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Lynne Sachs Focus at Sheffield Doc/ Fest

June 1 2020
Announcing 2020 filmmakers’ spotlights and our retrospective

Today Sheffield Doc/Fest begins its festival with the international premiere of my feature Film About a Father Who along with a “spotlight” on six of my films.
“Two filmmakers have inspired a special focus: Simplice Ganou and Lynne Sachs” From very different regions of the globe (Burkina Faso and USA), with very different ways of filming and telling stories, both are filmmakers obsessed with the possibility of encountering the other, of building bonds with other humans through their camera, and translating that into cinematic beauty.”

“Drawing on her vast body of works from the past 30 years, we will present a curated selection of films by Lynne Sachs, focusing on the notion of translation as a practice of encountering others and reshaping and reinterpreting filmic language. This focus will be part of the online Ghosts & Apparitions film strand.”

Simplice Ganou, Sarah Maldoror, and Lynne Sachs

In the lead up to revealing our full official selection for 2020 on 8 June, we would like to announce:

  • the theme of our annual retrospective: Reimagining the Land, curated by Christopher Small.
  • and three special focuses: 
    • a screening in tribute to the late French West Indies film pioneer Sarah Maldoror;
    • a focus on American artist Lynne Sachs; 
    • a focus on Burkina Faso filmmaker Simplice Ganou.

Focus on Lynne Sachs

Lynne Sachs headshot
(Image: Lynne Sachs)

Drawing on her vast body of works from the past 30 years, we will present a curated selection of films by Lynne Sachs, focusing on the notion of translation as a practice of encountering others and reshaping and reinterpreting filmic language. This focus will be part of the online Ghosts & Apparitions film strand.

Five Lynne Sachs films ranging from 1994 – 2018 – mostly involving creative collaboration with others – will feature as part of our online programme from 10 June.

Her latest film, Film About a Father Who, offers a complex portrait of Ira Sachs Sr., a bon vivant and pioneering businessman from Park City, shot over a period of 35 years, and will make its International Premiere in Sheffield in October, and following that, online, as part of Into The World Film Strand.

Together with the focus, we will present Sachs’ video lecture My Body, Your Body, Our Bodies: Somatic Cinema at Home and in the World, a fascinating journey through her themes and work.

Lynne Sachs focus, in Ghosts & Apparitions online:
Drawing on her vast body of works from over the past 30 years, we will present a curated selection of films by Lynne Sachs, focusing on the notion of translation as a practice of encountering others and reshaping and reinterpreting filmic language. Tensions arise from the filmmaker’s memories of Vietnam as a tragic place of war in Which Way Is East…; The Last Happy Day is a portrait of a man who translated “Winnie the Pooh” into Latin and reconstructed the remains of American soldiers; Your Day Is My Night tells of places in New York inhabited by immigrant workers and shaped by their lives and stories; the translation of Barbara Hammer’s images and sounds on a deserted landscape become a poem for her deceased friend in A Month of Single Frames. If translation can be considered the job of filmmaking, these works become a poetic and political tool for widening our view of the world and touching on its complexity, rendering it intimate and available for thought. Between them – Theatre, performance, music and an extremely sensitive and tender camera – compose a body of work that becomes more relevant each day.

WHICH WAY IS EAST: NOTEBOOKS FROM VIETNAM
Lynne Sachs (in collaboration with Dana Sachs), USA, 1994, 33 min

“A frog that sits at the bottom of a well thinks that the whole sky is only as big as the lid of a pot.”

Two American sisters travel from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi, followed by their own ghosts and those of local memories. On their way, they meet a country and its richness – strangers, translations, parables and stories, in a complex landscape. History is put into perspective, as each conversation becomes a true encounter: uncountable possible words to translate what we see and what we hear. The Vietnam they knew from TV is only a tiny part of this world to which they now decide to pay attention.

THE LAST HAPPY DAY
Lynne Sachs, USA, 2009, 37 min

A portrait of Sandor (Alexander) Lenard, a Hungarian medical doctor and a distant cousin of Sachs.  In 1938 Lenard, a writer with a Jewish background, fled the Nazis to Rome. Shortly thereafter, the U.S. Army Graves Registration Service hired him to reconstruct the bones of dead American soldiers.  Eventually he found himself in Brazil where he translated “Winnie the Pooh” into Latin, an eccentric task that catapulted him to brief world-wide fame.  Personal letters, abstracted war imagery, home movies, interviews, and a children’s performance create an intimate meditation on the destructive power of war.

YOUR DAY IS MY NIGHT
Lynne Sachs, USA, 2013, 64 min

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. A “shift-bed” is an actual bed that is shared by people who are neither in the same family nor in a relationship. 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. As the bed transforms into a stage, the film reveals the collective history of Chinese immigrants in the USA, a story not often documented.

THE WASHING SOCIETY
Lynne Sachs and Lizzie Olesker, USA, 2018, 44 min

When you drop off a bag of dirty laundry, who’s doing the washing and folding? The Washing Society brings us into New York City laundromats and the experiences of the people who work there. With a title inspired by the 1881 organization of African-American laundresses, The Washing Society investigates the intersection of history, underpaid work, immigration, and the sheer math of doing laundry. Dirt, skin, lint, stains, money, and time are thematically interwoven into the very fabric of the film, through interviews and observational moments. With original music by sound artist Stephen Vitiello.

A MONTH OF SINGLE FRAMES
Lynne Sachs, made with and for Barbara Hammer, USA, 2019, 14 min

In 1998, filmmaker Barbara Hammer had a one-month artist residency in the C Scape Duneshak which is run by the Provincetown Community Compact in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. While there, she shot 16mm film with her Beaulieu camera, recorded sounds with her cassette recorder and kept a journal. In 2018, Barbara began her own process of dying by revisiting her personal archive. She gave all of her Duneshack images, sounds and writing to filmmaker Lynne Sachs and invited her to make a film with the material.

International Premiere of Lynne Sachs’s latest film, as part of Into The World screenings in October:

Film About a Father Who by Lynne Sachs
(Image: Film About A Father Who by Lynne Sachs, 2020)

FILM ABOUT A FATHER WHO

Lynne Sachs, USA, 2020, 74 min 

International Premiere

Over a period of 35 years, Sachs shot varied footage  of her father, Ira Sachs Sr., a bon vivant and pioneering Utah businessman. This is her attempt to understand the web that connects child to parent and sister to sibling. With a nod to the Cubist renderings of a face, Sachs’ cinematic exploration offers simultaneous, sometimes contradictory, views of one seemingly unknowable man who is publicly the uninhibited center of the frame yet privately ensconced in secrets. Sachs as a daughter discovers more about her father than she had ever hoped to reveal.

https://sheffdocfest.com/articles/840-announcing-2020-filmmakers-spotlights-and-our-retrospective?tag=homepage&fbclid=IwAR3byOZT2ucbjfASllCsBc1PdIK_nhRhJJA6Bzkdg5HfsnAEfdegnO21QtA

Il Manifesto: Lynne Sachs, a dialogue of images to question our certainties

IL MANIFESTO QUOTIDIANO COMUNISTO
by Silvia Nugara
Edizione del 11.06.2020

Video Interview:

Article in Italian:

Cinema. Conversazione con la regista e artista americana, a cui il festival Sheffield/Doc ha dedicato un focus. «Quando il comune di Memphis lanciò un programma di integrazione per studenti, molte famiglie bianche preferirono mandare i figli alle scuole private invece che in quelle nei quartieri neri»

Nativa del Tennessee, laureata in storia alla Brown di New York poi in cinema alla San Francisco State, la cineasta sperimentale Lynne Sachs ha elaborato tecniche e linguaggi personali sin da quando nel 1987 prese in mano la sua prima cinepresa 16mm e si inventò un modo per dividere il fotogramma in quattro parti. Il risultato sono i 4 minuti di Drawn and Quartered: due corpi nudi e il desiderio di filmare una donna (se stessa) oltre le convenzioni del «piacere visivo» maschile. È stata poi allieva e collaboratrice di Bruce Conner, Trinh Minh-ha, Chris Marker e con il marito Mark Street ha nutrito per anni un’amicizia con Barbara Hammer a cui recentemente ha dedicato il corto

A Month of Single Frames (premio a Oberhausen 2020) composto di immagini girate anni prima da Hammer stessa e affidatele per un uso creativo. In questi giorni, lo Sheffield Doc/Fest dedica a Sachs un focus incentrato sulla traduzione «come pratica d’incontro con l’altro e di rielaborazione del linguaggio filmico» che propone online (sheffdocfest.com) cinque opere realizzate tra il 1994 e il 2019 e una videolecture sul suo «cinema somatico». In ottobre sarà poi proiettato l’ultimo lungo Film about a Father Who, ritratto a schegge di un padre larger than life: imprenditore e bohémien, seduttore seriale con sei matrimoni e nove figli (tra cui il regista Ira Jr.).

Nel corso di una videochiamata che la coglie in visita alla sorella Dana in North Carolina, le chiediamo come nasce la sua riflessione filmica sull’alterità: «Sono cresciuta a Memphis dove la metà della popolazione è nera. Avevo quattordici anni quando il comune lanciò un programma di integrazione per favorire lo spostamento degli studenti bianchi verso scuole di quartieri a maggioranza nera e viceversa. Quindi presi il bus per andare alla scuola pubblica dall’altra parte della città mentre, pur di evitarlo, molte famiglie bianche decisero di iscrivere i figli a scuole private.

Per la prima volta mi ritrovai a essere ’minoranza’ e questo mi aprì gli occhi. Anni dopo, tornai a casa per girare Sermons and Sacred Pictures (1989), un documentario sul reverendo e filmmaker afroamericano L.O. Taylor che aveva lasciato ore e ore di audio e 16mm della vita quotidiana nella comunità nera tra gli anni ’30 e ’40. Mi ritrovai ancora una volta ’altra’ rispetto i miei soggetti, cosa quasi paradigmatica nel documentario, ma io volevo capire cosa significhi girare ’dal di dentro’ come Taylor. Quando i suoi soggetti guardavano in camera, vedevano qualcuno che era parte del loro mondo e mi ha fatto molto riflettere sulla posizione e il privilegio di chi filma».

Opere come «The Washing Society» o «Your Day is my Night» rendono visibili le condizioni di vita e il lavoro di soggetti negati dal razzismo senza feticizzare la miseria ma mostrando il modo in cui ciascuno, pur nella difficoltà, ricerca la bellezza: è una decisione estetica e politica?

Io uso le immagini per esprimere tensioni e suscitare il dubbio senza però dire mai cosa penso o cosa sia giusto pensare. Viviamo circondati da immagini seducenti concepite unicamente per il consumo, da usare e poi gettare, l’estetica che m’interessa invece è quella in cui si crea una dialettica o un cortocircuito tra due immagini tale da innescare un processo di rimessa in discussione delle nostre certezze, di presa di coscienza del modo in cui pensiamo o guardiamo. In questo senso effettivamente la mia ricerca estetica è anche politica.

Quanto coinvolgi i soggetti filmati nella scrittura del film? Penso al modo in cui gli abitanti della piccola casa affollata di Chinatown in «Your Day is my Night» raccontano di sé. Avrei tanti aneddoti da raccontare sul modo in cui abbiamo costruito collettivamente quel film! Dico solo questo: convenzionalmente oggi si identifica l’autorialità con chi firma la regia mentre i film sono per lo più l’esito di collaborazioni con i soggetti filmati. Un giorno, dopo aver confabulato, alcuni dei protagonisti mi dissero che il film rischiava di essere molto noioso perché parlava «solo» di loro, non c’era un plot, non c’era azione e così decisi di inserire un elemento di finzione, l’arrivo di una giovane portoricana nella casa comune. Loro poi hanno inventato i dialoghi e le reazioni prima di diffidenza e poi di confidenza che si creano tra i personaggi.

Come nasce l’idea di inserire elementi performativi in alcuni dei tuoi documentari?

C’è chi chiama «ibrido» il mio modo di lavorare ma non so se mi soddisfa. L’elemento performativo per me esplicita a beneficio di chi guarda il fatto che ogni linguaggio è rappresentazione. The Washing Society è stata una performance teatrale allestita in alcune lavanderie prima di essere un film sulle donne che lavorano in quegli esercizi. Your Day is my Night invece è un caso particolare: prima ho registrato una serie di interviste con i soggetti sulla loro migrazione, le case in cui hanno vissuto, i letti in cui hanno dormito. Le interviste sono state tradotte, montate e trasformate in una sceneggiatura e in un copione. Durante le riprese ciò mi ha permesso di concentrarmi meglio sulle immagini, su gesti irripetibili, invece che sulla parola.

In «Which Way Is East: Notebooks from Vietnam» (1994) compi con tua sorella un viaggio in un paese in cui sono ancora visibili le tracce della guerra con gli Stati Uniti. La collisione tra i vostri due sguardi rende l’idea di un paesaggio sospeso tra memoria e oblio.

Quando giravi hai pensato al lavoro di Claude Lanzmann?

Avevo visto Shoah e trovavo potente la scelta di sollecitare un archivio interiore di immagini senza riproporle esplicitamente con il rischio di validarne in un certo senso l’orrore, chissà se oggi tutti possiedono ancora quell’archivio interiore. Ora penso anche a quanto scrisse Susan Sontag sulla rappresentazione del dolore degli altri ma all’epoca non avevo articolato tutta una teoria prima di filmare. Molte cose sono emerse durante il viaggio, per esempio questa differenza tra il mio sguardo e quello di mia sorella. Nel ’92, il Vietnam aveva riaperto da poco le frontiere a noi americani e Dana viveva ad Hanoi, conosceva la lingua, era già capace di guardare avanti, oltre la guerra, mentre io guardavo indietro, vedevo la storia. C’è una scena in cui una stessa buca nel terreno per lei è un laghetto e per me il cratere di una bomba: le immagini del paesaggio non sono mai univoche.

È allora che hai conosciuto Trinh Minh-ha?

Sono stata sua studentessa a San Francisco a metà anni ’80 e poi sua collaboratrice al suono e al montaggio di Surname Viet Given Name Nam (1989) e Shoot for the Contents (1991). È stata la prima a cui ho mostrato il girato prima che diventasse Which Way Is East ma tutta la sua esperienza in Africa occidentale ai tempi di Reassemblage (1982) e le sue riflessioni sull’alterità e sull’essere outsider sono state importanti per me sin da quando preparavo Sermons in un periodo di intenso dibattito sociale sulla politica identitaria. Lei mi ha aiutata a pensare il posizionamento da cui si

operano le scelte di rappresentazione.

«Film about a Father Who» è un ritratto di tuo padre segnato dall’enigma. Il titolo omaggia

«Film about a Woman Who» di Yvonne Rainer ma quell’elisione del verbo è sia uno spazio aperto sia una forma di assenza. Il film fa parte di una serie di ritratti che sto realizzando per capire fino a che punto possiamo conoscere un’altra persona. Odio quando si parla di documentari «che si reggono sul personaggio», non mi interessa fare un ritratto completo di qualcuno, non so se è possibile. È anche di questo che parla il film e in tal senso il verbo mancante apre a molte possibilità: è un film su un padre che…scherza, si comporta male, ha avuto molti figli. Quel che mi interessava però non era riempire un vuoto, trovare delle risposte o scovare segreti ma seguire delle tracce e porre delle domande.
© 2020 IL NUOVO MANIFESTO SOCIETÀ COOP. EDITRICE

Article in English:

Lynne Sachs: Images in Dialogue, Examining our Certainties
By Silvia Nugara, June 11, 2020
Il Manifesto

FILM. A conversation with the American artist and director, currently featured in a retrospective at the Sheffield Doc/Fest. “When the city of Memphis began their student integration program, many white families chose to send their children to private schools instead of schools in black neighborhoods.”

A Tennessee native with a history degree from Brown University and a film degree from San Francisco State, the experimental cinéaste Lynne Sachs has been developing her own personal techniques and expressive languages since 1987, when she picked up her first 16mm video camera and invented a way to divide the frame into four parts. The result was the four-minute Drawn and Quartered: two naked bodies and the desire to film a woman (herself) beyond the usual conventions of the “male gaze.” She then became a pupil and colleague of Bruce Conner, Trinh Minh-ha, and Chris Marker. Together with her partner Mark Street, she was friends for many years with Barbara Hammer, to whom she recently dedicated the short A Month of Single Frames (awarded the grand prize at Oberhausen in 2020), made up of images filmed years earlier by Hammer herself and entrusted to Sachs to use in a creative project.

Currently, the Sheffield Doc/Fest is featuring Sachs in a retrospective, focused on “the notion of translation as a practice of encountering others and reshaping filmic language.” Five films made between 1994 and 2019, along with a video lecture on her “somatic cinema,” will be presented online (sheffdocfest.com.) Then in October, her latest full-length feature, Film About a Father Who, will be screened. The film is a fragmented portrait of her larger-than-life father: an entrepreneur and bohemian, a serial womanizer who was married six times and had nine children (including the director Ira Jr.)

During a video call that found her in North Carolina visiting her sister Dana, we asked her about the origins of her cinematic reflections on otherness: “I grew up in Memphis, where half the population is black. I was fourteen years old when the city launched a busing plan to send white students to schools in majority-black neighborhoods and vice versa. So I took the bus to go to the public school on the other side of town, while many white families decided to avoid that by enrolling their children in private school. I found myself being a “minority” for the first time, and it opened my eyes. Years later, I returned home to shoot Sermons and Sacred Pictures (1989), a documentary on the African-American reverend and filmmaker L.O. Taylor, who had left behind hours and hours of audio and 16mm film of everyday life in the black community in the ‘30s and ‘40s. Once again I found myself the “other” with respect to my subjects, something that’s almost paradigmatic in documentaries, but I wanted to understand what it meant to film “from inside” like Taylor. When his subjects looked into the camera, they saw someone who was part of their world – it made me reflect on the position and privilege of the one doing the filming.”

Pieces like “The Washing Society” or “Your Day is My Night” make visible the lives and work of people downtrodden by racism, without fetishizing their misery but rather showing how everyone, difficult as it may be, seeks out beauty: was this an aesthetic or political decision?

I use imagery to express tensions and inspire doubts without ever saying what I think, or what you’re supposed to think. We live surrounded by images created solely for consumption, to be used and thrown away. But the aesthetic that interests me is one where a dialogue or short circuit forms between two images and makes us start a process of re-examining our certainties, of becoming conscious of the way we think or watch. In that sense, essentially, my aesthetic choices are also political.

How much do you involve your filmed subjects in the writing of the film? I’m thinking of the way the people who live in the crowded little house in Chinatown in “Your Day is My Night” talk about themselves.

I could tell you so many stories about the way we collectively built that film! I’ll just say this: today the convention is to think of the “Author” as the person whose name appears in the credits as the director. But movies are mainly the result of a collaboration with the subjects being filmed. One day, after a chat, several of my main characters told me that the film risked being very boring, because it was “only” about them: there was no plot, no action. So I decided to add an element of fiction: the arrival of a young Puerto Rican woman in their shared home. Then they created the dialogue and the reactions – first suspicion, then trust – that arose between the characters.

How did the idea of including performative elements in some of your documentaries first come about?

My way of working is sometimes called a “hybrid” approach, but I don’t know if I find that satisfying. For me, the performative element reminds the viewer that every expressive language is representation. The Washing Society was a theatrical production staged in several laundromats before it became a film about the women who work in those jobs. Your Day is My Night was an unusual case: I started by recording a series of interviews with the subjects about their immigration, the houses they’ve lived in, the beds they’ve slept in. The interviews were translated, pieced together, and transformed into a screenplay and a script. During filming, that allowed me to concentrate better on images and unrepeatable gestures instead of on words.

In “Which Way Is East: Notebooks from Vietnam” (1994) you take a trip with your sister through a country where the scars of war with the United States are still visible. The collision between your two points of view evokes the idea of a landscape caught between memory and forgetting. When you were filming, did you think about Claude Lanzmann’s work?

I had seen Shoah, and I found it powerful the way he chose to draw out an inner archive of images without explicitly showing them, with the risk of validating that horror in a way. Who knows if they all still have that inner library. Today I also think of what Susan Sontag wrote about the representation of the pain of others, but at the time, I hadn’t fully articulated a theory before I began filming. Many things emerged during the trip, for example that difference between my sister’s and my perspectives. Vietnam had opened its borders to Americans in 1992 and Dana lived in Hanoi, she knew the language, she was already capable of looking forward, past the war – while I was looking backwards and seeing history. There’s a scene where the same hole in the ground is a little lake for her and a bomb crater for me: the images of the landscape are never unambiguous.

Was that when you met Trinh Minh-ha?

I was her student in San Francisco in the mid-80s and then I worked with her on the sound and editing of Surname Viet Given Name Nam (1989) and Shoot for the Contents (1991.) She was the first person I showed the footage to, before it became Which Way Is East, but all her experience in Africa while making Reassemblage (1982) and her reflections on otherness and on being the outsider have been important to me ever since I put Sermons together during a period of intense social debate on the politics of identity. She helped me think about the positioning from which these choices about representation operate.

“Film About a Father Who” is a portrait of your father marked by mystery. The title is an homage to Yvonne Rainer’s “Film About a Woman Who,” but the elision of the verb is both an open space and a kind of absence.

The film is part of a series of portraits I’m working on to understand how much we can ever truly know another person. I hate when people talk about “character-driven documentaries,” I’m not interested in making a complete portrait of someone and I’m not sure it’s possible. That’s also part of what the film is about, so in that sense the missing verb opens itself up to multiple possibilities: a film about a father who…tells jokes, behaves badly, has had many children. What interested me was not filling a void, finding answers or uncovering secrets, but following tracks and asking questions.

© 2020 IL NUOVO MANIFESTO SOCIETÀ COOP. EDITRICE

Translated from the Italian by Mara Gerety

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IL MANIFESTO QUOTIDIANO COMUNISTO

https://ilmanifesto.it/lynne-sachs-dialogo-di-immagini/?fbclid=IwAR22UJ0x7YZSjIpXk-7VWUyNgxl-e-y80MDZFupanICvMgjgV6aASy8TorA

International Premiere of “Film About a Father Who” at Sheffield Doc/ Fest

June 2020
Into the World

Lynne Sachs’ “Film About a Father Who” will enjoy its international premier in the program – 

INTO THE WORLD
This strand is about all of us – the distant, the close, the intimate, the political – our worlds and their infinite appearances, challenges and dangers. Essential films with essential themes that take varied approaches to exploring our past, present and collective future. In journeying around the Earth, let us encounter people, their fights, their fears, their stories. From China to the USA, from Mexico to Argentina and Chile, from Canada, to the West Indies and France, from England to Scotland and Ireland, from Lebanon to Israel, from Italy to Poland, from Gambia to Iran, from the Philippines to South Africa, these films search, investigate, ask questions, show and testify contemporary local and global struggles, remembering and learning from past battles in order to be ready for new fights.

https://sheffdocfest.com/films/6949

“Film About a Father Who” Streaming with the 17th Vail Film Festival and Q&A

Q&A with “Film About About a Father Who” director Lynne Sachs, Stephen Vitiello (music), and Rebecca Shapass (editor)

Screening of Film About a Father Who and Q&A with Lynne Sachs
Available May 16, 8:00 AM – May 17, 4:00 AM, 2020] Watch now in our online Virtual Festival

https://watch.eventive.org/vailfilmfestival/play/5ea61530e5745b0029223a20

Film About a Father Who (USA, 74minutes)

Director: Lynne Sachs

From 1984 to 2019, filmmaker Lynne Sachs shot film, videotape and digital images with her father, Ira Sachs, a bohemian businessman from Park City. This film is her attempt to understand the web that connects a child to her parent and a sister to eight siblings, some of whom she has known all of her life, others she only recently discovered. With a nod to the Cubist renderings of a face, her film offers sometimes contradictory views of one seemingly unknowable man who is always there, public, in the center of the frame, yet somehow ensconced in secrets.

“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, Programmer
https://watch.eventive.org/vailfilmfestival/play/5ea61530e5745b0029223a20

We Are Moving Stories – An Interview with Lynne Sachs on “Film About a Father Who”

May 2020
We Are Moving Stories
Sarasota Film Festival 2020 – Film About a Father Who

We Are Moving Stories is the world’s largest online community for new voices in film. We have introduced more than 2500 films to new audiences!  We broadcast, embrace and support new voices in drama, documentary, animation, web series, women’s films, LGBTQIA+, POC, First Nations, scifi, horror, environmental and world cinema.  We also connect films to causes, audiences, producers, distributors, sales agents, buyers, film festival directors and media.  And here’s a good news story – over 50%+ of our contributors are women.  Our profiles describe the passion, strength and intelligence filmmakers need for their films to reach an audience. 

Between 1984 and 2019, filmmaker Lynne Sachs shot a film with her father, a bohemian businessman who sometimes chose to reveal less than was really there.

Interview with Director Lynne Sachs

Congratulations! Why did you make your film?

Since I began making films, I’ve been collecting material for a film about my father. It took me three decades to complete this film. Life goes on, and each day brings surprises, joys and disappointments. In 2020, I premiered Film About a Father Who at Slamdance and then at Documentary Fortnight at the Museum of Modern Art. This is the third film in my trilogy (including States of UnBelonging, 2005, and The Last Happy Day, 2009) of essay films that explore the degree by which one human being can know another. This film is a partial portrait of my father Ira Sachs, a bohemian businessman living in the mountains of Utah. My father has always chosen the alternative path in life, a path that has brought unpredictable adventures, nine children with six different women, brief marijuana-related brushes with the police and a life-long interest in doing some good in the world. It is also a film about the complex dynamics that conspire to create a family. There is nothing nuclear about all of us, we are a solar system comprised 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.

Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?

Over a period of 35 years between 1984 and 2019, I shot 8 and 16mm film, videotape and digital images of my father. Film About a Father Who is my 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, this exploration of my 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, I allow myself and my audience inside to see beyond the surface of the skin, the projected reality. As the startling facts mount, I, as a daughter, discover more about my father than I had ever hoped to reveal. Over the last few months since the film’s Slamdance Premiere, I have had some of the deepest most intense interactions of my career as a filmmaker with people in my audiences. These conversations have allowed me to see the ways in which this film stirs viewers into thinking about the imprint their own fathers and mothers have had on who they are in the world today.

Lynne Sachs with Ira Sachs Sr
Lynne Sachs with Ira Sachs Sr

How do personal and universal themes work in your film?

Weighing the importance of the personal in relationship to the universal was an absolutely critical aspect of the editing process for this film. I had to search for a universality from my particular experience while weeding through 35 years of film, video and digital material. This was a critical journey to finding a way to tell this story. When I finally brought artist and editor Rebecca Shapass into my process, I found a way to convey the story of my family to a new person who knew nothing about us, had no expectations, prejudices or affinities. Through her sensitive, compassionate listening ear, I was able to carve out the kind of distance that allowed me to see that this was not really a character-driven portrait of one man but rather an investigation into the way that “family” is really just a term describing the intricate, sometimes heart-breaking series of relationships that hold a group of people together in a cosmos.

How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development?

In 2017, I gathered all nine of my siblings together for the first time. We shot for four hours, and the experience was, for the most part, cathartic. But, as I looked through the footage I noticed that everyone was extremely aware of how I, in particular, responded to their words. 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. Throughout 2018, I either flew my siblings to Brooklyn or went to meet them where they live. 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.

One of the biggest and most intimidating aspects of making this film was 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. 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. During an artist residency at Yaddo, I plopped myself on my bed with a bunch of pillows, and began to speak into a microphone. 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 and this more spontaneous vocalized writing became the framework for the whole movie.

Dir Lynne Sachs in Film About A Father Who
Dir Lynne Sachs in Film About A Father Who

What type of feedback have you received so far?

This film has probably generated some of the most interesting, deeply felt responses I have ever received for my work. Here are a few, I would like to share:

“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

A Film About a Father Who is also remarkable for its terrific synthesizing of the wealth of archival material. Given the breadth of the narrative span, it’s extraordinary that the director fits the story into a compact length of just 73 minutes, yet, masterfully, she does. Given her extremely personal connection to the story, it’s astonishing how deeply she investigates the good and the bad in a person she clearly loves. This gripping documentary, the opener of the 2020 Slamdance Film Festival, speaks its truth and speaks it beautifully. Let it be heard.” – Christopher Llewellyn Reed, Hammer to Nail

Film About a Father Who is simply a masterpiece. Ultimately, a parent’s legacy is found in their children and the worth of Ira Sachs Sr. is found in his “tribe” of talented, artistic offsprings.” – Nina Rothe, E. Nina Rothe.com

“In this compelling and genuine documentary, [Sachs] has…taken the audience on a hypnotic and profound journey.” – Alexandra Hidalgo, Agnès Films

“Lynne’s newest, Film About a Father Who, brings that unflinching honesty to a new level. Because this is a personal story told by the children forced to come to terms with his behavior, preserving that ambiguity also, as Lynne herself puts it, preserves the truth. Both Lynne and we are perhaps no closer to understanding Ira Sr. by film’s end, but we at least know him as his children do and all things considered, that’s nothing short of miraculous.” – Mariso Carpico, The Pop Break

Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?

Even during the film’s years-long protracted post-production, I was always scared and somehow motivated by my awareness that there would be extremely strong reactions to my film. My portrait of my father is one that includes my own rage and forgiveness, and finding the balance between the two was integral to expressing my own experience through the film’s images and voice-over narration. There have been a surprisingly large number of people who have written about the film or written to me directly about the film who have had similarly complex and fraught relationships with their own parents. It seems that watching “Film About a Father Who” gave them some new insight and perspective. There have also been other people who felt that I, as a woman, gave my dad too much of a break, that I was too kind to him when he only considered his own needs and desires rather than those of others around him. This point of view is reflective of the sentiments that have grown out of the women’s movement and more recently the Me-Too Movement. I feel such allegiance to these emotions, and yet when it came down to expressing my own experience, I had to allow for the nuances of a daughter’s own evolving love for her father.

What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?

I would love for the visibility that We Are Moving Stories provides to lead to new conversations, surprising insights, future screenings and maybe a distributor!

Ira Sachs with painting
Ira Sachs with painting

Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?

The film has quite a few upcoming festival screenings including Sarasota Film Festival, Indie Memphis, Sheffield Doc Festival in the UK, Montreal Documentary Festival, and Oxford Film Festival, but the pandemic has, of course, slowed everything down. I could definitely use some support from sales agents, buyers, programmers or distributor. Let’s talk!

What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?

While I have been making films for more than thirty years, each film I have made has led to a new relationship with a certain community. My film Your Day is My Night led me to the Asian and Asian-American community in the US, Canada and China and to a far deeper relationship with people living in Chinatown right here in NYC. My film Carolee, Barbara and Gunvor has led to amazing conversations around feminism, cinema and the avant-garde. We make films to lead us to new places, physically, artistically and emotionally. With Film About a Father Who I hope to go deep in conversation around family, rage, and forgiveness.

What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?

In light of the current Me Too debate around men in power and their influence on the lives of the women around them, how can we find a context by which we can discuss the place of rage, dignity, and forgiveness?

Would you like to add anything else?

Thank you for inviting me to be part of your cinema community.

What other projects are the key creatives developing or working on now?

Lynne Sachs is currently working on Oh Ida: The Fluid Time Travels of a Radical Spirit, an essay film that will trace the erasure and recent emergence (in the form of monuments) of the story of activist and 2020 Pultizer Prize winning journalist Ida B. Wells who spent her early years in my hometown of Memphis, Tennessee and committed her life to nurturing a spirit of liberation in the face of resounding oppression. In collaboration with historian and author Tera Hunter, I will produce a film using a hybrid form of cinematic time-travel that will examine Wells’s historical trajectory within the current controversies around American monuments by looking at their symbolic power, their historiographic influence on our collective consciousness, what they have been and what they could become.

Film About a Father Who poster
Film About a Father Who poster

We Are Moving Stories embraces new voices in drama, documentary, animation, TV, web series, music video, women’s films, LGBTQIA+, POC, First Nations, scifi, supernatural, horror, world cinema. If you have just made a film – we’d love to hear from you. Or if you know a filmmaker – can you recommend us?  More info: Carmela


Film About a Father Who

Between 1984 and 2019, filmmaker Lynne Sachs shot a film with her father, a bohemian businessman who sometimes chose to reveal less than was really there.

Director: Lynne Sachs

Producer: Lynne Sachs

Writer: Lynne Sachs

About the writer, director and producer:

LYNNE SACHS makes films and writes poems that explore the intricate relationship between personal observations and broader historical experiences. Her work embraces hybrid forms, combining memoir, experimental and documentary modes. Recently, she has expanded her practice to include live performances.

Key cast: Ira Sachs Sr.

Looking for: sales agents, distributors, journalists, film festival directors, buyers

Facebook: Film About a Father Who

Twitter: @aboutafatherwho

Instagram: @lynnesachs1

Hashtags used: #filmaboutafatherwho

Website: www.lynnesachs.com/2019/12/19/filmaboutafatherwho/

Funders: Partially supported by an artist residency at Yaddo.

Where can I watch it next and in the coming month? The film is not streaming again in the coming month but it will be presented at Indie Memphis, Oxford Film Festival, Montreal International Documentary Festival, and Sheffield International Festival of Documentary Film.

http://www.wearemovingstories.com/we-are-moving-stories-films/2019/1/17/film-about-a-father-who

Film About a Father Who Streaming at Sarasota Film Festival and Q&A

“In Lynne Sachs’ FILM ABOUT A FATHER WHO she tries to piece together who her father really is…and makes some unexpected discoveries. An intriguing puzzle – so don’t let anyone who sees it reveal its secrets.”

Steve Kopian, Unseen Films

Watch Film About a Father Who here through May 10th!

There will also be a Q & A with the director online soon.

“Taking visual cues from modern art, and a title borrowed from Yvonne Rainer’s 1974 drama “Film About a Woman Who…,” Lynne Sachs compiles a film that’s as colorful, as complex, and sometimes as inscrutable as her father. She may not have unlocked the secret of her father’s heart, but the attempt reveals touching, humorous and painful insights about what we think a father is and what he should be.”

-Sean P. Means, Movie Cricket

In response to popular demand from the Sarasota community and audiences across the country and around the globe for continued arts and storytelling, the 2020 virtual edition of the Sarasota Film Festival (SFF) has now extended its online edition to Sunday, May 10th. In conjunction with this extension, the festival has announced an additional feature film to the lineup 9/11 KIDS directed by Elizabeth St. Philip, Q&As for the upcoming weekend, and more visionary programming.

“The public has spoken and in an effort to continue providing dynamic and thoughtful entertainment, we are pleased to extend our programming for an additional week so that audiences can continue to enjoy these engaging films and celebrate independent storytellers that showcase the local Florida community,” said Mark Famiglio, Chairman and President of the Sarasota Film Festival.

SFF is presented with the generous support of various sponsors and partners from the Sarasota community including: The Famiglio Family, Amicus Foundation, 332 Cocoanut, Moon & Co Eyewear, Sage Restaurant, The Sack Family, Wallack Family Fund, Sarasota County Film & Entertainment Office, New College, Ringling College, Gates Construction, DSDG architects, BMW/Lamborghini of Sarasota, Embassy Suites-Hilton as well as granting organization Sarasota County Tourist Development Cultural/Arts and the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs.

EXTENDED DATE | SFF will now run through Sunday, May 10th, 2020.

Film Forward: Film About a Father Who| Slamdance 2020

Film Forward
Film About a Father Who, Queen of the Capital | Slamdance 2020
by Phil Guie 
February 27, 2020

http://film-forward.com/film-festival/film-about-a-father-who-queen-of-the-capital-slamdance-2020

Our 2020 Slamdance Film Festival coverage includes a pair of documentaries featuring very different types of protagonists, settings, and filmic styles, but they share something integral in common: both are portraits of unconventional families. Post-Slamdance, these two films will be making their way across the festival circuit (one, Film About a Father Who, recently had its New York City premiere at the Museum of Modern Art’s Doc Fortnight earlier this month), and both are worth your time.

(Feel free to also check out our feature on a trio of Slamdance documentaries reflecting on the challenges facing the county here.)

Daring and intimate, Film About a Father Who probes the life and times of the filmmaker’s father, erstwhile hotelier, and playboy Ira Sachs Sr. Director Lynne Sachs assembles a collage using more than three decades worth of home videos, which often result in a raw and ragged look. Yet there is also an undeniable sense of immediacy from having the principals involved in her father’s series of broken marriages and illicit affairs speaking directly to the camera; some have vivid enough personas that they seem bigger than life.

Sachs presents multiple perspectives by liberally jumping backwards and forwards in time, capturing Ira at different ages and points in his life. In doing so, the film doesn’t draw attention to how he changes so much as what stays the same: how he seems cut off from his own emotions, never running too hot or cool. The theme of numerous observations also applies to the interviews of past wives, lovers, children both legitimate and illegitimate, and, perhaps most unforgettably, Ira’s mother, each of whom contribute a different facet to what is ultimately a complex portrait of a serial philanderer who simultaneously had multiple families.

At the same time Ira is being deconstructed, the film builds toward an epiphany about the nature of family via a parallel narrative involving Sachs and her two siblings from Ira’s first marriage. They recount how they first learned about their father’s affairs, how they subsequently navigated his existence as the Hugh Hefner of Park City, Utah, and how alienating it was for the Sachs children as he cycled through women.

The director’s attitude toward her father—who in the present day has become elderly and senile and, as such, even more enigmatic than he had been in earlier years—never approaches hostile, but she reserves most of her genuine warmth for her brothers, sisters, and half-siblings. Some are considerably younger than her and were kept secret from her. As the camera frames them side-by-side with Sachs, it lingers on their faces as if to marvel at the physical traits they all share.

Eventually, all of Ira’s progeny come together to ponder weighty themes—whether or not they share a parent is enough to make them family. But the documentary seems to argue that due to the complexity of familial bonds, only those caught inside should get to define them. That’s a universal message that will resonate with most viewers, who will likely find Sachs’s objective considerably more admirable than her main subject.

http://film-forward.com/film-festival/film-about-a-father-who-queen-of-the-capital-slamdance-2020

Film Forward: Film About a Father Who, Queen of the Capital – Slamdance 2020

fflogo

 

 

 

02/27/2020

Film Forward

Film About a Father Who, Queen of the Capital – Slamdance 2020

By Phil Guie

http://film-forward.com/film-festival/film-about-a-father-who-queen-of-the-capital-slamdance-2020

(Feel free to also check out our feature on a trio of Slamdance documentaries reflecting on the challenges facing the county here.)

Daring and intimate, Film About a Father Who probes the life and times of the filmmaker’s father, erstwhile hotelier, and playboy Ira Sachs Sr. Director Lynne Sachs assembles a collage using more than three decades worth of home videos, which often result in a raw and ragged look. Yet there is also an undeniable sense of immediacy from having the principals involved in her father’s series of broken marriages and illicit affairs speaking directly to the camera; some have vivid enough personas that they seem bigger than life.

Sachs presents multiple perspectives by liberally jumping backwards and forwards in time, capturing Ira at different ages and points in his life. In doing so, the film doesn’t draw attention to how he changes so much as what stays the same: how he seems cut off from his own emotions, never running too hot or cool. The theme of numerous observations also applies to the interviews of past wives, lovers, children both legitimate and illegitimate, and, perhaps most unforgettably, Ira’s mother, each of whom contribute a different facet to what is ultimately a complex portrait of a serial philanderer who simultaneously had multiple families.

At the same time Ira is being deconstructed, the film builds toward an epiphany about the nature of family via a parallel narrative involving Sachs and her two siblings from Ira’s first marriage. They recount how they first learned about their father’s affairs, how they subsequently navigated his existence as the Hugh Hefner of Park City, Utah, and how alienating it was for the Sachs children as he cycled through women.

The director’s attitude toward her father—who in the present day has become elderly and senile and, as such, even more enigmatic than he had been in earlier years—never approaches hostile, but she reserves most of her genuine warmth for her brothers, sisters, and half-siblings. Some are considerably younger than her and were kept secret from her. As the camera frames them side-by-side with Sachs, it lingers on their faces as if to marvel at the physical traits they all share.

Eventually, all of Ira’s progeny come together to ponder weighty themes—whether or not they share a parent is enough to make them family. But the documentary seems to argue that due to the complexity of familial bonds, only those caught inside should get to define them. That’s a universal message that will resonate with most viewers, who will likely find Sachs’s objective considerably more admirable than her main subject.

The mostly upbeat Queen of the Capital centers on Daniel Hays, a Washington, DC–based drag artist who performs exclusively to raise money for charity. Hays is also a member of his city’s chapter of the Imperial Court, a nonprofit consisting of and run by his fellow drag queens and kings. Director Joshua Davidsburg follows Hays as he embarks on a campaign to be elected as the organization’s next leader, although given what friendly terms all of the members seem to be on with each other, the end result is quite possibly the least suspenseful documentary about an election ever made.

The film does, however, boast considerable insight into life of a modern-day drag artist in our nation’s capital, including the way in which “drag families” here grow and develop, which is often through established performers taking younger ones under their wings. Hays’ drag father, Jon Shelby, though only a year older than Hays, comes across world-weary enough that their father-child relationship is completely believable. The more we learn about Shelby, especially some of the darker incidents of his life, the more touching are his scenes with Hays, who had his own share of troubles during his youth.

Through a combination of archived footage as well as interviews, Queen of the Capital also provides a rousing history lesson about drag’s place in the city, including such colorful episodes as the bitter war between rival clubs from which the Imperial Court emerged. But we also get an idea of how the day-to-day lives of drag performers—and LGBTQ men and women in general—have improved significantly from decades past, with Hays and others having jobs in the federal government in which they can openly discuss what they do outside of the office. The extent to which they have become comfortably integrated into the fabric of Washington, DC, is apparent in the footage of the Imperial Court’s charitable events, in which people of all stripes engage with them warmly.

Though the film’s election season story line isn’t a nail-biter, Davidsburg seems to be eyeing something that’s more inspiring than politics, and he largely captures it.

http://film-forward.com/film-festival/film-about-a-father-who-queen-of-the-capital-slamdance-2020

48 Hills: “What We Saw at Sundance Pt. 2: A Sidetrip to Slamandce”

48hills-XLCorrected

 

 

02/23/2020

48 Hills 

What we saw at Sundance, Part 2: A side-trip to Slamdance

 By Jesse Hawthorne Ficks

Culling through the forty features viewed at both the Sundance and Slamdance Film Festivals last week has been as much fun as watching them in the first place. Here is a spoiler-free account of some the fest’s best to bookmark in your calendar for the upcoming year. Read part one here

Allotting some of my precious “Sundance movie going time” to make the hop-skip-and-a-jump up Main Street to attend rivaling venue Slamdance, has been immensely important since its inception in 1995. Slamdance’s commitment to “emerging artists and low-budget independent cinema” was born out of the inevitable missteps made by the ever-growing Sundance Institute. Every year I am rewarded with a truly remarkable debut that Sundance passed on, such as Christopher Nolan’s Following (1998), Bong Joon-ho’s Barking Dogs Never Bite (2000), Jared Hess’s Peluca (2003), the nine-minute short film that inspired Napoleon Dynamite, and Ben Zeitlin’s Egg (2004)—a thesis project which led to creation of Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)—Marilyn Agrelo’s crowd-cheering Mad Hot Ballroom (2005), and Oren Peli’s low budget phenomenon Paranormal Activity (2008).

To my absolute astonishment, I can easily say that this year’s 2020 festival delivered the most moving amount of films of any previous year. Returning again and again to program after program, I found the rough edges, bold moments, and surprising personalities that I often find lacking from many of Sundance’s US Premiere and US Dramatic categories. (Thankfully Sundance re-invented their “Spectrum” category in the late 2000s and conceived the “NEXT” program, which provides a showcase for what the festival calls “pure, bold works distinguished by an innovative, forward-thinking approach to story-telling.” Or in other words, the Slamdance Film Festival.

 

Film About a Father Who (USA)
Experimental filmmaking legend Lynne Sachs kicked off Slamdance on opening night with an emotionally striking feature exploring the complexities of her narcissistically charming father. Using 8mm, 16mm, videotape, and digital footage, and shot over 35 years (from 1984 to 2019), her perennial process of documenting “bon vivant and pioneering Utah businessman” Ira Sachs Sr. will undoubtedly hit quite a nerve with anyone who’s grown up with an egotistically captivating fountainhead for a father. But Sachs isn’t just airing her family’s dirty laundry here—including interviews with Lynne’s younger brother, iconic indie filmmaker Ira Sachs: see The Delta (1997), Forty Shades of Blue (2005), Keep the Lights On (2012), and Love Is Strange(2014). This unique and epic familial expedition masterfully employs an experimental inventiveness that swims through a myriad harrowing home movies captured within more than a few fascinating formats, and diverse decades. Sachs, referencing the title of Yvonne Rainer’s landmark feminist feature Film About a Woman Who (1974), practices what Rainer was preaching—and in turn has constructed one of the most powerfully pertinent documentaries of recent years.