival will offer part of its online programming through the Festival Scope platform. Face-to-face tickets and the different types of online tickets are already on sale on the festival’s website, www.puntodevistafestival.com 

On the other hand, this year Punto de Vista will have a new meeting space organized in collaboration with the Pamplona City Council: La Plaza. A marquee will be set up outdoors in the Plaza de Baluarte, the main venue of the festival, where the attending public will be able to meet and attend a series of their own activities. The press conferences of the festival will be held there, two daily passes with free admission will be scheduled until the capacity of the piece created by the City Council during 2020 about Los No Sanfermines is full , a talk about Dardara will be organizedwith Marina Lameiro, Gorka Urbizu and Garbiñe Ortega, content from previous years of Punto de Vista will be screened and Napardocs will be organized, an initiative of Napar in collaboration with Clavna that the festival has hosted for several editions and that will bring together the association with participating filmmakers in the festival.

E•pis•to•lar•y: Letter to Jean Vigo

This film is currently only available with a password. Please write to info@lynnesachs.com to request access.

“E•pis•to•lar•y: letter to Jean Vigo”
a film by Lynne Sachs
5 min. 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. Thinking about the Jan. 6, 2021 assault on the United States Capitol by thousands of right-wing activists, Sachs wonders how innocent play or calculated protest can turn so quickly into chaos and violence.

Commissioned by the Punto de Vista International Documentary Film Festival of Navarre program “The letters that weren’t and also are”. Spain, 2021.

Original idea  Garbiñe Ortega with the collaboration of Matías Piñeiro