She Carries the Holiday in Her Eyes (2023) 4 min., silent
Performers: Barbara Friedman and Laetitia Mikles
A picture of parallels and swirls, two women touch with eyes closed, use cameras in motion, discover a holiday of optics. “I have seen an individual, whose manners, though wholly within the conventions of elegant society, were never learned there, but were original and commanding, and held out protection and prosperity; one who did not need the aid of a court-suit, but carried the holiday in his eye.” – from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Manners”
To order: www.sfcinematheque.org/shop/craig-baldwin-avant-to-live-standard/ Craig Baldwin: Avant to Live! documents the life and work of acclaimed filmmaker and curator Craig Baldwin (b. Oakland CA, 1952), an inspiring and influential figure in contemporary media arts. Meticulously detailed, with contributions from over 50 writers, artists, illustrators, and ideologues, Avant to Live! is the first critical text to examine the artist’s films analytically as a coherent and meaningful body of work and critical artist’s statement while also examining the cultural impact of Baldwin’s Other Cinema curatorial project.
AS A FILMMAKER, Baldwin’s works represent a radical fusion of form and content. Formally, his films are constructed largely from audiovisual material appropriated from pre-existing films. In this, they represent a radical stance toward media culture as a participatory field. As an artist, Baldwin engages with mainstream media as an adversary, using its languages in ironic opposition. In this way he talks back to corporately produced media and creates inspiring, wildly imaginative works which profoundly challenge the nature of one-way media consumption.
AS A FILM CURATOR, Baldwin is known for Other Cinema, an extensive and hugely influential series of film/video programs he has personally organized in San Francisco on a schedule of 36 programs per year since the late 1980s. Like his films, Baldwin’s Other Cinema represents a radically expanded approach to film exhibition, media consumption and cultural engagement in which ephemeral forms of film history coexist alongside expanded cinema performance, underground/experimental film screenings, speculative lecture presentations, in-person artists and more.
Craig Baldwin: Avant to Live! is a collaborative project of San Francisco Cinematheque and INCITE: Journal of Experimental Media, representing INCITE #9-10-11.
Editors: Brett Kashmere and Steve Polta Project Archivists: Courtney Fellion and and Megan Needels Designer: Vivian Sming, Sming Sming Books
Contributors: Luisela Alvaray, Craig Baldwin, Irene Borger, Bryan Boyce, Stephen Broomer, Bill Brown, Anthony Buchanan, Joanna Byrne, Kristin Cato, Chris Chang, David Cox, Bill Daniel, Joan d’Arc, Manohla Dargis, Tom Day, Jesse Drew, Adam Dziesinski, Bradley Eros, Gerry Fialka, Adrianne Finelli, Kelly Gallagher, Max Goldberg, Sam Green, Molly Hankwitz, Joshua Leon Harper, Mike Hoolboom, Alex Johnston, Brett Kashmere, John Klacsmann, Caroline Koebel, Liz Kotz, Jesse Lerner, Chip Lord, Patrick Macias, Scott MacKenzie, Jesse Malmed, Dolissa Medina, Peggy Nelson, Steve Polta, Rick Prelinger, Vanessa Renwick, Jeremy Rourke, Catherine Russell, Lynne Sachs, Benjamin Schultz-Figueroa, Keivan Khademi Shamami, Jeffrey Skoller, Soda_Jerk, Valerie Soe, Kathleen Tyner, Federico Windhausen, Michael Zryd
Select images from the book:
Excerpt from Craig Baldwin: Avant to Live! of correspondences from Craig Baldwin to Lynne Sachs (1996-2019)
Blissfully Out of Context: A Collection of Letters from Craig Baldwin 1996–2019
I met Craig Baldwin in 1986, soon after I moved to San Francisco. I was 25 years old and reeling from watching so many experimental movies during a thriving, nourishing period in the history of alternative, underground moviemaking in the Bay Area. Meeting Craig and falling into the vortex of his Other Cinema at Artists’ Television Access transformed everything I knew about images, from making them to editing them to projecting them. Craig and I quickly became ciné-compatriots. When I moved to New York City ten years later, our bond was tight enough to support a quarter-century of epistolary exchanges. Thus, my file cabinet drawer of letters and printed e-missives from Craig has become a repository of material, a document
of both our lives and our shared engagement with the kindred spirits of a rag-tag bi-coastal community of people who cook, bake, and devour the food of cinema. Here I share with you a smattering of Craig’s side of our correspondence. I have chosen not to include my own letters, but instead have added some personal annotations (in italics). For the sake of clarity and space, the editors and I have made some minor revisions to Craig’s writing; in general, however, all creative spellings and expressions by Craig are reproduced as composed.
Hello my darling,
Happy? New year and all that. I’m just getting over a cold and enjoying that wonderful rough euphoria when you start to feel like a human being again. Oh yeah, being a human being can actually be fun. Use my so-called brain and move my body around. Yes, I can actually master my (at least immediate) environment. And now I’m ready to have sex! Might as well realize my full potential so to speak. Anyway, let’s take this transient optimism as the keynote to ‘96. Might as well. Actually, our Fall ‘95 was our most successful yet, an average of 56 paying customers per show. Lynne, bubala, can I show your magic lantern slides again for the April 27 show on the ecstasy of projection? I can only afford to pay for shipping though. It may be that someone can deliver by hand? I was just listening to your voice on Louise Bourque’s “Experimental Film” interview tape. Ann Arbor was awesome. Flying to Taos Fest in two weeks.
Lynne (y) darling,
Thanks so much for the photo of [your daughter] Noa. I hope I live long enough and stay in your steady, strategic-arc, long-term, like, permanent world long enough to sooner or later know your children as they become adults. I’ll play the crazy uncle. If I ever did leave the world of the sensible, it would be out of nervous exhaustion from the fuss and fret over my film’s post-production. I keep thinking of – and feeling like – that photo of Artaud in Rodez. That’s why, little sister, I’m begging you for your help with the Cumberland Street studio. I’ll pay you whatever you want, I’ll leave it clean, I’ll give you credit, please Ms. Sachs, tell me that there’s hope for the sane. Uncle Craig
In the mid-1990s, I shared a house in the Mission District of San Francisco with my sister Dana Sachs. Craig rented a basement room from us for several years to use as his studio while he was editing Spectres of the Spectrum (1999) with Bill Daniel and others.
Well, I really must say that things are at their very lowest out here. My only saving grace is… the studio where I can work late into the night, keeping busy so as not to be too mentally/emotionally overwhelmed by all the bad shit. My shoulder aches as I write this. I have truly suffered a major life-changing injury and I
pray that I’ll be able to recover. I’ll start some of the rehabilitation within two weeks, after the screw comes out. It took this physical trauma to completely and violently expunge any former expectations about any assumed identity or life. I could just as easily join a cult or go on Prozac… probably end up in Santa Cruz, where my father is fading fast.
But even accustomed to life at the bottom circle of hell, I was not prepared for the shock of seeing Eva Pierrakos at Mt. Zion Hospital… I’ve got to give her credit for her feisty electric-blue hair color, but seeing her skull coming through her skin in that 5th floor room, being fed by Samoan and Russian attendants – neither of whom knew much about her condition – made for a kind of ghastly surrender that my nervous system can hardly bear. She was apparently uncomfortable, but there’s no way she can be understood, beyond speech. I moved her this way, then I moved her that way, then back again. Then just gave up. Then she starts to cry. Absolutely without hope. I say give her drugs until she dies peacefully… The Other Cinema shows are consistently strong and well-attended, really those shows are my form of church. Looks like I’m doing a program for Visible Evidence at San Francisco State University that Bill Nichols is organizing this summer and maybe to Austria in September with some “Dead Media” programs.
All my love to Mark and the kids, Craig
Here’s the new calendar and thanks to both of you for being part of it. I’m settling into my groove at UC Berkeley, still hustling “Sonic Outlaws” across the globe, and now starting a sci-fi ‘time radio’ project based on old science-class kinescopes. Craig
Here are some OC calendars. I hope you don’t mind that we shortened your title to “Lilith.” The studio is absolutely wonderful. I love it and I could make some good movies in it – I think – if conditions were just a little different. The truth of the matter is despite your fabulously generous offer of studio access, the editing is going achingly slowly. As I might have told you, Bill drove his flatbed all the
way out from Texas to discover that it was fried. We’ve spent way too much time and money on long-distance calls for schematics for not only Bill’s but also your flatbed, with no success. We have managed to get yours going, but it does slip out of sync. It’s taken almost 14 days for Bill to get a place for a decent night’s sleep… It’s pouring rain, my studio is flooded with two inches of water, and this must certainly mark the low point in the whole production process. I thank you and a small circle of friends for sticking with me when it seems there’s hardly any energy left to carry on. More money keeps getting poured into the bottomless hole and over time as I look at the workprint it seems more and more a ludicrous idea to try to pull it off, especially as a feature… the only light of hope on the horizon is the incipient Other Cinema season. I pray for strength. Craig
Dear Lynne-y darling,
Vicky Funari’s “Paulina” was the hit of the Film Arts Foundation Festival. And now it’s going to Sundance! A wonderful, brilliant, excellent, exquisite film – both Mexican and Californian, both film and video, both doc and narrative – the kind of film that makes me proud to be a San Franciscan. Must see! Still no word from _________. Bury myself in work. Craig
I promise to make a good film. Maybe there’s some good karma hanging around the studio from your early days of editing “Lilith.” Speaking of which, send all your picture poop and preview dub now. Don’t delay, don’t hedge, don’t fudge, just do it, as the capitalists say. I need all the help I can get in putting the calendar together and we both know that you’re already slotted in so follow thru, sis. Here’s some miscellaneous articles. I am trying to clear up all the papers on my floor. One of these days, I will slip on the glossy articles. We finished our most successful Other Cinema season ever. Average attendance 65! I’m supposed to be recording my voice-overs. Have to hire Steve Polta to get me through the back- log of pick-ups. He is a good man. My nerves are shot. Not enough sex. But I’m lucky to be alive, I tell myself. Just returned from my Dad’s – he’s ailing – havingangina attacks while we sit there watching the football game together!! And Eva, sorry to be the one to tell you, but sometimes I suspect that 1998 will be her last year. The disease has wasted her. I was very surprised to hear her half-legible voice on my machine yesterday. We’ll see “Boogie Nights” together tomorrow. Wheels are in motion. Craig
Lynne, Howdy, dear heart. Big May Day Weekend. Rallies during day, film at night. Did I tell you that I’m guest-curating an “Indelible Images” program at the San Francisco International Film Festival? Here’s my pitch. I have a coupon for 2400’ of free color processing at Bono Labs out your way. Could we somehow work a trade for continued access to the studio? It would help me so much! Craig
Sister girl… I’m off to Mexico City within 24 hours as part of a Bi-National conference on the short film. Hope it’s good for my nerves. Europe was great but stressful. Lots and lots of crazy, creative energy. Did four shows, got lost a couple of times, lost my glasses, journeyed into the Slovakian Republic and Hungary. Teaching at SFSU and Film Arts Foundation but haven’t found much time for “Specters of the Spectrum,” unfortunately. Craig
Howdy Lynne and Mark,
Hope you’re doing better than me! Actually, I am a little jazzed, owing to our successful benefit two nights ago. Probably the best Artist Television Access party ever – two bars, big crowd, live DJ, four simultaneous projections, etc., but that was just enough for one month’s back rent – still have to come with another. They’re cutting some of the dead weight from the staff, tho’, so a leaner, more Darwinian crew might pull this limping non-profit out of its nose dive yet. Bill and I will be editing by the time you get this, so maybe the film production front won’t look so hopeless either. And, of course, I am slamming together the next OC calendar. Having to go to the gym every other day for my shoulder. It’s going to be a long, slow recovery, but I do think I will get most of the use back. Still no word from _________. Lost, lost, lost, Craig
After my Pittsburgh N.A.M.A.C. show, I must have fallen into some sort of “post” lethargy depression – didn’t manage to get any work done in the studio during November. I did catch a cold, however, and despite it, move another 500 educational films into my basement from the College of San Mateo. Now David Cox is down there analyzing them for their media archeology value. And continuing with the “Other Cinema” screenings again in spite of the rain and the so-so turnouts, but the last three shows will be strong, I guess. Then a spate of holiday engagements, which may be fun, and may be remunerative (light show jobs), but will still distract from the #1 task of finishing my script. What I want for Christmas is PEACE AND SOLITUDE so I can organize my ideas and focus on my SOS project!!! What about yours, little sister? Craig
Thanks for the break on the studio rental. The good news is that I’ve been invited to the Rotterdam Film Festival and after that the Whitney Biennial!!! Craig
Today the lab told me that they were having some trouble with my A/B rolls. If the print does issue forth, then I’m in Vancouver or NY by the time you read this – or maybe we’ve crossed paths in NY, and then Olympia, Virginia, Pitzer, but sometime in there, I’ll hopefully be able to clear my shit out and turn in my keys to the studio. Craig
Well, we can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel, tho’ I suspect we’ll still have some technical problems with the lab, etc. Bill and I are both A/B rolling, very slow going, and audio-mixing at same time and I might have mentioned World Premiere at Vancouver Film Festival, then closing the New York Film Festival where I might see you guys. Then back home to Film Arts Festival and I will only be able to make it because of your help. Thank you. Thank you for your support during this long, arduous process. This movie is very important. I’m very convinced of that, and unfortunately your sis’s pillow was an unintentional accidental victim of this vigorous struggle with miles of 16mm that had to be tamed!! But now we’re all getting it under control. Craig
Lynne-y, again, s’wunnerful hanging with you… you are my fairy godmother without whom Spectres of the Spectrum would never have been made, so my trip out to you in the fall should be just as much your party as mine. And I do look forward to critiquing your work-in-progress. Smooches, CB
Alas, I don’t have any of the emails that Craig and I exchanged between 2003 and 2007. After racking my brain and my file cabinet in search of these correspondences, it occurred to me that these were the last five years I was using AOL. When I desperately searched my extant but feeble AOL inbox, I discovered that nothing before 2011 remains.
My darling sister, I am sorry to have to tell you that my good friend John Corser, one of my best friends in my entire life, died in a freak accident about six months ago. CB
Just wanted to let you know that I got a look at your “Last Happy Day”, and it’s not only brilliant, but beautiful! (just like you)… can’t say fer sure this early, but would prolly be very interested in finding a place for that on next OC (or oneafter that). Congrats … it is my favorite Lynne Sachs film.
Working very hard here… led a found-footage workshop, showed [Mock Up On] Mu, had a big symposium all day yesterday at which Rick Prelinger and me and a bunch of other big-wigs spoke, and then saw the new Kenneth Anger film… FASCIST ART, totally!! The 9 younger brits clapped (was sold out), but I walked out. Am in the Newcastle Lib. now, before two interviews. Yes of course intend on staying with you. Let ME buy you some bottles. By the way, do you have a place to stay whilst in frisco? Mi casa es tu casa.
L–believe it or not was just thinking about you last night. I saw a film so damn ‘push-pull’ discursive that it gave me nightmares.
A lot going on here. I have a lot to write you, but not now, very precarious situation, wretched health, I am in agony right now but will slouch to the pharmacy in 20 mins to get some relief, but multiplying projects at same time! I am making an anti-gun short (out of ‘Bufferin’ commercial), and I made “Sight & Sound” magazine! (Tony Rayns article, with pic!). Am now crunching down the Fall OC cal… quite possibly the very last… cb
Glad you like the book… in fact I should send you more… I can’t indulge the idea of a personal library anymore; my books are all in boxes on the floor (and I trip over them). The situation is really pathetic… “abject” might be a more appropriate word. My health too is a total trainwreck. Maybe it is a good thing (though I really don’t think so) that OC/ATA is coming off the rails, so I would finally have the time to attend to my own failing body. Right now I can hardly hear… I went to the doctor, thinking that my nerve disease has finally risen to the level of ears… and that there was going to be permanent damage. Can you imagine walking around with that thought in your head?… B l e a k, baby. Well he says it’s just a bunch of wax! Gawd, I hope so, but don’t know how to fix that. I pour this de-waxer in my ears every day. I am going to have to get, for the first time in my life, an ear “lavage”… but that is minor compared to my other problems… but no time to whine!! But at this point I can hardly stop working for even an hour. So you finally returned to Wesleyan with your second-born, eh sis? What will be her major? (and what is Maya’s?). By the way, if you remember Gilbert Guerrero and Kathleen Quillian, from ATA crowd (and board)–they named their daughter Maya too! And now Kathleen is delivering her second kid in first week of Oct. And in third week of Oct., she is presenting Stereo Realist 3-D slides at Other Cinema!!!… On an evening with THREE kinds of 3-D!!!
mucho amor, cb
Ok, sis, by now you should be getting a little luv-gift in the mail, but anyway, I have a favor to ask of you: please be so kind as to reply with the name of your woman doctor friend, cuz I want to follow up. I need medical help. Thanks!
I am having a medicAL eMERGENCY HERe, BU I DOn’T WANT TO GO tO SF GENERAL’S eMeRGEncy ROOM… CB
L -For the short-term emergency, I was able to get in to see a GP… he took one look at my foot: Staph infection! But am taking my antibiotics now, and don’t have to go to work… thanks Lynne…
Darling! I am so happy that that bed footage is going to good use!! I still have that Jack Smith/Malanga bed stuff that I might ultimately sell for big bucks! Thank you for the connection to your doctor that we ate burrito with… the after effects from the staph infection have profoundly affected my life, perhaps permanently. Not to bring you down, but I am suffering the consequences of compromised lymph system after flesh-eating bacteria infection, see? They can’t really figure out what the prob is, and tomorrow I have to have a ($500) MRI.
It’s very discouraging, but I have so many other causes for panic in my life, I guess the health crisis takes its place among the many others. “The Panicked Life”… there’s a good book/movie title? “The Life Panic”. I could write that book, dear sister. When I see your grandmother at 102, or my own father at 98, I so immediately know that I am not going to come anywhere close to that. It will be a miracle if I get out of my 60s… but don’t grieve for any early death, sister! I want everybody to celebrate. I am declaring this loud and clear to you… Anyway, I am so happy for you and your wonderful film, Lynne. Tell us when you will next return to NorCal and we will do another show! Of course!… cb
Thanks for all of your inquiries! I’m doing much better. As to your hardware help, that is also coming along. I have my eye on a beautiful laptop that will serve this gallery as a platform for exhibition. What I am salivating over is the film that you re-made with Chris Marker, “Three Cheers for the Whale” [1972; English version, 2007]. I hope that it is OK if we screen it again.
Mucho amor, Craig
Ever since I met Craig in 1987, he has allowed me to dig around amongst the archeological wonders of his 992 Valencia Street film archive. Usually, I am a spelunker rummaging around in his cave, presuming I am looking for something specific and discovering that what I am least expecting to find is what I most need. Over these three decades, I have nourished these films and my work as a filmmaker in ways that would never have happened without Craig and his basement resource: The House of Science (1991);
A Biography of Lilith (1997); The Last Happy Day (2009); And Then We Marched (2017); and Tip of My Tongue (2017).
My darling sister, please know that EVERY DAY we are compiling your footage… I can see the light at the end of the tunnel: and it is next Tuesday, when I will mail shipment #3, which will have 2 rolls. Important: as I compile these shots and scenes, should I just white-tape them, or single-splice them? Also, just to let you know: I am keeping close track of the labor hours, and you will have a BIG payment coming up. But I will be more than fair with you, Lynne-y , because I owe you soooo much…
Here’s a Hanukkah present for you. Plus, a couple of straggles from our big “Tip of My Tongue” haul. Hope that stuff is working for you. Thanks for all the help this last year. I sure needed it. You came to my rescue, like a true friend. Love, Craig
My laptop has raised my quality of life, though that is about to lower again as there are new calls for radically raised rent levels. All the help is absolutely essential. Craig
Another holiday gift for you. Things have settled a bit now, after ATA’s New Lease Navidad party this weekend. My oh so slick laptop continues to make the navigation of the treacherous interweb a much more comfortable process. Craig
One day I will tell you the story of how $8.25 was stolen out of my OVER-ALL pants during my first visit to NY. I was picked up by a con-man in Washington Square Park. I had to sleep in a Catholic hostel on the Lower East Side, my bunk- mate was Cool Breeze, the first time I ever heard that name. That would be mid/ late-70s, methinks. The rip-off artist and I walked up to the 4th floor on a Lower East Side tenement, and he robbed my little West Coast hippie self… (over-alls!) From the sum of $3 in change that he didn’t get from me, I hitch-hiked all the way back to SF by way of Vancouver, BC (and I had to both sneak into and out of Canada), both great stories!! I have even better stories, including the first time I had intercourse, as a hitch-hiker on the road to Santa Barbara (where I just now gave a big presentation… Constance Penley is a huge fan.) and the soundtrack was classical musician Antonin Dvzorak which IS PLAYING RIGHT NOW IN MY STUDIO!!!! Are you blowing your mind yet? If I was just 17, it still would not be rape, because it was consensual. Lynne–do not tell anybody about this story.
l only got into it because I was particularly intrigued with the Dylan legacy in NYC, see, as naive as I was… I had every record by Bob Dylan… I got a million of these stories, I am not braggin’… my life has been very risky, full of danger… my brothers don’t have a clue as to what a desperate level of experience I’ve endured. ciao babe… cb
In response to my quest for found footage material related to every year of my life, Craig wrote to me about his own personal investigations and reflections.
I have occasionally considered the project of pinpointing a certain day/event that my fellow humans – maybe a best friend or lover – have lived thru, completely separate and autonomous from me, and then exploring those separate passages of time – as if playing back separate tapes in a row of playback decks, and so get a cross-section layering of personal POVs across/thru a “universal” global event… to appreciate multiple ‘careers’ in the literal sense of the word, and
so to understand human life/relationships on a longitudinal/diachronic axis, as opposed to the synchronic “now” one that becomes dominant when you become lovers. It flirts with the idea of “fate” – that deepens the mystery of it – but it can be more formal, and is in fact a sort of sociology, affording an extra-personal/outside-of-the-self understanding across human society. This would be interesting enough as a non-fiction, with points-of-view and gestures placed next to each other particularly for a ‘cinematic’ rhythm effect (Coppola’s famous scene in godfather)… BUT! One could stray a little bit off ‘documentary’ and insert – as you do in your Your Day is My Night shiftbed movie – a fictional line(s) that ultimately crossed another ‘career’, and then the people have sex or get married or kill each other in a fight, whatever blah blah. cb
Things here are pretty bad, and getting worse. The prospect of moving out is necessitating some very dirty labor, and of course stress, and a spirit of doom and gloom among roommates and ATA principals. Every day I have to reach deep for strength and peace of mind. Though we will not stop making art!!! Doing some of that tonight with Molly Hankwitz in my studio. Much amor, Craig
lynne-y, thanks for your great letter!
Things are pretty horrible here – no toilet or shower for 2 months, and no electricity in many circuits… jack-hammering all day… one roommate has left, and because of cost over-runs, ATA is now broke, and crowd-funding. Programming group shows of short works around themes is a downright inspired curatorial move, I must say… but it is insanely labor-intensive! The way that
most programmers get thru it is to just Call for Submissions (and then charge the artists money just for the chance to submit, on top of that!). anyway, we are staying in the loop(s)… poopsie!!… Later, me sweets!!… cb
In Spring 2018, I organized a retrospective of Craig’s films in New York City by working with programmers at UnionDocs, Light Industry, Metrograph Theater, and Bard College. Together, we put together seven sold-out screenings of his work on 16mm and digital. Craig attended each and every screening, introducing each program and taking questions from his extraordinarily enthusiastic audiences in New York.
L – well, lordie, I really can’t claim to be superman enough to throw together more than 2 or 3 shows … doing those things is very tricky and also technically worrisome. What I am saying is that we’d have to have more in the show than my own performance ‘acts’… I have a longer-form double-projection work, 3-D in fact, called “Nth Dimension”, and we can call that the anchor… let’s call that 20 mins. Then I have a blimp thang, maybe 7–10 mins., and that is double projection too… AH!! Just had an insight!!… I will build two reels, and they will be an hour each, and we will roll thru those reels on their respective projectors and embedded in there will be my 3 or so “discrete” pieces, but also there will be a lot of “fun” footage in there that will stand on its own, because it is, well, an odd artifact from the Archive… which is a distinctive feature of Other Cinema… the deep engagement with 20C industrial cinema!!
Ok, so I guess I am working up to this now in brainstorm mode… I will get back to you later with some bon mots about it… including some individual titles. And by the way, it would not ALL have to be in these “twin” reels, we could throw video on from time to time… (assuming there will be a video projector there, and playback devices–VHS would be required!! OC LOVES VHS!!)… I suppose – thinking out loud again – that those “secondary” video shorts would be typical tropes of the OC project… pieces that speak to the OC experience, maybe docs about the archive… for the most part, the Sat. show will be mostly 16mm, a lot of 3-D (I have the glasses), a looser feel, people drinkin’ and making out. Struggling very hard under heavy weight of my curatorial responsibilities right now, and can hardly look even 15 degrees off the necessary escape route, to swim out of this cave.
I could live thru [seeing her], but she will be shocked at the pathetic shell of the old white man that she will see… I will be embarrassed, and her stomach will turn at the sight of what time can do to a loser beatnik living a borderline, absurdly unhealthy, preposterously precarious life… but I would not exclude her, of course not.
It would be easier if you might be close to my side sometimes, as an emotional support in the face of one of the greatest fails of my life… cb
L – As to your text in A Month of Single Frames, your Hammer film… I thought it was wonderful! It was like a George Landow movie, just talking directly to the audience, in a sublimely wise admission that we are all just mortal human bodies, … here together for a short while… then all gonna die, like Barbara… It was her talking to us from behind the screen. It was like she was talking to us from beyond the grave. It was mystical, and yet structural.
I am in an incredibly strained, painful, rush to complete my own presentations, and all hell is breaking loose over here… we have an out-of-town visitor/sub-letter who is not really doing so well in the City, and an Other friend just out of hospital with gallbladder OPERation, and more continued ATA negligence and slacker- shit, and a zillion people (rock bands!) coming and going thru the doors, and the finale to Jeremy Rourke’s act is all about my archive, with my narration taken from a phone conversation… and it is a stand-alone genius tribute, utterly brill 4-screen hand-synced up with remotes (while he is playing music) – he made a song out of the titles to some films in there, and shows the cans and shows the frames animated that are in the cans (and that includes my O No Coronado!!)… and tomorrow I have a huge show with FOUR live performers, and then a 12-hr whole day after that of panic editing before I rush to airport.
I have just now been able (not really) to catch up with the clean-up and back-log of affairs after that HISTORIC venture into the Big Bad Apple… and now my heart is beating again in a rather dangerous way about upcoming gigs… AND please!! You must tell me again the history you had with Bruce Conner!? I will fold it
into my lecture!! [I got my start in experimental filmmaking during a 1985–86 internship with one of Craig’s and my greatest heroes of collage filmmaking, Bruce Conner.]
Gee, THANKS SOO much for the chocolate-covered strawberries!!!!!!!! And it is a miracle that I got them, cuz I was just ready to jump on my bike and ride to office depot to pick up the newly printed calendar, but an intern came, and just as I was taking her into the editing-room-under the sidewalk, the phone started to ring, and well, I wasn’t going to be able to get back to it and pick it up, but after 2 rings I turned and bolted for it, and it was the delivery-woman at the door!… So the new intern and I gulped down the first two delicacies. An hour later, with 2000 OC cals in hand (with your name on the April 7 headline), the OC folding gang (including David Cox) came in for the task at hand, and the choco-berries were passed around and truly savored… so thanks for making our session a super sweet one, you sweet one!!
Lynne- well well, ok the cat is out of the bag… and that is alright for you and for me and for OC. And the whole world. OC still does want to show your film in spring, but if fest options open up, of course we will defer. IF IF YOU WAnt an OC gig… (so please let us know within a week) AND… WOW, sis, that SlamDance would OPEN with your movie!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! well… I TOLD YOU SO!!! You got a zinger, girl!! HOoRAY HORRAY!! You/we won one!! I am very proud of you, and I am totally identifying with you, darling… please suggest to Slamdance peeps to accommodate your opening to the SUNdance fest so that those lazy lay-abouts-
From 1991 to 2019, I shot film, videotape, and digital images of my father. In 2020, I completed Film About a Father Who which premiered as the opening night movie at Slamdance and then at the Museum of Modern Art’s Doc Fortnight. Throughout the making of the film, Craig offered me the support of a dear friend and fellow artist.
in-Park-City could finally get energized about some things that are HUMAN-LY important…… and so moved to take a goddam Lyft down that wet road to spend 2 hours watching your masterwork!~ … and it is because of your vision, your strength, and your endurance, and your good faith, open-mindedness, your tolerance, your intellectual curiosity, your bottom-less generosity, and your full-frontal honesty to deal with issues that would formerly (and formally!) be considered too ‘personal’. your total fan, cb…
After spending months going through my own archive, I shared Craig’s letters with the man himself.
Lynne: Wowowowow! That is a great idea for an article. It is like you are doing ethnography, on that certain sort of urban, gig-economy, declassé white loser that is me, and that the letters are the “primary source material” … real media archeology… you, hunkering down with your little whisk broom, and excavating these written artifacts. And I will for sure eat it all (back) up… BUT it cannot be in next 48 hours, because I am rushing to pack for a (film fest) trip to Chile. I am so freaked out about packing that I literally threw up, 2 hours ago… So, my gawd, hopefully I can read on the plane (do they have internet connection on them these days?.)… I can prolly give you ‘some guidance’ eventually. But you don’t have to prove anything to Brett and Steve… they already know that you are in good faith. Even if all you have is that bare naked “raw source material”… cb
Swerve 7 min., 2022 a film by Lynne Sachs with poetry by Paolo Javier
A market and playground in Queen, New York, a borough of New York City, become the site for the shooting of a film inspired by Paolo Javier’s Original Brown Boy poems. Wearing the tell-tale masks of our daunting now, five New York City performers search for a meal while speaking in verse. The film itself transforms into an ars poetica/ cinematica, a meditation on writing and making images in the liminal space between a global pandemic and what might come next.
Paolo Javier is a poet who thinks like a filmmaker. I am a filmmaker who thinks like a poet. In Swerve, we’ve come up with our own kind of movie language, or at least a dialect that articulates how we observe the world together as two artists using images, sounds, and words. The first time I read Paolo’s sonnets in his new book O.B.B. aka The Original Brown Boy, I started to hear them in my head, cinematically. In my imagination, each of his 14 line poems became the vernacular expressions of people walking through a food market full of distinct restaurant stalls. I re-watched Wong Kar-wai’s “Happy Together” – a favorite of both of ours – and immediately thought of the Hong Kong Food Court in Elmhurst, Queens, a gathering spot for immigrant and working-class people from the neighborhood who love good cuisine. As we all know, restaurant owners and workers experienced enormous economic hardship during New York City’s pandemic. Nevertheless, the market and the playground across the street become vital locations for the shooting of my film inspired by Paolo’s exhilarating writing. Together, we invited performers and artists Emmey Catedral, ray ferriera, Jeff Preiss, Inney Prakash, and Juliana Sass to participate in a challenging yet playful endeavor. They all said “Yes!”. On a Sunday this summer, they each devour Paolo’s sonnets along with a meal from one of the market vendors. Wearing the tell-tale masks of our daunting now, they speak his words as both dialogue and monologue. Like Lucretius’s ancient poem De rerum natura/ On the Nature of Things, they move through the market as Epicureans, searching for something to eat and knowing that finding the right morsel might very well deliver a new sensation. The camera records it all. “Swerve” then becomes an ars poetica/ cinematica, a seven-minute meditation on writing and making images in the liminal space between a global pandemic and what might come next.
Made with the support of cinematographer Sean Hanley, sound recordist Mark Maloof, editor Rebecca Shapass, and production assistants Priyanka Das and Conor Williams.
Premiere: BAMCinemafest June, 2022
Screenings: Museum of the Moving Image “Queens on Screen” Chicago Underground Film Festival Camden International Film Festival Woodstock Film Festival
On the set of Swerve
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“’SWERVE is shot in Elmhurst, Queens, a richly diverse immigrant space that saw its residents endure our country’s ground zero phase of Covid-19. SWERVE brings tremendous visibility to an Asian food court and workers otherwise invisible and ignored by the city. Some of the film’s performers have lifelong ties to the nabe. Together we all honor the resiliency of Asian American and Pacific Islanders, underscoring the vitality of poetry and cinema in these fraught times’” – interview with poet Paolo Javier in QNS/ Queens News Service by Tammy Scileppi QNS/ Queens News Service: “‘SWERVE’: NYC performers wax poetic in a new film shot in Elmhurst” byTammy Scileppi , June 23, 2022
Please join us on Sunday, October 17, @ 2pm ET to celebrate the publication of O.B.B. a.k.a. The Original Brown Boy, by Paolo Javier, and the debut of Lynne Sachs’ short video, Swerve, which adapts poems from the book. The reading will take place at the Moore Homestead Playground in Elmhurst, Queens—a neighborhood park and location of Sachs’ video—and Javier will be joined by Stephen Motika, Aldrin Valdez, and the cast and crew members of Swerve—Emmy Catedral, ray ferreira, Inney Prakash, Jeff Preiss, Juliana Sass, and Priyanka Das. Swerve will be playing as a video installation inside of HK Food Court, located across from the park at 8202 45th Avenue, from 12 noon to 6 pm.
This event is generously funded by NYFA’s City Artist Corps Grant and co-sponsored by the Queens Museum. Free and open to the public! The Moore Homestead Playground is located on the corner of Broadway, 45th Ave, & 82nd St, and off the Elmhurst Ave R train and Q60 and Q32 bus stops.
Criterion Channel streaming premiere with 7 other films, Oct. 2021.
Documentary Feature Award, Athens Film and Video Festival, Oct. 2021.
Best Feature Documentary Audience Award, Mimesis Documentary Festival, Jan. 2022
Selected Virtual Theaters: Laemmle Theaters, Los Angeles; Roxie Theatre, Los Angeles; Philadelphia Film Society; The Belcourt, Nashville; Utah Film Center, Salt Lake City; Cleveland Cinematheque; Brattle Theatre, Cambridge, MA; Northwest Film Forum, Seattle; Facets, Chicago; Cine-File, Chicago; Austin Film Society; The Cinematheque, Vancouver, BC; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; Maysles Cinema, NYC.
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.
“FILM ABOUT A FATHER WHO is a personal meditation on our dad, specifically, and fatherhood and masculinity more generally. The film is one of Lynne’s most searingly honest works. Very proud of my sister, as I have been since we were kids, and so deeply inspired.” – Filmmaker & brother, Ira Sachs, Jr.
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
“Explores the complexities of a disparate family and a nexus of problems revolving around a wayward, unconventional, elusive patriarch…formidable in its candour and ambition.”
—Jonathan Romney, Screen International
“In Film About a Father Who … Sachs never seems to intimate that her perspective is universal but, rather, that having a perspective is.”
—Kat Sachs, MUBI Notebook
“Sachs goes to places that most … moviemakers avoid, undercutting the image of the past as simpler or more stable than the present.”
-—Pat Brown, Slant Magazine
“(Sachs’) own practice can be understood as a process of grammatical excellence; each thought, memory, scene, time and space given pause and punctuated by still more dancing light.” In Film About a Father Who, (she) admits that she is filming as a way of finding transparency. It is the ultimate in searching for cinematic veracity. She finds something beautiful and deeply moving, here…. Film About a Father Who is her greatest achievement yet.”
—Tara Judah, Ubiquarian
“This divine masterwork of vulnerability weaves past and present together with ease, daring the audience to choose love over hate, forgiveness over resentment. Sachs lovingly untangles the messy hair of her elusive father, just as she separates and tends to each strand of his life. A remarkable character study made by a filmmaker at the top of her game– an absolute must see in Park City.”
—Michael Gallagher, Slamdance Programmer
“Here we have a family. And most families have fall-outs. And the ruptured and the intense one in Lynne’s film—amazing documentary—reveals how far blood lines can stretch without losing connection altogether. Though this is an extremely personal film, and asks us several times to really choose between love and hate, she’s really exploring a universal theme that we all think about from time to time, which is the extent to which one human being can really know another. And in this case, it’s her dad.“
—Peter Baxter, President and co-founder of Slamdance speaking on KPCW Radio, Park City, Utah
“The film is bookended with footage of Lynne Sachs attempting to cut her aging father’s sandy hair, which — complemented by his signature walrus mustache — is as long and hippie-ish as it was during the man’s still locally infamous party-hearty heyday, when Ira Sachs Sr. restored, renovated and lived in the historic Adams Avenue property that is now home to the Mollie Fontaine Lounge. ‘There’s just one part that’s very tangly,’ Lynne comments, as the simple grooming activity becomes a metaphor for the daughter’s attempt to negotiate the thicket of her father’s romantic entanglements, the branches of her extended family tree and the thorny concepts of personal and social responsibility.”
—John Beiffus, Memphis Commercial Appeal
“’Film About a Father Who,’ whose title was inspired by Yvonne Rainer’s ‘Film About a Woman Who…,’ is a consideration of how one man’s easygoing attitude yielded anything but an easy family dynamic as it rippled across generations. The movie runs only 74 minutes, but it contains lifetimes.“
—Ben Kenigsberg, The New York Times
Film About a Father Who on 9 Best Films of 2021 Lists
Ubiquarian: “The Process is the Practice: Prolific and poetic, experimental and documentary filmmaker, Lynne Sachs, lights up this year’s online edition of Sheffield Doc|Fest with a mini-retrospective, annotated lecture and her new feature, Film About a Father Who (2020)” by Tara Judah, June 21, 2020 http://ubiquarian.net/2020/06/the-process-is-the-practice/
Ynet: Israel’s most comprehensive, authoritative daily source in English for breaking news and current events, “I Watched Rabin’s Funeral, I Named My Daughter Noa – Interview with Lynne Sachs” by Amir Bogen, Sept. 8, 2020. https://www.ynet.co.il/entertainment/article/B1TCDpmmP
“The Artful, Experimental and Brilliant Study of a Promiscuous Father Headlining Sheffield Autumn Programme” by Benjamin Hollis, Oct. 2, 2020
Trust Movies: “‘Lynne Sachs’ ‘Film About a Father Who’ breaks new ground in the “family” documentary department” by James Van Maanen, January 15, 2021. https://trustmovies.blogspot.com/2021/01/lynne-sachs-film-about-father-who.html
“Same Stream Twice” by Lynne Sachs with Maya Street-Sachs 4 min. 16mm b & w and color on DVD, 2012
Director’s Choice Award – Black Maria Film Festival 2013
My daughter’s name is Maya. I’ve been told that the word maya means illusion in Hindu philosophy. In 2001, I photographed her at six years old, spinning like a top around me. Even then, I realized that her childhood was not something I could grasp but rather – like the wind – something I could feel tenderly brushing across my cheek. Eleven years later, I pull out my 16mm Bolex camera once again and she allows me to film her – different but somehow the same.
Screenings: Black Maria Film Festival, 2013; Camára Lucída Festival de Ciné 2021; Museum of the Moving Image 2021
While living in a “shift-bed” apartment in the heart of New York City’s Chinatown, a household of immigrants share their stories of personal and political upheaval.
Since the early days of New York’s Lower East Side tenement houses, working class people have shared beds, making such spaces a fundamental part of immigrant life. Initially documented in Jacob Riis’ now controversial late 19th Century photography, a “shift-bed” is an actual bed that is shared by people who are neither in the same family nor in a relationship. Simply put, it’s an economic necessity brought on by the challenges of urban existence. Such a bed can become a remarkable catalyst for storytelling as absolute strangers become de facto confidants.
In this provocative, hybrid documentary, the audience joins a present-day household of immigrants living together in a shift-bed apartment in the heart of Chinatown. Seven characters (ages 58-78) play themselves through autobiographical monologues, verité conversations, and theatrical movement pieces. Retired seamstresses Ellen Ho and Sheut Hing Lee recount growing up in China during the turmoil of the 1950s when their families faced violence and separation under Chairman Mao’s revolutionary, yet authoritarian regime. Yun Xiu Huang, a nightclub owner from Fujian Province, reveals his journey to the United States through the complicated economy of the “snakehead” system, facing an uphill battle as he starts over in a new city.
With each “performance” of their present, the characters illuminate both the joys and tragedies of their past. As the bed transforms into a stage, the film reveals the collective history of Chinese immigrants in the United States, a story not often documented. Further, the intimate cinematography and immersive sound design carry us into the dreams and memories of the performers, bringing the audience into a community often considered closed off to non-Chinese speakers. Through it all, “Your Day is My Night” addresses issues of privacy, intimacy, and urban life in relationship to this familiar item of household furniture.
“Each person’s tale is brief but impactful, intercut with graceful set pieces and grainy footage that allows time to visualize, absorb and contemplate. Your Day is My Night is a cultural window with many dimensions, building empathy with viewers in this politically charged environment.” – Fatima Sheriff, One Room with a View
“A strikingly handsome, meditative work: a mixture of reportage, dreams, memories and playacting, which immerses you in an entire world that you might unknowingly pass on the corner of Hester Street, unable to guess what’s behind the fifth-floor windows.” –The Nation
“Beautifully blending anecdotes, evocative audio textures, and an ensemble of elderly immigrant performers/participants, Your Day is My Night is sumptuous and exploratory, bringing us a Chinatown we have never seen before in film.” – San Diego Asian Film Festival
“Using beds as a metaphor for privacy, intimacy and power, the film explores intercultural and trans-historical dialogue.” – The Washington Post
“Director Lynne Sachs’ Your Day is My Night shines a light on a little documented sub-culture in New York’s Chinatown, chronicling immigrants who live communally in buildings where there’s a shift-bed system. One person returns from a stint of overnight work to sleep in a bed just vacated by another person off to their day job. The form of this documentary is as compelling as its content. It is a beautiful collage of different media and music intricately edited together with the often emotional testimony of the immigrants.” – BBC
“New York’s Chinatown, a place as much spectral as real, flickers and flares into life in this singular hybrid of documentary, performance piece and cine-monologue. Seven working-class, immigrant residents of a shift-bed apartment play versions of themselves, recalling violent upheavals, long journeys and endless yearnings.” – Sight and Sound
“This is no ordinary documentary. This is film, a canvas, a moving poem. It never stands still. It moves and it moves us.” – Kennebec Journal/ Morning Star (centralmaine.com)
“I’ve spent most of my life as an artist thinking about how to convey my observations of the world around me in the visual and aural language of film. I experiment with my perception of reality by embracing an associative, non-literal approach to images, and it is through this artistic exploration that I grapple with the natural, social, cultural and political phenomena that I witness through the lens of my camera. I began the Your Day is My Night project in late 2009 when I was talking with a relative on his 90th birthday. A Brooklyn resident for his entire life, Uncle Bob has haunting memories of December 16, 1960 when a jet crashed near his Brooklyn home. Trying to imagine the devastation in this busy neighborhood, I asked him how many people on the ground had died. ‘It was hard to know because there were so many hot bed houses in that area. They all burned and no one knew precisely who lived there.’ What are hot bed houses? I asked him. ‘Those are homes for poor people who work and can’t afford to rent their own apartments. They share beds in shifts.’ I reconstructed the moment of the crash, creating a mental image of the inhabitants of these apartments as they tried to gather their few personal possessions and escape the fire. Which unlucky person would awake from a deep sleep after a long shift at the port to the sound of the crash and the heat of the fire? After that conversation, I discovered that 19th Century photographer Jacob Riis documented numerous examples of these beds, and it is through his lens that I was able to begin my research. In Riis’ How the Other Half Lives, he exposed to the rest of America the poor, immigrant experience he witnessed in downtown New York City. I later read The Snakehead: An Epic Tale of the Chinatown Underworld and the American Dream by Patrick Radden Keefe to give me a more current sense of the situation in current day Chinatown.
I think of the bed as an extension of the earth. For most of us, we sleep on the same mattress every night; our beds take on the shape of our bodies, like a fossil where we leave our mark for posterity. During the Revolutionary War, George Washington slept in many borrowed beds and now, hundreds of years later, his brief presence is celebrated from one New England town to the next: ‘George Washington Slept Here’ has a kind of strange signification and prestige. But for transients, people who use hotels, and the homeless a bed is no more than a borrowed place to sleep. An animal that borrows its home from another species is called an inquiline, and in Spanish inquilina is the word for a renter. Conceptual artist and sculptor Félix González-Torres photographed a series of empty, unmade beds to commemorate the life and death of his partner, as if the very sheets that remained could remind him and us of the body and the man he had loved.
Since January of 2011, I have been writing, researching, and shooting material for my ‘bed project’ in the Chinatown neighborhood of New York City. I found a group of non-professional Chinese performer/participants (ages 58 – 78) and have worked almost weekly with them ever since. During our workshops, they each exchanged their own stories around domestic life, immigration and personal-political upheaval. None of these people has ever worked in this cross-cultural way, so it is these taped process-oriented conversations that, in the final film, enhance our audience’s sense of the bed – experienced and imagined from profoundly different viewpoints. Next, a written script emerged from our months of shooting documentary images and interviews. Using the interactive model of Augusto Boal’s “Theatre of the Oppressed”, I guided my collective in a “simultaneous dramaturgy”. My performers, crew and, more recently, our live audience, explored the potential for transformation that can come from a dialogue around personal histories and the imagination.
The material I collected during these interviews is the basis for the monologues in Your Day is My Night. In production, I guided my performers through visual scenarios that reveal a bed as a stage on which people manifest who they are at home and who they are in the world. Our shooting took place in two different actual shift-bed apartments located in NYC’s Chinatown. The Chinese participants (several of whom currently live or have actually slept on shift-beds) spoke of family ruptures during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, a mattress excavated from a garbage heap, four men on one bed in Chinatown, amongst a long series of fascinating and haunting bed-related topics.
For inquiries about rentals or purchases please contact the Cinema Guild. For international bookings, please contact Kino Rebelde.
“Your Day is My Night” has been exhibited as a live performance at St. Nicks Alliance in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, New York Public Library in Chinatown, Proteus Gowanus Interdisciplinary Arts Gallery in Brooklyn and University Settlement in Manhattan.” – LS
Cast: Che Chang-Qing, Yi Chun Cao, Yueh Hwa Chan (Linda), Kam Yin Tsui, Yun Xiu Huang, Ellen Ho, Sheut Hing Lee, Veraalba Santa Torres,
Crew: Lynne Sachs (director); Sean Hanley (camera, co-produing and editing); Rojo Robles (co-writer); Catherine Ng and Jenifer Lee (translations); Ethan Mass (camera); Stephen Vitiello (music); Damian Volpe (sound mix) Amanda Katz and Jeff Sisson (sound); Bryan Chang (additional editing and translations); Madeline Youngberg (production assistance)
“I think of the bed as an extension of the earth,” says experimental documentary filmmaker Lynne Sachs. In YOUR DAY IS MY NIGHT, a moving hybrid documentary/performance piece, the bed becomes stage as immigrant residents of a shift-bed apartment in the heart of Manhattan’s Chinatown are both performers and participants, storytellers and actors. Sharing their experiences as migrants and city dwellers, they reveal the intimacies and complexities of urban living. Filmmaker Lynne Sachs and performers Yi Chun Cao, Linda Y.H. Chan, Chung Qing Che, Ellen Ho, Yun Xiu Huang, and Sheut Hing Lee joined A/P/A Institute at NYU on Thursday, October 2, 2013 for a screening of the film and a conversation moderated by Karen Shimakawa (Chair of Performance Studies at NYU, Tisch School of the Arts). Lesley (Yiping) Qin served as translator.
World Premiere: Museum of Modern Art, Documentary Fortnight 2013 (Feb. 24 & 25, 2013) Senior Planet Exploration Center New York City (April 12, 2013) Ann Arbor Film Festival (March 23, 2013) Athens Film Festival, Athens, Ohio Opening Night April 18, 2013) Workers Unite Film Festival, Cinema Village Theater, New York City (May 10, 2013) Brecht Forum, New York City (May 17, 2013) Union Docs. Brooklyn, New York City (June 8, 2013) Images Film and Video Festival, Toronto (April 19, 2013) Kingsborough College, Brooklyn, New York (May 6, 2013) Maysles Cinema, Fiction-Non Series, NYC, (Sept. 25 & 26, 2013) BorDocs Tijuana Forum Documental, Mexico, Sept., 2013 University of California, Santa Cruz, Nov. 18 and 19, 2013 Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley, California, Nov. 20, 2013. Vancouver Film Festival, 2013 Micheal Moore’s Traverse City Film Festival, Michigan, Best Experimental Film, 2013 New Orleans Film Festival, 2013 San Diego Asian American Film Festival, Best Feature Documentary2013. Center for History, Media & Culture/ Asian Studies, New York University, 2013 Roy & Edna Disney/ CalArtst Theatre (REDCAT), Los Angeles, 2014.
10 min., Super 8 , color, sound 2011 by Mark Street and Lynne Sachs
A wabi sabi summer in Japan – observing that which is imperfect, impermanent and incomplete– produces a series of visual haiku in search of teeming street life, bodies in emotion, and leaf prints in the mud.
Black Maria Film Festival, Director’s Choice, 3rd Prize. 2011
Sachs pays homage to Walter Benjamin’s essay “The Task of the Translator” through three studies of the human body. First, she listens to the musings of a wartime doctor grappling with the task of a kind-of cosmetic surgery for corpses. Second, she witnesses a group of Classics scholars confronted with the haunting yet whimsical task of translating a newspaper article on Iraqi burial rituals into Latin. And finally, she turns to a radio news report on human remains.
“In The Task of the Translator, Lynne Sachs turns her original, probing eye to the ways in which we struggle to put words to the horrifying realities of War. In her subtle, trademark shifting between the intimate, personal space of a few individuals and the cavernous, echoing ambiguity of larger, moral questions, Sachs stakes out unsettling territory concerning what it means–what it feels like–to be made into unwitting voyeurs of Mankind’s most grotesque doings. At the same time we find she is also talking, with startling deftness, about the way that all artists are, in the end, engaged in the task of the translator: stuck with the impossible task of rendering imponderables, unutterables, and unsayables, into neat representations to be consumed, digested, perhaps discarded. We are not, however, left despairing; a pair of hands, caught again and again in the beautiful motion of gesticulation, is far from helpless or mute. This image captures, rather, the supreme eloquence of the effort to translate, and the poignant hope represented by this pungent, memorable film itself.” — Shira Nayman, author of the novels The Listener and Awake in the Dark,
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 directed by New York filmmaker Lynne Sachs 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. Shot with 16mm, Super 8mm, Regular 8mm film and video, the film follows the girls to the train tracks, into kitchens, on sidewalks, in costume stores, and into backyards in the heart of Buenos Aires as well as the outskirts of town. Sachs and her Argentine collaborators move about Buenos Aires with their cameras, witnessing the four playful girls as they wander a city embroiled in a debate about the role of agribusiness, food resources and taxes. Using an intricately constructed Spanish-English “bilingual” soundtrack, Sachs and her co-editor, Puerto Rican filmmaker Sofia Gallisa, articulate this atmosphere of urban turmoil spinning about the young girls’ lives. “Wind in Our Hair” also includes the daring, ethereal music of Argentine singer Juana Molina.
“Inspired by the short stories of Julio Cortázar, Lynne Sachs creates an experimental narrative about a group of girls on the verge of adolescence. While their lives are blissful and full of play, the political and social unrest of contemporary Argentina begins to invade their idyllic existence. Sachs’ brilliant mixture of film formats complements the shifts in mood from innocent amusement to protest. ” – Dean Otto, Film and Video Curator, Walker Art Center
“Inspired by the writings of Julio Cortázar, whose work not only influenced a generation of Latin American writers but film directors such as Antonioni and Godard, Lynne Sachs’ Wind in Our Hair/Con viento en el pelo is an experimental narrative that explores the interior and exterior worlds of four early-teens, and how through play they come to discover themselves and their world. “Freedom takes us by the hand–it seizes the whole of our bodies,” a young narrator describes as they head towards the tracks. This is their kingdom, a place where–dawning fanciful masks, feather boas, and colorful scarves — the girls pose as statues and perform for each other and for passengers speeding by. Collaborating with Argentine filmmakers Leandro Listorti, Pablo Marin and Tomas Dotta, Sachs offers us a series of magical realist vignettes (rock/piedra, paper/papel, scissors/tijera), their cameras constantly shifting over their often-frenzied bodies. A collage of small gage formats and video, the 42-min lyric is enhanced further by its sonic textures that foreground the whispers and joyful screams of the young girls with the rhythms of a city and a reoccurring chorus of farmers and student protesters. Filmed on location in Buenos Aries during a period of social turmoil and strikes, Sachs and co-editor Sofia Gallisá have constructed a bilingual work that places equal value on the intimacy of the girls’ lives and their growing awareness of those social forces encroaching on their kingdom. “ – Carolyn Tennant, Media Arts Director, Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, Buffalo, New York
“Argentine author Julio Cortazar is the inspiration for WIND IN OUR HAIR (2009, 42 min.), which loosely interprets stories in the collection “Final de Juego” against the backdrop of social and political unrest in contemporary Argentina. In her first attempt at narrative filmmaking, Sachs still retains her associative, playful structure and documentary eye. Four young women, again played by Sach’s daughters and family friends, grow restless at home and begin to make their way through Buenos Aires in search of excitement and eventually to a fateful meeting at the train tracks near their home. The film moves from childhood’s earthbound, cloistered spaces and into the skittering beyond of adolescence, exploding with anticipation and possibility. Argentine musician Juana Molina lends her ethereal sound to compliment the wild mix of formats and styles.” – Todd Lillethun, Artistic Director, Chicago Filmmakers
“I completely felt Cortazar’s stories throughout. The fluidity in which a ludic and serious tone mix and the combined sense of lightness and deepness capture the author’s vision.” – Monika Wagenberg, Cinema Tropical
a portrait of a doctor who saw the worst of society and ran
The Last Happy Day is an experimental documentary portrait of Sandor (Alexander) Lenard, a Hungarian medical doctor and a distant cousin of filmmaker Lynne Sachs. In 1938 Lenard, a writer with a Jewish background, fled the Nazis to a safe haven in Rome. Shortly thereafter, the U.S. Army Graves Registration Service hired Lenard to reconstruct the bones — small and large — of dead American soldiers. Eventually he found himself in remotest Brazil where he embarked on the translation of “Winnie the Pooh” into Latin, an eccentric task that catapulted him to brief world-wide fame. Sachs’ essay film uses personal letters, abstracted war imagery, home movies, interviews, and a children’s performance to create an intimate meditation on the destructive power of war.
“A fascinating, unconventional approach to a Holocaust-related story … a frequently charming work that makes no effort to disguise an underlying melancholy.” George Robinson, The Jewish Week
“Exquisite…Sachs reclaims (Lenard’s) dignity and purpose using letters, newsreel footage, and recreations of his environment as if to channel him back from the past.” Todd Lillethun – Program Director, Chicago Filmmakers
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Premiere: New York Film Festival, 2009
Broadcast: Hungarian Public Television, Spring 2010.
Selected Screenings and Honors: Indiewire.Com: Nominated One of the Best “Undistributed Films” of 2009 (Phillip Lopate); Director’s Choice Award, Black Maria Film Festival 2010; San Francisco Cinematheque; Pacific Film Archive; Punto de Vista Documentary Film Festival, Spain; University of Chicago; Chicago Filmmakers; Closing Night Film Singapore Film Festival; International House University of Pennsylvania; Museum of the Moving Image, NYC, 2021.
Criterion Channel streaming premiere with 7 other films, Oct. 2021.