Tag Archives: film about a father who

Best of DAFilms 2022: “Film About a Father Who” / DAFilms.com

Best of DAFilms 2022: “Film About a Father Who”
Dafilms.com
December 28, 2022
https://dafilms.com/program/1315-best-of-dafilms-2022?utm_source=newsletter-int&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=best-of-2022

Earlier in the year, we presented Tender Non-Fictions, a program of films by experimental documentarian Lynne Sachs, who has been prolifically creating works for cinema for four decades. Her non-fiction films, represented in our program in 11 works of varying lengths, evoke the curiosity and richness of a life lived through art.

Which brings to her most recent feature documentary, Film About a Father Who. From 1984 to 2019, Sachs shot film of her now-deceased father, a bon vivant and pioneering businessman. This documentary is her attempt to understand the web that connects a child to her parent and a sister to her siblings. A perfect film to end the year with, remembering those we may have lost along the way.

Lynne Sachs: A Poet’s Perspective / Gene Siskel Film Center – School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Lynne Sachs: A Poet’s Perspective
Gene Siskel Film Center, School of the Art Institute of Chicago
December 23, 2022
Screenings on February 20 & 23, 2023
https://www.siskelfilmcenter.org/lynnesachs

LYNNE SACHS: A POET’S PERSPECTIVE

Committed to a dialogue between cinematic theory and practice, experimental filmmaker and poet Lynne Sachs searches for a rigorous play between image and sound, pushing the visual and aural textures in each new project. Embracing archives, letters, portraits, confessions, poetry, and music, her films take us on a critical journey through reality and memory. Regardless of the passage of time, these films continue to be extremely contemporary, coherent, and radical in their artistic conception.

Lynne has produced over 40 films as well as numerous live performances, installations, and web projects. Over the course of her career, Lynne has worked closely with fellow filmmakers Craig Baldwin, Bruce Conner, Barbara Hammer, Chris Marker, Gunvor Nelson, Carolee Schneemann, and Trinh T. Minh-ha. Sachs’ films have screened at MoMA, Tate Modern, Image Forum Tokyo, Wexner Center for the Arts, the New York Film Festival, Oberhausen Int’l Short FF, Punto de Vista, Sundance, Vancouver IFF, Viennale, and Doclisboa, among others. In 2021, Sachs received awards from both Edison Film Festival and Prismatic Ground Film Festival at the Maysles Documentary Center for her achievements in the experimental and documentary fields. 

The Film Center, in collaboration with Conversations at the Edge and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Film, Video, New Media, and Animation program, is honored to welcome Sachs to the Film Center in person for two evenings of her work, followed by in-depth conversations. Photo credit: Inés Espinosa López.


MONDAY, FEBRUARY 20, 6:00PM

FILM ABOUT A FATHER WHO

2020, dir. Lynne Sachs
USA, 74 min. In English / Format: Digital

Over a period of 35 years between 1984 and 2019, filmmaker Lynne Sachs shot 8mm 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. With this meditation on fatherhood and masculinity, Sachs allows herself and her audience to see beneath the surface of the skin, beyond the projected reality. As the startling facts mount, she discovers more about her father than she had ever hoped to reveal. (Cinema Guild) Post-screening conversation with Lynne Sachs.


THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 6:00PM

A COLLECTION & A CONVERSATION

2018-2022, dir. Lynne Sachs
USA, 64 min., In English / Format: Digital 

This program of four short and medium-length pieces highlights Sachs’ filmography from a poetic, personal perspective, as she uses her camera to capture the essence of people, places, and moments in time. The scope of this work includes DRIFT AND BOUGH (2014, USA, 6 min., No dialogue / Format: 8mm on digital), an assemblage of 8mm footage from a winter morning in Central Park. Set to sound artist Stephen Vitiello’s delicate and assured score, the contrasting darkness – of skyscrapers, fences, trees, and people – against bright snow, gives way to a meditative living picture. In MAYA AT 24 (2021, USA, 4 min., No dialogue / Format: 16mm on digital), Sachs presents a spinning, swirling cinematic record of her daughter Maya, chronicled at ages 6, 16, and 24. As Maya runs, she glances – furtively, lovingly, distractedly – through the lens and at her mother, conveying a wordless bond between parent and child, and capturing the breathtakingly quick nature of time. Presented for the first time publicly, in VISIT TO BERNADETTE MAYER’S CHILDHOOD HOME (2020, USA, 3 min., In English / Format: 16mm on digital), Sachs visits poet Bernadette Mayer’s childhood home in Queens to celebrate Mayer’s work, through a reverent, flowing collage. Queens, New York is also the backdrop for the poetry of Paolo Javier in SWERVE (2022, USA, 7 min., in various languages with English subtitles / Format: Digital), a “COVID film” that documents people emerging – cautiously, distanced, masked – from the global pandemic, finding their way in the liminal space between “before” and “after,” and connected by language and verse. In collaboration with playwright Lizzie Olesker, THE WASHING SOCIETY (2018, USA, 44 min., In English / Format: Digital) explores the once ubiquitous but now endangered public laundromat. Inspired by “To ’Joy My Freedom: Southern Black Women’s Lives and Labors after the Civil War” by Tera W. Hunter, THE WASHING SOCIETY is an observational study of lather and labor, a document of the lives of working class women who – largely overlooked and underappreciated – load, dry, fold, and repeat. Post-screening conversation with Lynne Sachs. 

MajorDocs and ‘Film About a Father Who’ / RTVE Play – Días de Cine

Días de Cine. 14-10-2022
RTVE Play Días de Cine
October 14, 2022
https://www.rtve.es/play/videos/dias-de-cine/dias-de-cine-14-10-2022/6713891/

MajorDocs and Film About A Father Who Featured at 45:44–50:00.

English translation:

Movie days. 14-10-2022

Full program. Sitges Festival, Little Pig, Halloween ends, Wild Sunflowers, Orio Tarragó as Godfather guest, Angela Lansbury, and much more.


Spanish original:

Días de Cine. 14-10-2022

Programa completo. Festival de Sitges, Cerdita, Halloween ends, GIrasoles silvestres, Orio Tarragó de invitado Padrino, Angela Lansbury, y mucho más.

Producers’ Forum with Lynne Sachs: “Film About a Father Who” / Scribe Video Center

Producers’ Forum with Lynne Sachs: “Film About a Father Who”
Scribe Video Center
Event on November 18, 2022
https://scribe.org/events/producers-forum-lynne-sachs-film-about-father-who

Producers’ Forum with Lynne Sachs: “Film About a Father Who”

November 18, 7:00 PM

Cost: 
$7.50 General Admission, $5 Students/Seniors, $4 Scribe Members

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.

Lynne Sachs is an American experimental filmmaker and poet based in Brooklyn, New York. Strongly committed to a dialogue between cinematic theory and practice, she searches for a rigorous play between image and sound, pushing the visual and aural textures in each new project. Over the course of her career, Lynne has worked closely with fellow filmmakers Craig Baldwin, Bruce Conner, Barbara Hammer, Chris Marker, Gunvor Nelson, Carolee Schneemann, and Trinh T. Min-ha.

Contact Email Address: 
inquiry@scribe.org

Contact Phone Number: 
215-222-4201

Event Type: 
Screening
Producers’ Forum


Lynne with Tim Corrigan (host)

“Lynne Sachs: Film Festivals used to be perceived as exclusive and snobbish, but that has changed.” / Diario de Mallorca

“Lynne Sachs: Film Festivals used to be perceived as exclusive and snobbish, but that has changed.”
Diario de Mallorca
Interview by Montse Terrasa
Translation by Guillermo Amengual
October 5, 2022
https://www.diariodemallorca.es/cultura/2022/10/05/lynne-sachs-gente-pensaba-festivales-76794424.html

Lynne Sachs (Memphis, 1961) prefers to define herself as a filmmaker rather than a director. She claims to prefer to feel a member of a group of people working on a project. Now she is at Palma (Majorca, Spain) to perform as the guest of honor of the MajorDocs film festival, a meeting for she’s profoundly excited for having the opportunity to talk about films and ideas during several days.

Yesterday, she presented her documentary focused on her father, Ira Sachs Sr., whom she describes as a good living: seducer, extravagant and entrepreneur. In this feature film, she uses family archive films made for over thirty years.

Interviewer: Film About a Father Who. Is this your most personal film?

Lynne Sachs: I think that the word personal is used in a very obvious way and we need to fragment and analyze what it really mean “to do something personal”, because it can be more ambiguous and it could be referred to your print, your style in the project.

I think that what we call personal is like a thread that connects all my films. Film About a Father Who took me to another personal level because I show my fears and my ambiguity toward my relationship with my father, and I think I took a risk there, as I first wanted to do a very angry film that afterwards turned into something that was more focused on forgiveness…

I exposed all of my feelings, my vulnerability. In that sense, we could perhaps refer to it as my most personal film. When I was making it, I had the feeling that I needed to. I had to get it out of me. I thought nobody would want to watch it. This time I didn’t think about audience. I just thought about myself and maybe that’s the key to reaching more people.

I: When did you decide to do the film?

L.S.: Back in 1991, when I wanted to do a film divided in three parts. I wanted to explore in what way we (people) can really know another human being but ourselves. A child, a friend… The first part would be about a total stranger, the second one about a departed family member who I get to know through his letters, and the third one was going to be about my father, who I could call whenever I wanted and ask him questions, and I thought that would be the easiest part. It wasn’t at all.

I: Filmmaker, poet, teacher, feminist… What adjective describes you the best? Or does it depend on the moment?

L.S.: Yes, it does. I feel more like a filmmaker than a director. That noun refers to the industry matters. It expresses who stands at the top of the pyramid and makes the decisions. I prefer to

call myself a filmmaker because I feel like I’m part of a project where I work side by side with people. No hierarchy involved. Historically women were tied to their homes. They were homemakers. Then we freed ourselves and we stood up and show to the world that we are capable of doing a lot more than that. But at the same time if we look closely to the word filmmaker, it still has that connection with the word homemaker, it can mean to take care of cinema as a house, as a home.

I: Is now a good time for documentaries? In addition to these film festivals, many streaming platforms encourage this way of moviemaking…

L.S.: Yes, of course. Things have change a lot, over the years. Back then if someone asked me where they could watch my films I just could say that they where only screened in film festival or museums. Nowadays, 15 of my films are available on DAfilms and also in The Criterion Channel… Those streaming services are very useful for documentaries, but also for those who work in very low Budget independent films or even features made with their own phones or

digital cameras… People thought that Film Festivals where exclusive and elitist, but that has changed.

I: How do you feel about being the Guest of Honor of this edition of the MajorDocs film festival?

L.S.: I feel that I don’t deserve it. Two days ago I still couldn’t believe it. I was intimidating. But I love Film Festivals like this one where they encourage the audience not only to watch documentaries, but also to talk about them during the whole week. There are conversations about what they’ve seen and about what feelings and ideas struck out at them, and that is very important.

I: Is now a good time for documentaries? In addition to these film festivals, many streaming platforms encourage this way of moviemaking…

L.S.: Yes, of course. Things have changed a lot, over the years. Back then if someone asked me where they could watch my films I just could say that they were only screened at film festivals or museums. Nowadays, fifteen of my films are available on Dafilms and also in The Criterion Channel… Those streaming services are very useful for documentaries, but also for those who work in very low Budget independent films or even features made with their own phones or digital cameras… Film festivals used to be perceived as exclusive and snobbish, but that has changed.

I: As a viewer, as a spectator, what kind of films do you like?

L. S.: My family makes fun of the fact that I might not have seen a movie if it’s very popular. However, that’s not true. I like to see films that make me think, that challenge me to see the world in a different way. I like to take notes while watching these kind of films, even in the darkness of the theatre. I do the same thing while reading a book. I cannot watch a Godard film without taking notes.

“The 4th edition of MajorDocs claims calm and pause in domestic audiovisual creation” / IB3 News

“The 4th edition of MajorDocs claims calm and pause in domestic audiovisual creation”
IB3 News
October 4, 2022
https://ib3.org/la-quarta-edicio-del-festival-majordocs-reivindica-la-calma-i-la-pausa-en-la-creacio-audiovisual-domestica

English translation:

The 4th edition of MajorDocs claims calm and pause in domestic audiovisual creation

From October 4 to 8, 8 films from around the world will be screened, and professional conferences will be organized, such as the master class of the Venezuelan Goya nominee Andrés Duque

‘Film about a father who’ is an autobiographical documentary by American filmmaker Lynne Sachs . The experimental filmmaker from Brooklyn spent 35 years recording this film from digital images of her father.

“I’m very happy to have done it, but also very scared every time I have to show it. It is a vulnerable film for me and my father, although it is also a project that has given me many opportunities . I was able to talk to people about their relationship with their parents and what they learned from it, as well as what they don’t want to repeat from their parents,” explained Sachs.

In this way, the fourth edition of MajorDocs has started . In a current situation in which cinema is consumed in haste, the festival claims calm and pause in domestic audiovisual creation .

From October 4 to 8 , 8 films from around the world will be shown; all, from the author’s subjective point of view . Professional conferences are also organized , where the master class offered by the Venezuelan Andrés Duque , nominated for a Goya for the documentary ‘Iván Z’ , stands out.


Spanish original:

La 4a edició del MajorDocs reivindica la calma i la pausa en la creació audiovisual domèstica

Del 4 al 8 d’octubre, es projectaran 8 pel·lícules d’arreu del món, i s’organitzaran jornades professionals, com la classe magistral del veneçolà nominat als Goya Andrés Duque

‘Film about a father who’ is an autobiographical documentary by American filmmaker Lynne Sachs . The experimental filmmaker from Brooklyn spent 35 years recording this film from digital images of her father.

“I’m very happy to have done it, but also very scared every time I have to show it. It is a vulnerable film for me and my father, although it is also a project that has given me many opportunities . I was able to talk to people about their relationship with their parents and what they learned from it, as well as what they don’t want to repeat from their parents,” explained Sachs.

In this way, the fourth edition of MajorDocs has started . In a current situation in which cinema is consumed in haste, the festival claims calm and pause in domestic audiovisual creation .

From October 4 to 8 , 8 films from around the world will be shown; all, from the author’s subjective point of view . Professional conferences are also organized , where the master class offered by the Venezuelan Andrés Duque , nominated for a Goya for the documentary ‘Iván Z’ , stands out .

“Lynne Sachs, ‘godmother’ of MajorDocs, opens the festival” / Diario de Mallorca

“Lynne Sachs, ‘godmother’ of MajorDocs, opens the festival”
Diario de Mallorca
October 3, 2022
https://www.diariodemallorca.es/cultura/2022/10/03/lynne-sachs-madrina-majordocs-inaugura-76735007.html?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=btn-share

English translation:

Lynne Sachs, ‘godmother’ of MajorDocs, opens the festival

This documentary film exhibition kicks off this Tuesday with the screening of ‘Film about a father who’

Palm | 03 10 22 | 17:33 | Updated at 17:34

MajorDocs, the documentary film festival that makes a virtue of slowness, kicks off this Tuesday from the Fundació Sa Nostra and opens the doors to 5 days in which documentary, domestic and archive cinema will be the true protagonist. 5 days to reeducate the gaze and silence the noise, reflect, discover and enjoy other realities and other gazes. 5 days of cinema understood as art, culture and creation, space, reflection and dialogue. 

Lynne Sachs, filmmaker, poet and artist based in New York, will be in charge of opening the festival from 6:30 p.m. at Fundació Sa Nostra with her latest film Film about a father who. More than a film, it is a portrait filmed between 1984 and 2019 in Super 8, 16 mm, VHS and HD and that Lynne Sachs uses to delve into the controversial figure of her father, Ira Sachs Sr., a complex, playful, selfish man. and charismatic man who led a life full of secrets, children and wives –9 children and 5 wives to be more exact– and who, with his lies and silences, marked the lives of everyone around him. A documentary film that, delving into the figure of a blurred father, tries to understand the bond between a daughter and her father. A well-assembled portrait of a diverse family, their memory and memories. 

After the screening, the musical note will be provided by Joana Gomila and Laia Vallès , two artists who have shaken the world of traditional music with a style that is as personal as it is daring and an expansive and transgressive sound. 

Starting on Wednesday, October 5, CineCiutat will become the venue for the 8 films that will compete in the official section: ‘El silencio del topo’, by the Guatemalan documentary filmmaker and producer Anaïs Taracena; ‘Ardenza’ by Daniela de Felice; ‘A night of knowing nothing’, debut feature by Mumbai-based Indian filmmaker Payal Kapadia; ‘We, students’ by actor, director and sound engineer Rafiki Fariala; ‘Herbaria’ by film director, producer, programmer and projectionist Leandro Listorti; ‘La playa de los Enchaquirados’ by the director born in Guayaquil, Ecuador, Iván Mora Manzano; ‘Rampart’ by Marko Grba, director and writer born in Belgrade; and ‘Aftersun’ by Catalan director Lluís Galter. 

Check the schedule for October 5, times and location: 

Sa Nostra Foundation.

At 10 am, Masterclass by Lynne Sachs: The body, the camera and matter.

At 12 noon, doc-Session given by the filmmakers Anaïs Taracena and Leandro Listorti: Search or find. The language of non-fiction.

CineCiutat.

At 5:30 p.m., ‘We, students’ by Rafiki Fariala. 

At 5:30 p.m., ‘The silence of the mole’ by Anaïs Taracena. 

At 7:30 p.m. ‘Ardenza’ by Daniela de Felice. 

At 7:30 p.m. ‘A night of knowing nothing’ by Payal Kapadia. 

Tickets can be purchased both at www.majorDocs.org and at the CineCiutat box office. 

Admission: €5

Reduced ticket for members of CineCiutat, students and retirees (only at the box office): €3.50

Subscription for 4 screenings (only at the box office): €15


Spanish original:

Lynne Sachs, ‘madrina’ del MajorDocs, inaugura el festival

Esta muestra de cine documental arranca este martes con la proyección de ‘Film about a father who’

Palma | 03·10·22 | 17:33 | Actualizado a las 17:34

MajorDocs, el festival de cine documental que hace de la lentitud una virtud, arranca este martes desde la Fundació Sa Nostra y abre las puertas a 5 días en los que el cine documental, doméstico y de archivo será el auténtico protagonista. 5 días para reeducar la mirada y acallar el ruido, reflexionar, descubrir y disfrutar de otras realidades y otras miradas. 5 días de cine entendido como arte, cultura y creación, espacio, reflexión y diálogo. 

Lynne Sachs, cineasta, poeta y artista afincada en Nueva York, será la encargada de inaugurar el festival a partir de las 18.30h en Fundació Sa Nostra con su última película Film about a father who. Más que una película, es un retrato filmado entre 1984 y 2019 en Súper 8, 16 mm, VHS y HD y que Lynne Sachs utiliza para adentrarse en la controvertida figura de su padre, Ira Sachs Sr., un hombre complejo, vividor, egoísta y carismático que llevó una vida repleta de secretos, hijos y mujeres –9 hijos y 5 mujeres para ser más exactos– y que, con sus mentiras y silencios, marcó la vida de todo el que le rodeaba. Una película documental que, buceando en la figura de un padre desdibujado, trata de entender el vínculo entre una hija y su padre. Un retrato bien ensamblado sobre una familia diversa, su memoria y sus recuerdos. 

Tras la proyección, la nota musical la pondrán Joana Gomila y Laia Vallès, dos artistas que han sacudido el mundo de la música tradicional con un estilo tan personal como atrevido y un sonido expansivo y transgresor. 

A partir del miércoles 5 de octubre, CineCiutat se convertirá en la sede de las 8 películas que competirán en la sección oficial: ‘El silencio del topo’, de la cineasta documental y productora guatemalteca Anaïs Taracena; ‘Ardenza’ de Daniela de Felice; ‘A night of knowing nothing’, ópera prima de la cineasta India establecida en Mumbai Payal Kapadia; ‘We, students’ del actor, director e ingeniero de sonido Rafiki Fariala; ‘Herbaria’ del director de cine, productor, programador y proyeccionista Leandro Listorti; ‘La playa de los Enchaquirados’ del director nacido en Guayaquil, Ecuador, Iván Mora Manzano; ‘Rampart’ de Marko Grba, director y escritor nacido en Belgrado; y ‘Aftersun’ del director catalán Lluís Galter. 

Consulta la programación del 5 de octubre, los horarios y la localización: 

Fundació Sa Nostra.

A las 10h, Masterclass de Lynne Sachs: El cuerpo, la cámara y la materia.

A las 12h, doc-Session impartida por los cineastas Anaïs Taracena y Leandro Listorti: Búsqueda o hallazgo. El lenguaje de la no-ficción.

CineCiutat.

A las 17:30h, ‘We, students’ de Rafiki Fariala. 

A las 17:30h, ‘El silencio del topo’ de Anaïs Taracena. 

A las 19.30h ‘Ardenza’ de Daniela de Felice. 

A las 19:30h ‘A night of knowing nothing’ de Payal Kapadia. 

Las entradas se pueden comprar tanto en www.majorDocs.org como en la taquilla de CineCiutat. 

Entrada: 5 €

Entrada reducida para miembros de CineCiutat, estudiantes y jubilados (sólo en taquilla): 3,50€

Abono para 4 proyecciones (sólo en taquilla): 15€

Lynne Sachs & ‘Film About A Father Who’ at MajorDocs

Film About A Father Who & Lynne Sachs Masterclass at MajorDocs
MajorDocs
September 1, 2022
Festival dates: October 4-8, 2022
https://majordocs.org/festival/

PHILOSOPHY

THE FIRST SLOW FILM FESTIVAL

MajorDocs is the international creative documentary film festival in Mallorca; a space to discover other realities and other perspectives through carefully selected creative documentaries.

In a time defined by the sheer excess of content, MajorDocs proposes a slow experience: a journey through eight films, each with a deep author’s gaze, that encourage us to stop, step away from our daily lives and connect with not just the other, but also with our own sensibility.

Five days to reflect, ask and discuss each film with its author in an intimate and close setting, without lecterns or pedestals. Each screening will be a unique event without counterprogramming since it is our goal to take care of each film and each author.

During the festival, renowned filmmakers and new talents will share their experiences with the public. An event that will stimulate the critical eye through screenings and talks, as well as workshops and discussions on documentary cinema.

An unmissable date for anyone who enjoys looking without limits, discovering the unknown and stirring their heart.

MANIFESTO

MajorDocs goes out and looks for a creative documentary…

  1. Hybrid, innovative, transgressive, adventurous.
  2. Able to transcend the present and keep questioning ourselves in the future.
  3. Useless – in which art prevails over functionality.
  4. That digs deeply into the ins and outs of a complex world without staying on the surface.
  5. That leaves a mark on the audience and is able to short-circuit the passive spectator.
  6. In which the author’s gaze prevails over the facts.
  7. Able to transcend, if the film demands for it, the limits of the classic narrative.

FILM ABOUT A FATHER WHO
https://majordocs.org/ca/event/film-about-a-father-who/

Synopsis

Over a period of 35 years, filmmaker Lynne Sachs shot 8 and 16mm film, videotape and digital images of her father, Ira Sachs Sr., a bon vivant, seductive, extravagant and pioneering businessman. Film About a Father Who is her attempt to understand the web that connects a child to her parent and her siblings.

With the presence of the director.


MASTERCLASS: THE BODY, THE CAMERA, AND THE MATERIAL
https://majordocs.org/majordocs-pro/

October 5, 2022 / 10:00 – 11:30
Fundació Sa Nostra

Lynne Sachs will explore the intricate relationship between personal observations and broader historical experiences. Using examples from the essay films, experimental documentaries, and performances she has produced over the last three decades, she will guide her workshop participants on a journey investigating the connection between the body, the camera, and the materiality of film itself.

* Session in English.

Lynne Sachs (Memphis, Tennessee, 1961) is a filmmaker and poet living in Brooklyn, New York. Her work explores the intricate relationship between personal observations and broader historical experiences by weaving together text, collage, painting, politics and layered sound design. Strongly committed to a feminist dialogue between cinematic theory and practice, she searches for a rigorous play between image and sound, pushing the visual and aural textures in her work with every new project. Her moving image work ranges from short experimental films, to essay films to hybrid live performances. Lynne has made 37 films, including features and shorts, which have screened, won awards or been included in retrospectives at New York Film Festival, Museum of Modern Art, Sundance, Oberhausen, Viennale, Sheffield Doc/Fest, BAFICI, RIDM Montréal, Vancouver Film Festival, Doclisboa, Havana IFF, and China Women’s Film Festival. In 2014, she received the Guggenheim Fellowship in the Creative Arts.


JURY & AWARD WINNERS

Jury
Andrés Duque, Ainhoa Andraka, and Lynne Sachs

Award winners

Ela Bittencourt’s Essay on “Film About a Father Who”


Essay on Cinema Guild’s DVD & Bluray monograph insert for Film About a Father Who directed by Lynne Sachs

Information on the DVD & Bluray here.

“He knows he will live in me
after he is dead, I will carry him like a mother.
I do not know if I will ever deliver.”

Sharon Olds, from the book of poems, The Father

There are so many possible entry points into Lynne Sachs’s A Film About a Father Who, an incredibly poignant and astute film sonnet on the director’s father, Ira Nathan Sachs, that over my repeated viewings I’ve begun to think of the film as a kind of quilt. Each of its patches unique and carefully hand-stitched into the fabric of its mosaic parts. Or perhaps a wondrous maze that a viewer winds her way through, and out, by pulling a delicate Ariadne’s thread. 

I think it’s apt that the Greek mythology should have sprung to my mind. Aren’t all families somehow mythic, especially the troubled ones? The patriarch of the Sachs clan is certainly very Sphinx-like: an object, at once, of boundless adoration and love, but also a slippery man of mystery whose acts arouse genuine puzzlement in all his children. A god whose many faces are like a visage of a broken statue — bits that can never be whole again, but only awkwardly pieced, with glue, disjointed surfaces showing through, sharp edges painful to the touch. 

In the film’s first introductory clip, the scionSachs, Sr. appears with his characteristic wisps of blond hair clinging to his skull, his bushy moustache, and somewhat restless and piercing blue eyes. He’s a “hippie businessman,” who “works as little as possible,” and “bottles water he can never stock.” In one shot, he stands framed by a mountainous vista (it turns out that Sachs developed hotels in Park City, Utah, where the Sundance Film Festival is held). The father speaks of his love for skiing, where you “go up slow and come down fast.” A comment that Sachs comments on in her own presciently clipped way: “To own a mountain from which there is nothing you can do but come down.”

I was struck by how this sentence is a gorgeous metaphor for pretty much how we relate to our parents — the most primordial love, which turns them into heroic, mythical, statue-like beings, mountain slopes from which, indeed, they can only come down. And how much of growing into adulthood is about the sudden vertigo of having to rewind, recalibrate our memories of the familial bind, from the times when we were still too innocent, too small, to have truly understood it. If we love them enough, we catch them coming down. We are mindful to pick up the pieces, glimpsing in their downfall from immortal heights the first sightings of our own fragility.

A Film About a Father Who is then an origin story, but one that’s never smug about its certainties, and always self-doubtful of how “it all” began. Sachs opens the film with a scene in which she’s cutting her elderly father’s hair, a moment so low-key yet so potent, because it is non-verbal. Everything else in the film – the tale of how the father managed to lie and cheat for so many years, how he hid his multiple affairs and his many children by different women from each other, for decades – all this will need to be explained. But the hair-cutting, with Sachs holding the scissors, untangling the knots, so that to snip them, lives outside language, time, it is an act of generosity and love, through which a small portion of  care may me given back. Then there’s the scissors, which once again circle back to the metaphor of quilting, cutting things to pieces, and stitching them together — film editing itself like quilting, the kind of hands-on experimental cinema that Sachs practices, in particular, like the intricate, patient, artisanal task. 

Sachs begins her story with the immediate family nucleus, her father, mother and her siblings, Dana and the filmmaker Ira Sachs. In this first central patch, there is still a certain sense of cohesion, as if the rest of the film could shoulder the illusion of producing a unified body of work; as if the process of delving into the past could heal, through rendering the small patches whole. Nothing like this occurs, it turns out. The more there is to discover, the more women and children enter the picture, the more quilt-like the film’s overall composition becomes. It demands to be seen as unruly, with each person, each story and heartache, finding its own proper place.

Among the father’s lovers are Diana, whose faint voice betrays terrible shyness, both on the subject’s part, but perhaps also the filmmaker’s. The inherent question of how to probe without hurting, how to make space for learning and empathy, but also establish a critical distance, is always keenly felt. Over the course of the film, this empathetic investigation becomes emboldened — either reflecting the director’s natural progression, or perhaps a mere artifact of thoughtful, painstaking editing, through which each woman’s testimony enriches the others. With Diana, for example, Sachs plants the idea of “companionship,” which apparently Sachs’s father used to seduce the young immigrant, Diana. And yet, Diana’s profile, cast against a dim window, is so lonely, so desolate, the word gains a heartbreaking, bitterly ironic twang. 

If, as Tolstoy believed, all happy families are alike, but the unhappy ones suffer in distinct ways, Sachs’s film is indeed an epic that embodies a Tolstoian ethos. “I’ve been making this film about my father for twenty-six years now,” Sachs says at one point. In another she adds, “Can I make myself forget that for the first twenty years of my sister’s life I didn’t know of her existence?” 

It’s a challenge to tell a story of such breadth without giving in to the tyranny of summary. But Sachs is never guilty of it, perhaps because, from the start, she strikes a patient but also an ironic tone. She holds out each cesura and is never rushed. Her carefully planted voiceovers, which echo, like refrains, emphasize dissonance, slippage, and paradox—as if to borrow Emily Dickinson’s motto, “Tell the truth, but tell it slant.” It’s a particularly poignant approach to a subject who is himself quite unable to offer this level of complete honesty, or transparency. We might have grown frustrated with such a subject, as too illusive, too coy, and yet, when centered in and filtered through Sachs’s voice, her father’s slipperiness becomes part of the game, a psychological, moral, philosophical quest for a glimmer of comprehension, and solace.

Again and again, this filmic richness emerges, where the previous parts of the film serve as a commentary on what comes next. Take the early family videos, for example. There is so much light, the children bouncing about, the colors overexposed, pushed, which on one hand reminds us of the fragility of earlier technologies, but on the other, doesn’t let us forget that family videos are a particular brand of narrative—or, one might say, fantasy. One makes a family. One constructs a memory. The film contains these small patches of idealized moments, frozen in time, it holds them in, like quilted patches, but it can also reveal them as such. 

What’s brilliant about A Film About a Father Who is that this commentary on the past, on the nature of memory, on storytelling, on love, so often arises directly through its own filmic material. For example, the first dialogue with the mother is framed by a window with a bright light behind it, and it too seems part of the established idealized childhood space. As if the previous Impressionist brushes of light and movement, it too seems to point to brighter times. But when the dialogue continues, with some footage in the kitchen, a subtle change can be felt: It’s as if in a Rorschach test, what first seemed like light, now is the reverse, the shadow, the impermeability that beams into the kitchen, whereas the light is shut out, outside.

Thus the film builds and sustains its own cognitive dissonance. Sometimes, Sachs’s commentary seems to almost spill over, frame to frame, like a river, sometimes lyrical, sometimes critical, on her father’s behavior—while the image occasionally stops, holds almost still, desperately focusing the lens, surrendering to a blur. Somewhere in this tension, there’s language that fails, phrases like “a hippie businessman,” which try to establish just what the father is, how he might be summed up, then slowly letting go of substantive terms, and allowing adjectives, “caring,” “selfish,” “careless,” “loving” to cast their spell. If there’s a vertigo in these descriptions, it’s once again because the Sphinx-like puzzle isn’t meant to be solved. The film presents no solution; it can only ask, but this asking is also somehow enough. It is the necessary work. 

The extended family grows, and so do group meetings, to include the younger generations. Some of the father’s children are born roughly around the same time as Sachs’s own daughter, Maya. In one scene, the young woman, Beth, expresses anger at having been cast out, and grown up in a harsh financial situation. Yet another mentions that she felt like the family’s powerful matriarch, Grandmother “Maw-Maw,” was going to disinherit her son, if more children surfaced, and so her existence was hidden. Earlier hesitations or questions are recast in a more discerning light. The careful trudging around fraught issues give in to Sachs’s direct question to her father about the lies. And if there is no immediate healing within the film’s constructed timeframe, there is a gesture and a reconciliation in a therapeutic exchange, in which each person voices her own hurt.

“Daughter, sister, mother, I cleave from one to another,” Sachs comments in the voiceover, heeding the lexical and experiential complexity of her many roles. And so the film never settles. It presents no center from which to control, contain, or judge. Instead, like Ariadne’s thread, it tugs, pulls, apart, anew, and so we’re guided the maze, enlightened, by the strings of love.



About Ela Bittencourt
Ela Bittencourt is a critic and cultural journalist, currently based in São Paulo. She writes on art, film and literature, often in the context of social issues and politics.

“A Hard Act to Follow” / An Essay by Lynne Sachs


A Hard Act to Follow:  A Daughter’s Cinematic Reckoning with Her Father
By Lynne Sachs
With editing advice by Alexandra Hidalgo
July 8, 2022

I’ve been making experimental documentary films since the late 1980s, beginning with Sermons and Sacred Pictures (1989) all the way through to Film About a Father Who (2020)—a total of 37 films, ranging in time from 90 seconds to 83 minutes. Over the years, I have made non-fiction and hybrid works that continue to shift my point of view from shooting from the outside in, to shooting from the inside out. That is to say, I make a few films that allow me to “open the window” on a person, group of people or place that I know little about in order to develop a deeper understanding or answer a gnawing question through my filmmaking. Then, I turn the camera back on myself and my immediate surroundings to produce more personal, introspective films. This back and forth positioning is a critical pivot that is fundamental to my own commitment to working with reality. I can only ask the people who allow me to witness all the vulnerable manifestations of their lives to enter my filmic cosmos if I too have gone to a similarly exposed place myself. 

Still from” Film About a Father Who”.
Lynne Sachs learning to swim, 1965. Photo by Ira Sachs.

Film About a Father Who is my cinematic reckoning with my father Ira Sachs, a bohemian entrepreneur living in the mountains of Utah. In making this film, I forced myself to follow this sometimes daunting edict. Together shooting my images and writing my narration made me come to terms with what I had always concealed and what I needed to reveal. In order to bring the film to life for you, my readers, I have added what I uttered in the film’s narration whenever it blends in a generative fashion with what I’m discussing.  

Every Thursday was Bob Dylan day. Dad didn’t care about the lyrics or the harmony, only the melody. He was a hippy businessman, buying land so steep you couldn’t build, bottling mineral water he couldn’t put on the shelves, using other people’s money to develop hotels named for flowers.  He worked from a shoe box, and as little as possible. 

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Still from” Film About a Father Who”.
Lynne Sachs with her father, sister Dana and brother Ira, Jr. in Memphis, 1965. Photo by Diane Sachs.

Born in 1936 in Memphis, Tennessee, my father has always chosen the alternative path in life, a path that has brought unpredictable adventures, multiple children with multiple women, brushes with the police and a life-long interest in trying to do some good in the world.

He did not define himself by his work, but rather what he did the rest of the time, like drifting down a mountain or devouring the news and doing what you do to make children, who happen to become adults.

To own a mountain from which there is nothing you can do but come down, nowhere to build. What happens when you own a horizon?

Shooting from the Inside Out

My film takes a look at the complex dynamics that conspire to create a family.  There is nothing really nuclear about all of us, we are a solar system composed of nine planets revolving around a single sun, a sun that nourishes, a sun that burns, a sun that each of us knows is good and bad for us. We accept and celebrate, somehow, the consequences. In 1991, when I was thirty years old, I decided that the best way for me to come to terms with my relationship with my father would be to witness his life, to record my interactions with him and his interactions with the rest of my family and perhaps the world.

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Still from” Film About a Father Who”.
Ira Sachs with daughters Lynne and Annabelle Sachs in San Francisco, 1991.

I’ve never quite known where the “inside’ is with my father.  Over the decades, I’ve organized many recorded interviews—a time, a place, and a structure so that he would feel it was the right moment to tell me where he lives when he is alone—driving in his car, looking out from his living-room window at the Wasatch range, listening to the quiet of an evening snowstorm.  My father speaks more intimately of the trees and the steep slopes that reach up around him than he does of his closest human companions.  He swears to me that he does not dream, so in “real life” he conjured his own fantastical situations.

Dad had twin Cadillac convertibles.  He didn’t want his mother to know he was so extravagant, so he painted them both red. He could pull up in either one and she would never know the difference.  For a long time, neither did I.

The first time I saw both cars parked together, I was shocked that he had two. It was his secret, but now I was also keeping it.

He had his own language and we were expected to speak it. I loved him so much that I agreed to his syntax, his set of rules.

Rather than admit his propensity for buying one new toy after another, my father did whatever he felt like doing and assumed we, his children, would be there to support him.  We were good kids, so we participated knowingly in all the shenanigans that made his world spin the way he wanted it to spin.

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Still from” Film About a Father Who”.
Ira Sachs in Oakland, California, 1991. Photo by Lynne Sachs.

Never in all the years of making this film did my father find an ease with speaking about or even acknowledging his convulsive, peripatetic childhood.  That past is a country he left behind. For most of my adult life, I’ve been familiar with the obvious facts and people—his mother, high school, jobs, children—but I honestly could not figure out how these scattered events came together to become my father.  The mature, rational “me” whispered: “You don’t have the right or the need to put all of the pieces together.  Let him stand on the present. The details of his past are not critical to your life.” Each and every time that I flew from my home in Brooklyn, New York to his home in Park City, Utah, or that he visited me, I filmed.  As a result, I had hours and hours of material on 8mm and 16mm film, video, and digital that I needed to climb my way through.

How the Camera Witnesses our Changing Bodies

Still, I was scared to do this.  What would I find? How could I crack his, and thus our, finely constructed amnesia? Watching our old movies during the editing process, I sometimes missed the people we were, or caught a glimpse of a man I pretended to know, but somehow didn’t.  There is something so apt about the expression “Hindsight is 20/20.” The more I forged my way forward in time, the more I learned about my father’s compartmentalized life, Slowly, I began to realize that what I needed to articulate were the fissures, the images that I would never be able to capture because he was performing a complicated life on so many stages at once, and I was only privy to a few of them.

While my “subject” was growing older, his skin taking on new wrinkles and folds, much of the technology I was using to record our lives would change completely every few years. Over the course of my three-decade “production” period, I shot 16 mm film, using the same Bolex camera I purchased in 1987 for $400. But, I also relied upon an evolving array of video tape and digital formats. Indeed, Film about a Father Who includes an archeological palimpsest of 20th and 21st Century technologies, including: VHS camcorders; Nagra 1⁄4” audio tape records; HI-8; mini-DV; Digital Single Lens Reflex and Osmo cameras; Zoom digital recorders; and, cell phones.   

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Still from” Film About a Father Who”.
Lynne Sachs on road trip across the country, 1989.  Photo by Lynne Sachs.

My camera witnessed. My microphone recorded. No matter which apparatus I held, I always knew that nothing was really what it seemed.

When I was 24, I took a trip with Dad and my sister Dana to Bali, where he had invested in a small hotel. This was supposed to be the first time when would have his complete attention. One afternoon, Dad took us on a drive. Like so many times during our childhood, we had no idea where we were going or why. We arrived at the airport and from the car window we saw a very young woman, a girl, walk out of the terminal.  We were so hurt, so infuriated that we immediately got on a bus and went to the other side of the island, only returning in time for our flight home. As it turned out, she was not just another weekend date whose name we would never even learn. This was Diana [my father’s very young girlfriend who eventually became his second wife]. It took me six years to seek out her perspective.

Making this film forced me to come to terms with those images that gave me aesthetic pleasure and those images that I called “ugly” but somehow conveyed a new level of meaning.  At the beginning of my logging process, I dismissed much of the of the older tapes, particularly the ones that my father had shot on his consumer grade VHS camera. They were too sloppy or degraded by time and the elements, be they hot or cold. Later, with my editor Rebecca Shapass at my side, we revisited this material and realized that these off-the-cuff images offered us a critical opportunity to see the world through my father’s eyes.  If Dad was not going to reveal his understanding of the world via a more typical documentary-style interview, I would have to rely on this material to understand his point of view.  With the Bali footage, for example, you can hear slivers of conversation between my dad and me shot at night as he happened to be staring up at the moon.  When you listen carefully to our words, you pick up the aural texture of our relationship in a way that more image-centered material would not reveal.  This discovery actually pushed me to go back to all of my outtakes, to scavenge amongst the disregarded NG (no-good) bins in search of the unfiltered sounds from my past. I could hear raw kindnesses, assertive admonitions, and subtle avoidance that were, in a sense, more natural and certainly more haunting.

I was born in the 1960s as were my sister Dana and my brother Ira. By the time I was 10 years old, my parents were divorced. In 1985, my father began what I’ll call a series of other family scenarios, with a new wife, and lots of girlfriends—both simultaneously and consecutively. There was no point in trying to keep count and initially I had no documentation of these other lives my father was leading.  By 1995, I had four new siblings; and by 2015, we became aware that there were two more secret sisters. I was already in the thick of making Film About a Father Who (I even had the title), but I had to find a way to shape my narrative to allow for all of these new, significant people.

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Still from” Film About a Father Who”.
Ira Sachs, Sr. with girl friends in Park City, Utah, 2005.  Photo by Ira Sachs, Jr.

Pushing Myself to See Beyond the Surface

I decided to seek out each of my siblings (beginning with my sister Dana born in 1962 and ending with my youngest sister Madison, born in 1995) and three of six of their mothers (including my own), knowing that the only way I could construct a group portrait of our father would be to include my five sisters and three brothers. From the beginning, I was inspired by German author Heinrich Boll’s 1971 polyvocal novel Group Portrait with Lady, in which a narrator interviews 60 people in order to better understand one woman.  With a nod to Picasso’s Cubist renderings of a face, my exploration of my father embraced 12 simultaneous, sometimes contradictory, views of one seemingly unknowable man who is publicly the uninhibited center of the frame yet privately ensconced in secrets. I hoped that my film could ultimately see beyond the surface, beyond the persona our father had constructed, his projected reality.

In the fall of 2017, I hired two professional camera people and a sound recordist to join me on the day before Thanksgiving at my brother Ira’s apartment in New York City for the first-ever gathering of all my siblings. While everything else in the film had been shot by someone in the family, I hoped that this formal “set up” would produce an anchor for the narrative, an opportunity for all of us to get to know each other better and to reveal our feelings about our father and his evolving family. We shot for four hours, and the experience was, for the most part, cathartic. But, as I looked through the footage with my editor, I noticed that everyone was extremely aware of how I, in particular, responded to their words. Even a quiet sigh or a subtle raising of an eyebrow seemed to indicate to them what I was thinking. This, I believe, is a common scenario in documentary filmmaking, one that mirrors the dramatic paradigm in which actors look to directors for an affirmation that they have done a good job. It took me a year to accept that this singular, more contrived, scene was significant in terms of who was there in the same room, but did not take the film to the place I needed it to go.

Still from” Film About a Father Who”.
Lynne Sachs in conversation with newly discovered sister Julia Sachs, 2018.  
Photo by Rebecca Shapass.

And so, throughout the following year, I either flew my siblings to Brooklyn or went to meet them where they lived. In almost every case, I convinced my sisters and brothers to go into a completely darkened space with me. We often sat in closets. It was weird and very intimate. As I recorded their voices, resonating through my headphones, I knew I was listening to them in a deeper way than I had ever done before. There in the dark, they each accessed something new about our father that they had never articulated before.

We’re pretty candid about who Dad is and we’ve seen him through a lot, but we’re also able to shift what we might recognize as who he really is to what we want him to be. 

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Still from” Film About a Father Who”.
Ira Sachs, 2018. Photo by Rebecca Shapass.

My father’s life was clearly going to be a “hard act to follow.”  Yes, I had felt empowered to shoot with him for this protracted period of time, but every time I sat down to look at my footage something would get in my way.  I would tell myself that all the material was so poorly shot there just wasn’t enough to make a movie.  Or I was too busy teaching, or taking care of my children, or anything else that came to my mind.  Ultimately, what I think stopped me each time was fear of the story I wanted to tell. Finally, I as a daughter and a filmmaker, I realized that I needed to work with a person who could help me muddle through half a century of material. Never in my entire career as a filmmaker have I hired a professional editor to work with me on a film.  Instead, I either cut my movie myself or invite former students (or students of former students) to join me on this post-production phase of a project.  In 2017, I invited Rebecca Shapass, a marvelous undergraduate student from a class on avant-garde film, to work with me as my studio assistant.  At the time, Rebecca was 22 years old, exactly the same age as I had been when I started shooting my “Dad Film” (as my family referred to it).  Within just a few months, I realized Rebecca was the perfect person to collaborate on my project.  Her profound empathy, her patience, and her sophisticated aesthetic sensibility made for the perfect combination of qualities I needed in an editor who could help me log, transcribe and shape all of my material.

Finding My Voice

Still, one of the biggest and most intimidating aspects of making this film would be finding a way to translate my own interior thoughts—be they loving, rage-filled, compassionate or simply contradictory—about our father into a convincing, not too self-conscious, voiceover narration.

As we moved from being girls to women, my sister and I shared a rage we never knew how to name.

From the very beginning, I knew that Film About a Father Who would be an essay film that would include my own writing. One of the reasons the film took so long to make was that every time I sat down to put a pen to paper, I became intimidated by the process. I felt embarrassed by my anger, apologetic about my embarrassment, and frustrated by my awkward inability to accept the whole range of emotions I wanted to express. I also had no idea how to shape my newly discovered periods of bliss and confidence that I had found with my father, especially since I had given birth to my own daughters and was more insightful about the challenges of being a parent.

In January 2019, I had a three-week artist residency at Yaddo in Saratoga Springs, New York. In my application, I explained that I had been working on one personal essay film, dare I say it, for most of my life, but that I needed a quiet, somewhat isolated place to write down my thoughts. I guess Yaddo thought it was a worthy endeavor, as they invited me to join about 12 other artists during that time. Lucky for me, I suppose, this was a particularly icy period in Upstate New York; taking long walks in the woods, as I had expected to do each day, was so risky that it was prohibited. I had no excuse but to write. For the first few days of the residency, I diligently placed my notebook on my empty desk, opened it to the first available page, pulled out my lovely fountain pen (which I hoped would inspire eloquence) and eventually wrote down a few words. Next, I read the words—usually around 20 at most—over and over again. Then, I would scratch them out and start again. At least, I thought to myself, I am not using a computer where the delete button beckons, seduces, and devours. There were still traces of dwindling assertions and quotidian doubts.

After a few days of anguished horror vacui, I realized that this conventional, familiar way of writing was never going to work, at least for this film. As if like a flash of light, or a jolt of electricity, it dawned on me that I had other tools available that might help me to generate the words for which I was so desperately looking. At around 4:30 p.m., just as my dwelling in the woods was starting to get dark, I unpacked my Zoom audio recorder, put on my headphones, closed all the doors to remind myself that I had absolute privacy, plopped myself on my bed with a bunch of pillows, and began to speak into the microphone. At first, it felt awkward and humiliating, so there in the dark I decided to make myself feel even more alone. I closed my eyes and let go. I am a person who is, more often than not, consistently self-aware and polite. I say what I mean, but I sometimes cover up how I really feel with an acute attention to grammar and kindness. Now, in this funky isolation, this makeshift recording studio, this anything-goes-at-last sensation of solitude, I let loose and the words poured out. Over a period of 10 days, I recorded hours of material—oral histories, in a sense—that were generated by me as daughter, artist, and director. To my surprise, I was actually able to apply the newly discovered “in the dark” approach to recording with my siblings to the way that I listened to my own thoughts.

When I began transcribing the words I had spoken, I found the task both painful and laborious. Speaking these candid words pushed me to my limit, into another zone of introspection. Then it occurred to me that in this high-tech, service-oriented world in which we all live, I could solve this problem quite easily. I sent my audio files to a transcription service and within 36 hours a typed document file of an inchoate narration arrived in my email inbox. I spent the second half of my residency reading and editing my own words, almost as if they had been created by someone else. There, before me, almost magically, but then again not, was the skeleton for my film, the narration.

I actually believe that my enthusiasm for recording in the dark is an outgrowth of the current image-crazy culture in which we live. Each of us, in our own way, attempts to cultivate and control the various forms of media that feign to mirror who we are. By turning out the lights, we can begin to go beyond and below the epidermal, eventually connecting with and releasing our inner thoughts.

Unlike the rest of the world, one of the qualities that most intrigues me about my father is his total disregard for how he looks on camera.  Throughout our shooting together over many years, he never thought one way or another about what he was wearing, whether or not his hair was brushed, or who was in the frame with him.  At first this aspect of his personality convinced me that he was going to be an easy subject of documentary study.  Only later did I realize that in order to “get into his head” I needed to see the world from his point of view.

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Still from” Film About a Father Who”.
Ira Sachs photographing family in Park City, 1991. Photo by Lynne Sachs

Seeing the World Through My Father’s Eyes

In the late ‘80’s and ‘90s, Dad carried a video camera around with him all of the time. After about a year editing together in my studio, Rebecca and I realized that we needed to take a closer look at these images to get into my dad’s head in a deeper way.  With this frame of reference in mind, we found two pivotal images that ultimately became key visual metaphors for the entire film.  The first image, which appears very early in the film and then continues later in two other places, is of three of my younger siblings playing in a stream bed on the side of a mountain property my father had recently purchased. It appears that the shot was produced with a tripod, as it is perfectly steady for the entire seven minutes.  For me, it is sublime. I do not exaggerate.  No doubt accidently, my father photographed what art historians would call the golden triangle of classical painting.  As my two half-brothers and one half-sister play and pretend to carefully move a garden hose across some rocks, I can hear my father speaking to them with affection and cautious scolding.  Even at a distance of about twenty feet, you can feel the parental intimacy, the children’s simultaneous desire to please and do exactly what they want.  As if worn and tattered by the thirty years this tape spent on a shelf in my father’s garage, the footage has been reduced to three pastel colors.  Now a mother myself, I can see how this image captures all of the love a parent can express for their children, here it is contained by the film frame and the raw aura of the setting.

Still from” Film About a Father Who”.
Quarry explosion outside Park City, Utah, circa 1990.  Photo by Ira Sachs, Sr.

In one other initially disregarded image, I found the essence of my father’s relationship to the natural landscape he both loves and yearns to control, even, dare I say it, exploit. This is short shot during which you watch the top of a mountain above a limestone quarry in the moments just before explosives are used to blow up the ground.  You can hear my father in all of his excitement counting down the seconds before the highly anticipated event.  In the same voice that another person might prepare for the lighting of candles on a child’s birthday cake, my father gathers his gaggle together to watch the transformation of a mountain side into sellable commodity.  For me, the duality of the visual moment encapsulates so much of what makes my father the adventurous appreciator of all things natural and the clever business man who was always looking for something that might generate some cash.

To explain every ambiguous situation would be to dissolve the cadence of our rhythms. No balance, no scale, no grid, no convention, no standard aspect ratio, no birthplace, no years, no milestones. This is not a portrait. This is not a self-portrait. This is my reckoning with the conundrum of our asymmetry. A story both protracted and compressed. A story I share with my sisters and brothers, all nine of us.  My father’s story…. Or at least part it.

Through an accumulation of facts coming together over time, I discovered more about my father than I had ever hoped to reveal. From this perspective, Film About a Father Who captures my naïveté transformed into awareness, my rage transformed into forgiveness. But, there is also another vantage point I can now better understand. As the mother of two adult daughters, I can see the way that my actions have left an imprint on their psyches, their sense of self and self-worth.  I am steadfast in my own commitment to engaging with them in full transparency, admitting my mistakes, and taking them along for the long ride ahead. It may not have been by his example, but I did learn through my relationship with my father how important it is for a child to be brought into their parents’ lives as fully as possible.