In partnership with San Francisco Cinematheque | October 21, 2023, 3–5 PM
Join us for nine works by ten contemporary Bay Area filmmakers, a cross-section of the Bay Area’s ever-vibrant multi-generational community curated by Steve Polta, artistic director of San Francisco Cinematheque. These works present a compelling mix of contemplative landscape study, critiques of consumerism and media representation, poetic considerations of solitude and connection, and an abiding love for the physical and chemical charms of the filmic medium itself. Full program details, program notes, and artist bios available at sfcinematheque.org →
Curated by BAN9 Curatorial Counsel member Gina Basso, the ongoing BAN9 Film series will span the entirety of the exhibition, featuring acclaimed Bay Area filmmakers, collectives, and new media artists. Offerings will vary monthly, reflecting BAN9’s curatorial themes and diving into the breadth and depth of the Bay Area’s vibrant film scene by highlighting the local organizations and individuals who contribute to the shape and form of the region’s rich cinematic landscape.
(sans)(image) (arc and Sophia Wang, 7 min, 2023, 16mm, black and white, sound)
Light Signal (Emily Chao, 11 min, 2022, 16mm screened as digital video, color, sound)
The American experimental filmmaker and poet participates in the discussion that takes place after the screening of a selection of some of her films, which explore the intricate relationship between personal observations and broader historical experiences within the family framework. In addition, she teaches the course Opening the family album .
Lynne Sachs has created genre-defying cinematic works through the use of hybrid forms and interdisciplinary collaboration, incorporating elements of essay film, collage , performance, documentary, and poetry. With each project of hers, Ella Lynne investigates the implicit connection between the body, the camera and the materiality of the film itself.
Girl Is Presence . USA, 4 min. 2020 In this collaborative work, Lynne Sachs and her daughter Noa make a visual poem in response to a poem by Anne Lesley Selcer. Girl Is Presence has traces of the fragmented language of George Bataille, the source of Selcer’s concept poem that reworks, undoes and recalls its rhythms. Made in the deepest isolation of the pandemic, as the words build in tension, the scene begins to feel occult, ritualistic, and alchemical.
Which Way Is East: Notebooks from Vietnam . USA, 33 min. 1994. When two American sisters travel north from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi, conversations with strangers and Vietnamese friends reveal the other side of a shared story.
Wind in Our Hair . Argentina / USA, 40 min. 2010. Inspired by stories by writer Julio Cortázar and shot in contemporary Argentina, the film is based on an experimental narrative where four girls discover themselves through their fascination with the trains that pass by their house. As a story of anticipation and disappointment in early adolescence, Con viento en el pelo is set in a period of deep political and social unrest in Argentina.
Maya at 24 . USA / Spain, 5 min. 2021. Lynne Sachs films her daughter Maya in black and white and on 16mm. at 6, 16 and 24 years. In each recording, Maya runs in circles, clockwise, as if she is propelling herself in the same direction as time, forward. Aware of the strange simultaneous temporal landscape that only cinema can convey, this work shows Maya in motion at her different ages.
Every Contact Leaves a Trace a talk by Lynne Sachs Hunter College Master of Fine Arts Media Alliance Zoom Oct. 20, 2021
For most of her adult life, film artist Lynne Sachs has collected and saved the small business cards that people have given her in all the various places she has traveled – from professional conferences to doctors’ appointments, from film festivals to hardware stores, from art galleries to human rights centers. In these places, Sachs met and engaged with hundreds of people over a period of four decades, and now she is wondering how these people’s lives might have affected hers or, in turn, how she might have touched the trajectory of their own journey. During our first hour together, Sachs will expand upon her personal approach to making experimental documentaries and her essayistic method of asking questions of herself and others. She will interweave clips from her previous works (including The Washing Society, Film About a Father Who, and Girl is Presence) and her work-in-process, all of which take a hybrid approach to research and production. She will also touch on the writing of thinkers who have recently been of great importance to her own art-making practice, including theorist of visual culture and contemporary art Tina Campt and scholar and activist Silvia Federici. In this way, she will examine her own current work, be it inchoate, porous and, like everything that is worth doing, deeply challenging.
In the second half of her presentation, Lynne will ask the audience to make their own new piece. Lynne will share a screen shot of three of the cards from her collection as a prompt for responses. Participants will choose one card as source material, using performance, forensics, or materiality as their medium of interpretation. Because our meeting will be conducted in a remote context, we will have access to items we find at home in our domestic universe or outside in the place from which we happen to be “zooming” in. At the end of our gathering, we will come together to discuss our own attempts to push as close to failure as we can imagine, and the revelations we discover on the way.
For almost two years, we’ve all been wondering how and when we can begin to touch each other again. Somehow, we’ve adapted to the distance – standing six feet apart, hiding our mouths, gliding one elbow along the elbow of another. And yet in this time, I’ve also begun to wonder how, in my state of social existence, I am also a composite of “the company I keep”, as the expression goes, the people who have passed through my life and left their mark on my skin and my consciousness.
In forensic science, the perpetrator of a crime brings something of themselves into the crime scene and leaves with something from it. Thus, “Every contact leaves a trace,” and there is always some sort of exchange.
Grappling with this “scientific” phenomenon, I returned to a box of 550 business or calling cards I have collected throughout my adult life. Rifling through the cards, I couldn’t help wondering about each person who offered me this small paper object as a reminder of our brief or protracted encounter. Some meetings were profound, others brief and superficial. And yet, almost every card actually accomplished the mnemonic purpose for which it was created. Holding a card now, a trickle or a flood of memories lands inside my internal vault and that person’s existence is reinstated in mine. Beginning earlier this summer, I threw myself into the process of investigating how the component parts of these cards could hold a clue to my understanding of what they are. With the assistance of a forensic specialist, I examined the finger prints on the cards. I learned about their material qualities from a paper maker. Inspired by Jean Luc Godard’s series of TV interviewa about large conceptual topics with two children – France Tour Detour Deux Enfants – I listened nine-year twins glean what they could from the text and images on the cards and then create make-believe dinner parties composed of the individuals represented by the cards. I visited with NYC artist Bradley Eros who seems to re-invent personae for himself simply by designing new cards.
Clearly, I love the research. I have filmed each of these experiences. Now, here with you all, I want to return to some earlier projects to see how this way of thinking and working has been an integral part of my art-making process all along.
I am fascinated by the intention with which the cards are produced. A business card is a distillation of who you are in just a few words, usually the uniform size of 3.5” x 2”. After these months of remote engagement, I am also interested in their haptic nature, the fact that they must be exchanged between two people, hand-to-hand.
The concept of making distillation has been at the foundation of my work for a very long time. As an experimental filmmaker and a poet, I am far more interested in the associative relationship between two things, two shots and two words than I am in their cause and effect, or their narrative symbiosis. For me, a distillation is a container for ideas and energy, a concise manifestation of a multi-valent presence that does not depend on exposition. A distillation is not a metaphor; it’s more like metonymy and synecdoche, where a part stands in for a whole, where less might be more.
Tonight, I would like to share scenes from three of my films that most of you have seen thanks to the Hunter Media Alliance. This will give us a place to begin our conversation around the significance of this concept in my work.
In my film “The Washing Society” (made with playwright Lizzie Olesker), I move from an almost microscopic attention to the most elemental aspects of the clothing we wear and wash, to a wider more place-specific image of two women folding. I examine the material elements of the threads as they combine with the hair and skin of our bodies. All of this is encapsulated in lint. Lint is comprised of the detritus from our clothing and the hair, skin and mucus of our bodies. It is a substance that some people find soft and comforting and others find disgusting. Lint can be a ritualized expression of cleanliness or an abject reminder of decay. I discovered a divide in our culture, when I decided to hand out pieces of lint to every person who entered the live performance version of this work, which I call “Every Fold Matters”. There were those people who fiddled familiarly with the material throughout the show and others who immediately through it to the floor. Lint is a somatic substance that can allows to find a material intimacy with others.
“The Washing Society” Lint shot and women working 14:43 – 17:00
No matter which way you feel, the experience of lint suggests touch. The most significant distinction in this conversation, however, is “Does the substance come from me or my family or someone else, a stranger or someone cleaning our clothing?” And, if the answer is someone else, then we are talking about labor, service and wages.
I am currently working on Hand Book: A Manual, a book version of this project to be published next year by Ice Floe Press. A section of this book will include a recent conversation with the feminist historian and activist Silvia Federici. Federici helps us to understand better the relationship of this form of hidden, under-valued “reproductive” labor to the functioning of our economy. Over time, in the film, I push the lint to embody this resonance and complexity.
In “Girl is Presence” (made with poet Anne Lesley Selcer), I filmed my daughter Noa during the most intense part of the pandemic in New York City.
Play first two minutes of “Girl is Presence”:
Noa is listening to a poem, one that happens to derive its every word from French philosopher George Bataille’s treatise “Solar Anus” where he writes:
“If the origin of things is … like the circular movement that the planet describes around a mobile center, then a car, a clock, or a sewing machine could equally be accepted as the generative principle. An abandoned shoe, a rotten tooth, a dog devouring the stomach of a goose, a drunken vomiting woman, a slobbering accountant, a jar of mustard … are to love what a battle flag is to nationality.”
Wow! This is a distillation, exactly what I am trying to do in all of these films. Create relationships of association between things. Refer to things as essences rather than explanations. Before our eyes, my daughter moves her hand across a table arranging and re-arranging a series of mysterious – at least to her – objects from my own past as an articulation of her desire for a new order. We are witnessing a series of internal choices based on who she is. Again, like we saw with the lint earlier, hands rather than an entire body or a face are an integral part of my exploration of a dynamic my camera – and thus you – is witnessing.
Does this film become a portrait, of sorts, through distillation? Does Noa’s tactile connection to these objects – or props in a more conventional film situation – offer us a context by which we can consider the impact that objects themselves have on our thinking?
I start my most recent feature “Film About a Father Who” with an image of me combing and detangling my father’s hair. This is something I have done quite a bit with him over the last few years, as he and I have aged. As you watch us, the scene feels both tender and a little painful. His skin is wrinkled and his hair is greyish-white. I am younger, middle aged, they say. He winces but he seems grateful.
The next shot is an older image from his own home video storage bin, shot on Hi 8 probably in the early 1990s. The tape has been stored in a garage, it has aged with time, decayed, been reduced to a few soft pastel colors. When I first came across it a couple of years ago, I immediately dismissed it as too deteriorated to even consider using. A few months later, I thought about it again and realized that it was absolutely essential to the entire film. By breaking down this seven-minute shot into three parts placed in the beginning, middle and end of the film, I discovered an image vessel into which I might be able to generate three distinct responses from my audience. On initial “contact”, you are introduced to three archetypal young children playing in a stream. On second viewing, you know that these are two boys and a girl who are members of the filmmaker’s family and that the family dynamic is complex, fraught and not-at-all nuclear in the conventional sense. On third viewing, you as viewer bring to it your awareness of how these children grew into being adults and how they each are grappling with their relationship to their father. Each iteration is a distillation, an evolving impression of this family and maybe family in general. We know that each interaction a father has with his child leaves a trace, each contact we have with an image leaves an impression of some kind.
In cultural critic and scholar Tina M. Campt’s book Listening to Images,
“She explores a way of listening closely to photography by engaging with lost archives of historically dismissed photographs of black subjects. Through her inventive audio-based confrontation with images, Campt looks beyond what one usually sees and attunes her senses to the other affective frequencies through which these photographs register.” One can check out commercial photography to get their projects done. Thinking about Campt’s insistence that we “listen” and thus imagine the sounds of a life’s experience that has not been fully embraced or recorded, I too had to recognize another layer to these images. While at first glance my own family images seem celebrate and exemplify a welcoming and nourishing scenario, we know so much more about what we’re are not seeing: two sisters who have never represented. In the last image, I and you recognize this absence. The transparency is not visible but it is palpable. In this way, we recognize that these images are not so much a distillation of what we do see but what we don’t.
Stevie shares cards.
Instructions: Play in the space between the reality of the card and a conceptual response. Using only the materials you have at your fingertips, respond to these cards. Think about addresses, geography, fonts, numbers, names, the person you imagine made the card, the graphics, what is revealed, what is not revealed.
Push yourself from the specifics to the abstract; reverse the “bio pic” approach; make a piece that evokes rather than explains.
Form: sculpture, video, performance, sound.
8:00 Lynne presents idea for the interactive project. People can make sculpture, shoot with camera, perform.
8:05 Everyone turns off camera and begins to make their piece.
8:20 Everyone returns. Viewing using speaker viewing. Stay muted. Stevie will call on you and you will activate speaker viewer. All participants write down a couple of words to remind them of the work. Note, you need to unpin and return to gallery view each time. People who shot video may screen share.
8:35 Return to gallery and everyone displays their work at once. We cannot do simultaneous screen share so people who shot video must put their phones up to their computer camera.
We are really excited to work with aemi’s Artist in Focus Lynne Sachs to deliver a workshop as part of CIFF 2021. This in-person workshop in Cork will focus on the interplay between poetry and cinema. Based in New York, Lynne Sachs is an award winning filmmaker whose work bridges personal experience and political concerns through her singular approach to filmmaking. Lynne uses both analogue and digital mediums, weaving together text, collage, painting, politics and layered sound design.
‘Day Residue: A Film-Making Workshop on the Every Day’ is open to both emerging and established artists interested in film and writing. The workshop is an excellent opportunity for film artists to deeply consider creative approaches to writing and film, both in relation to their own practices and within wider contexts.
Day Residue: A Film-Making Workshop on the Every Day
Lynne Sachs: According to Sigmund Freud’s theory of dreams, our day residue is composed of the memory traces left by the events of our waking state. In this workshop, we explore the ways in which fragments of our daily lives can become material in writing for a personal film. While many people in the film industry rely upon a chronological process that begins with the development phase and ends with post-production, our Day Residue workshop will build on an entirely different creative paradigm that encourages artists to embraces the nuances, surprises and challenges of their daily lives as a foundation for a diaristic practice.
The day will be structured by two sessions: in addition to introducing her practice and collectively watching Lynne’s programme of short films curated by aemi for CIFF (see film info below), Lynne will also lead a session on writing and film / writing for film, and the possible interplays between the two – extending to the role of poetry.
In-person screening programme within the workshop:
Lynne Sachs, Carolee, Barbara & Gunvor, 2018, USA, 8 min From 2015 to 2017, Lynne visited with Carolee Schneemann, Barbara Hammer and Gunvor Nelson, three artists who embraced the moving image throughout their lives.
Lynne Sachs, Still Life With Women And Four Objects, 1986, USA, 4 minA portrait that falls somewhere between a painting and a poem, a look at a woman’s daily routines and thoughts via an exploration of her as a ‘character’.
Lynne Sachs, Drawn and Quartered, 1986, USA, 4 minOptically printed images of a man and a woman fragmented by a film frame that is divided into four distinct sections.
Lynne Sachs, The House of Science: A Museum of False Facts, 1991, USA, 29 min A girl’s difficult coming-of-age rituals are recast into a potent web for affirmation and growth.
Lynne Sachs and Anne Lesley Selcer, Girl is Presence, 2020, USA, 5 min Against the uncertain and anxious pandemic atmosphere, inside domestic space, a ‘girl’ arranges and rearranges a collection of small and mysterious things.
Lynne Sachs and Moira Sweeney, Longings, 2021, USA/ Ireland, 90 seconds A collaboration exploring the resonances and ruptures between image and language.
Lynne Sachs, Drift and Bough, 2014, USA, 6 minLynne Sachs spends a winter morning in Central Park shooting film in the snow. Holding her Super 8mm camera, she takes note of graphic explosions of dark and light and an occasional skyscraper.
Lynne Sachs, Starfish Aorta Colossus, 2014, USA, 4 min Poetry watches film. Film reads poetry. Paolo Javier’s text is a catalyst for digital sculpting of an 8mm Kodachrome canvas.
Lynne Sachs, Maya at 24, 2021, USA, 4 minLynne Sachs films her daughter Maya at 6, 16 and 24.
Lynne Sachs with and for Barbara Hammer, A Month of Single Frames, 2019, USA, 14 min In 1998, filmmaker Barbara Hammer had an artist residency in a shack without running water or electricity. She shot film and kept a journal. In 2018 Hammer, facing her own imminent death, gave her material to Lynne and invited her to make a film.
This is a free workshop, however as numbers are limited, prior booking is essential.
Please email Emer at firstname.lastname@example.org in advance to secure a place.
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.
I will be heading to Cork International Film Festival in Ireland to present “Film About a Father Who” with 10 short films as part of their AEMI artist focus on my work. Honored to share four collaborative film poems: “Longings” made with filmmaker Moira Sweeney (who will be there with us!); “A Month of Single Frames” made with Barbara Hammer; “Girl is Presence” made with Anne Lesley Selcer; and, “Starfish Aorta Colossus” made with Paolo Javier.
Making work since the 1980s Lynne Sachs’ films have incorporated a cross-pollination of forms that extend to the essay film, documentary, collage, performance, and poetry. Deeply reflexive, Sachs’ films to date have outlined a rich interplay between the personal and the socio-political. aemi is delighted to present this overview of selected short works by Lynne Sachs at Cork International Film Festival, many of which are screening in Ireland for the first time.
In addition to this shorts programme Lynne will also be in attendance at the festival for the Irish premiere of her celebrated feature Film About a Father Who.
CAROLEE, BARBARA & GUNVOR Lynne Sachs From 2015 to 2017, Lynne visited with Carolee Schneemann, Barbara Hammer and Gunvor Nelson, three artists who embraced the moving image throughout their lives.
STILL LIFE WITH WOMEN AND FOUR OBJECTS Lynne Sachs A portrait that falls somewhere between a painting and a poem, a look at a woman’s daily routines and thoughts via an exploration of her as a ‘character’.
DRAWN AND QUARTERED Lynne Sachs Optically printed images of a man and a woman fragmented by a film frame that is divided into four distinct sections.
THE HOUSE OF SCIENCE: A MUSEUM OF FALSE FACTS Lynne Sachs A girl’s difficult coming-of-age rituals are recast into a potent web for affirmation and growth.
GIRL IS PRESENCE Lynne Sachs and Anne Lesley Selcer Against the uncertain and anxious pandemic atmosphere, inside domestic space, a ‘girl’ arranges and rearranges a collection of small and mysterious things.
LONGINGS Lynne Sachs and Moira Sweeney A collaboration exploring the resonances and ruptures between image and language.
DRIFT AND BOUGH Lynne Sachs Lynne Sachs spends a winter morning in Central Park shooting film in the snow. Holding her Super 8mm camera, she takes note of graphic explosions of dark and light and an occasional skyscraper.
STARFISH AORTA COLOSSUS Lynne Sachs Poetry watches film. Film reads poetry. Paolo Javier’s text is a catalyst for digital sculpting of an 8mm Kodachrome canvas.
MAYA AT 24 Lynne Sachs Lynne Sachs films her daughter Maya at 6, 16 and 24.
A MONTH OF SINGLE FRAMES Lynne Sachs with and for Barbara Hammer In 1998, filmmaker Barbara Hammer had an artist residency in a shack without running water or electricity. She shot film and kept a journal. In 2018 Hammer, facing her own imminent death, gave her material to Lynne and invited her to make a film.
The Irish premiere of Lynne Sachs’ celebrated feature Film About a Father Who screens here alongside the world premiere of Myrid Carten’s short film Sorrow had a baby. Both artists will be in attendance for a discussion of their work following the screening.
Both Film About a Father Who and Sorrow had a baby deal, in very different ways, with familial legacy incorporating personal archives and pushing against the traditional boundaries of documentary practice. Myrid Carten’s film Sorrow had a baby is also the first film produced through aemi’s annual film commissioning programme, supported by Arts Council of Ireland.
Myrid Carten, Sorrow had a baby,2021, Ireland, 16 minutesaemi Film Commission 2021
‘I absorbed the women in my life as I would chloroform on a cloth laid against my face.’ – Vivan Gornick
Sorrow had a baby explores the mother-daughter relationship through multiple lenses: memory, beauty, inheritance. Who writes the stories in a family? Who can change them?
Lynne Sachs, Film About a Father Who, 2020, USA, 74 minutesOver a period of 35 years between 1984 and 2019, filmmaker Lynne Sachs shot 8 and 16mm film, videotape and digital images of her father, Ira Sachs Sr., a bon vivant and pioneering businessman from Park City, Utah. Film About a Father Who is her attempt to understand the web that connects a child to her parent and a sister to her siblings. With a nod to the Cubist renderings of a face, Sachs’ cinematic exploration of her father offers simultaneous, sometimes contradictory, views of one seemingly unknowable man who is publicly the uninhibited center of the frame yet privately ensconced in secrets. In the process, Sachs allows herself and her audience inside to see beyond the surface of the skin, the projected reality. As the startling facts mount, Sachs as a daughter discovers more about her father than she had ever hoped to reveal.
Featuring seven short films and a new introduction by the filmmaker
Over a period of thirty-five years between 1984 and 2019, filmmaker Lynne Sachs shot 8 and 16 mm 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. Like a cubist rendering of a face, Sachs’s cinematic exploration of her father offers multiple, sometimes contradictory, views of a seemingly unknowable man who is publicly the uninhibited center of the frame yet privately shrouded in mystery. 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.
This exclusive streaming premiere is accompanied by a selection of experimental short films by Sachs, many of which also reflect her probing exploration of family relationships
Which Way Is East, 1994
The Last Happy Day, 2009
Wind in Our Hair, 2010
The Washing Society, 2018
Girl Is Presence, 2020
E•pis•to•lar•y: Letter to Jean Vigo, 2021
Maya at 24, 2021
Featured in the following collections: women directors, shorts collections, exclusive streaming
Selected clips from original Criterion Channel interview with Lynne Sachs by Tara Young:
Criterion Channel adds “Film About a Father Who” Director’s Commentary
Each week we highlight the noteworthy titles that have recently hit streaming platforms in the United States. Check out this week’s selections below and past round-ups here.
Censor (Prano Bailey-Bond) It is hard to think of a recent horror film––or a film of any genre, really––in which the main character is tasked with a job as original and ingenious as Enid Baines, the protagonist of Prano Bailey-Bond’s riveting Censor. She is, yes, the titular censor. It is 1980s England, the time of “video nasties” that drew parental consternation and tabloid outrage. These were the low-budget, ultra-violent VHS cassettes that earned their own category in the collective consciousness. Not all were UK productions––I Spit On Your Grave and Abel Ferrara’s Driller Killer made the list. In Censor, however, the nasties are homegrown, in more ways than one. Chris S. (full review) Where to Stream: Hulu
Copshop (Joe Carnahan) It’d be hard to argue Joe Carnahan isn’t permanently stuck in 1997. Operating well past the point where dozens upon dozens of Tarantino knockoffs were inescapable on video store shelves and in shoebox auditoriums across America, he seems, if anything, intent on morphing the ’90s aesthetic into a new form of classicism for the 21st century. As the kind of guy who still finds slow-motion gunfights cool a full three decades after Hollywood caught wind of Hard Boiled, it’s nice he at least believes in a tangible, quasi-human cinema. – Ethan V. (full review) Where to Stream: VOD
Film About a Father Who and More Films by Lynne Sachs Along with her new documentary Film About a Father Who, The Criterion Channel is featuring seven shorts from director Lynne Sachs, including Which Way Is East (1994), The Last Happy Day (2009), Wind in Our Hair (2010), The Washing Society (2018), Girl Is Presence (2020), E•pis•to•lar•y: Letter to Jean Vigo (2021), and Maya at 24 (2021). Jared Mobarak said in his review of her latest feature, “While director Lynne Sachs admits her latest documentary Film About a Father Who could be superficially construed as a portrait (the title alludes to and the content revolves around her father Ira), she labels it a reckoning instead. With thirty-five years of footage shot across varied formats and devices to cull through and piece together, the result becomes less about providing a clear picture of who this man is and more about understanding the cost of his actions. Whether it began that way or not, however, it surely didn’t take long to realize how deep a drop the rabbit hole of his life would prove. Sachs jumped in to discover truths surrounding her childhood only to fall through numerous false bottoms that revealed truths she couldn’t even imagine.” Where to Stream: The Criterion Channel
Gunda (Victor Kossakovsky) In 2018, Victor Kossakovsky set out to shoot Aquarela, a survey-symphony that took the Russian documentarian around the world to capture glaciers, waterfalls, frozen lakes, oceans, and storms. Water, art-speak waffle as it may sound, served as Aquarela’s only protagonist: in that hyper-high-definition blue canvas, human faces seldom popped up, and voices were seldom heard, as Kossakovsky’s focus centered squarely on his liquid star alone. A mystifying follow-up working again to question and depart from an anthropocentric perspective, here comes Gunda, a black-and-white, dialogue-free documentary chronicling a few months in the lives of the animals stranded in a Norwegian farm. – Leonardo G. (full review)Where to Stream: Hulu
I’m Your Man (Maria Schrader) Falling in love with a robot isn’t good news, as Her and Blade Runner (both 2019 and 2049) tell us. In I’m Your Man, unspooling in competition at Berlin, a forty-something museum director (Maren Eggert) is justifiably nervous—she’s in a film named after a Leonard Cohen track, which is only asking for trouble—when asked to try out a new romantic partner. That’s because this is a “humanoid robot,” Tom, algorithmically aligned to her romantic preferences and played by dashing English actor Dan Stevens in a performance in which he impressively speaks fluent German. – Ed F. (full review) Where to Stream: VOD
Needle in a Timestack (John Ridley) For a movie about a fated love (Leslie Odom Jr.’s Nick and Cynthia Erivo’s Janine) being undermined by a jealous ex (Orlando Bloom’s Tommy), I didn’t expect to witness a scene towards the start where the latter philosophically (and selfishly) attempts to legitimize his sabotage by explaining how every love is, by definition, another’s missed opportunity. He points out a random woman in the bar and tells Nick that whomever she falls for will be the lucky one of millions, setting off a chain reaction that diverts all the other men and women destined to have crossed her path as suitable partners somewhere else instead. The sentiment is intriguing and full of possibilities well outside the scope of what appeared to be a run-of-the-mill, time travel romance. – Jared M. (full review) Where to Stream: VOD
Rat Film (Theo Anthony) It’s not often that a documentary with such a clear focus surprises and unnerves you. Rat Film, directed by Theo Anthony, finds its narrative in the parallel between rat-control efforts in Baltimore and the redlining that has kept certain neighborhoods in the city locked in poverty and crime. With a passionate attention to historical detail and nuance that is belied by the robotic narration of Maureen Jones, the film seduces the audience into following its train of thought through moments and ideas both grotesque and harrowing. Some of the tangents and paths of thought that Rat Film travels are surreal to the point of abstraction, but at the end of it all your view of urban development and its impact on human lives will have been fundamentally altered for the better. – Brian R. Where to Stream: The Criterion Channel
The Velvet Underground (Todd Haynes) If you told people in 1967 that Andy Warhol’s house band just released one of the most revered rock albums of all-time, they would ask what they’re called, and when you told them they would laugh. As far as the public was concerned, there were a hundred acts capable of that historical success in the ‘60s, and none were called the Velvet Underground (or Nico). To a certain extent they would be right. It would be another decade before the banana-adorned The Velvet Underground & Nico would have its pop cultural comeuppance and over half a century before the glam avant-garde group would receive definitive documentary treatment by one of the best living filmmakers. But as history and said doc have proven, we would have the last laugh in that exchange. – Luke H. (full review) Where to Stream: Apple TV+
Two female laundry workers are wearing floral aprons and standing against a wooden wall. From Lynne Sachs’ ‘The Washing Society.’ Courtesy of The Criterion Channel.
Screen Time is your curated weekly guide to excellent documentaries and nonfiction programs that you can watch at home.
At IDA, we deeply mourn the passing of Melvin Van Peebles, the “the godfather of modern Black cinema.” Van Peebles was an actor, poet, artist, filmmaker and playwright, among other things. Celebrate his humbling legacy with filmmaker Joe Angio’s How to Eat Your Watermelon in White Company (and Enjoy It)on Amazon Prime.
In Swimming Out Till the Sea Turns Blue, filmmaker Jia Zhangke speaks to three authors who, like Jia, all hail from China’s Shanxi province. Through their conversations and writings, the filmmaker reconstructs a portrait of his homeland from the prism of the 1950s social revolution and the unrest it brought along. Starting September 30, you can watch the film on Mubi.
Also playing on Mubi is Hannah Jayanti’s delightful science fiction documentary, Truth or Consequences. Taking off a fictional premise, the documentary takes place around the world’s first commercial Spaceport in New Mexico. Through its gaze set on a near future, the film unravels our histories and weaves them all with empathy and adventure.
Afro-Cuban musician brothers Ilmar and Aldo López-Gavilán grew up learning the violin and the piano—separated from one another; one in Russia and the other in Cuba. Los Hermanos, directed by Marcia Jarmel and Ken Schneider, follows the brothers as they collaborate (for the first time) and perform all across the US. The film is available to view on PBS starting October 1.
When filmmaker Sian-Pierre Regis’ mother, Rebecca, is let go from her job, Regis decides to take her on trips across the world. As the son helps take items off his mother’s bucket list, he reveals the dark underscoring of American society by ageism, the care crisis, and economic insecurity. Duty Free is a documentary that emerges out of the mother-son travels as Rebecca reclaims her life and dreams. Watch the film on Vimeo.
Familial relationships also form the core of many of Lynne Sachs’ experimental nonfiction works. Starting October 1, you can watch seven of her experimental shorts on Criterion Channel: Which Way Is East (1994), The Last Happy Day (2009), Wind in Our Hair (2010), The Washing Society (2018), Girl Is Presence (2020), E•pis•to•lar•y: Letter to Jean Vigo (2021), and Maya at 24 (2021).
Following career retrospectives at Sheffield Doc/Fest 2020 and the Museum of the Moving Image in 2021, Lynne Sachs is being paid tribute to by the Criterion Channel. A press release announced that her films will join the channel next month along with a newly recorded interview with the filmmaker, exploring her works. Her latest feature, “Film About a Father Who,” a documentary about her own father, will be making its exclusive streaming premiere on the channel on October 13.
“The Criterion Channel is thrilled to present the exclusive streaming premiere of Lynne Sachs’ ‘Film About a Father Who’ this October. This raw and deeply personal excavation of the filmmaker’s complex family history will be accompanied by a number of Sachs’ experimental shorts, many of which also focus on exploring familial dynamics and family histories” said Penelope Bartlett, Director of Programming at the Criterion Channel.
Shot over a period of 35 years, “Film About a Father Who” is a portrait of Sachs’ businessman father, who had nine children with five women. The film is described as “her attempt to understand the web that connects a child to her parent and a sister to her siblings.”
“Over the course of my 30-year career in the film industry, it’s taken me an embarrassingly long time to move from seeing myself as a film student to a director,” Sachs wrote in a 2020 guest post for Women and Hollywood exploring the impact that artistic collaboration has had on her work. “As director, I acknowledge my dedication to my practice, the fact that I have made over 30 films ranging from three to 83 minutes long, the awards I’ve received, and the money I’ve been paid to do my job.”
Check out programming information about the film series below.
The Criterion Channel’s Directed by Lynne Sachs series programming includes:
Debuting on the Criterion Channel Oct. 13:
FILM ABOUT A FATHER WHO (2020) Over a period of 35 years between 1984 and 2019, filmmaker Lynne Sachs shot 8 and 16mm film, videotape and digital images of her father, Ira Sachs Sr., a bon vivant and pioneering businessman from Park City, Utah. Film About a Father is her attempt to understand the web that connects a child to her parent and a sister to her siblings.
Debuting on the Criterion Channel Oct. 1:
E•PIS•TO•LAR•Y: LETTER TO JEAN VIGO (2021) In a cinema letter to French director Jean Vigo, Lynne Sachs ponders the delicate resonances of his 1933 classic Zero for Conduct in which a group of school boys wages an anarchist rebellion against their authoritarian teachers.
MAYA AT 24 (2021) Conscious of the strange simultaneous temporal landscape that only film can convey, we watch Maya in motion at each distinct age.
GIRL IS PRESENCE (2020) During the 2020 global pandemic, filmmaker Lynne Sachs and her daughter Noa collaborated with Anne Lesley Selcer to create Girl is Presence. Against the uncertain and anxious pandemic atmosphere, inside domestic space, the ‘girl’ arranges and rearranges a collection of small and mysterious things.
THE WASHING SOCIETY (2018) Collaborating together for the first time, filmmaker Lynne Sachs and playwright Lizzie Olesker observe the disappearing public space of the neighborhood laundromat and the continual, intimate labor that happens there. With a title inspired by the 1881 organization of African-American laundresses, The Washing Society investigates the intersection of history, underpaid work, immigration, and the sheer math of doing laundry.
WIND IN OUR HAIR (2010) Inspired by the stories of Argentine writer Julio Cortázar, yet blended with the realities of contemporary Argentina, Wind in Our Hair is an experimental narrative about four girls discovering themselves through a fascination with the trains that pass by their house. A story of early-teen anticipation and disappointment, Wind in Our Hair is circumscribed by a period of profound Argentine political and social unrest.
THE LAST HAPPY DAY (2009) During WWII, the US Army hired Sachs’ Hungarian cousin, Dr. Sandor Lenard, to reconstruct the bones of dead American soldiers. Sachs’ portrait of Lenard, who is best known for his translation of Winnie the Pooh into Latin, resonates as an anti-war meditation composed of letters, abstracted war imagery, home movies of children, and interviews.
WHICH WAY IS EAST (1994) When two American sisters travel north from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi, conversations with Vietnamese strangers and friends reveal to them the flip side of a shared history. Lynne and Dana Sachs’ travel diary of their trip to Vietnam is a collection of tourism, city life, culture clash, and historic inquiry that’s put together with the warmth of a quilt.
Lumen by Richard Ashrowan. United Kingdom, 2018, 3’ A silent exploration of light and gesture; finding the light, losing it: moments of exploration, hesitation and connection. A collaboration with performers Sandra Johnston and Alastair MacLennan, Scotland, August 2018.
Apertures (a brighter darkness) by Karissa Hahn. USA, 2019, 3’ and just as the swelter plateaus towards vertical horizon the curtain falls flat in motion a hinge unlatches from sill and a slab of paint is finally relieved, alighting —the window continues to open
Fire Fly Eye by Kerry Laitala. USA, 2020, 7’ Fire Fly EYE is my response to the devastating re-making of the world brought on by anthropogenic climate change and corporate “stewardship” of our natural resources. A ritual of complaint in the face of overwhelming destruction, invoked through filming discarded consumer products, sifting spectacle out of catastrophe.
Amulets by Colectivo los ingravidos. Mexico, 2019, 5’ The magic life of the objects reanimate the ancestry of the aesthetic of dream.
A Study of Fly by Cherlyn Hsing-Hsin Liu. Taiwan/USA, 2018, 13′ A Study of Fly is a reflection on the relationship between insect, human, environment and the universe. The fly in this film can be approached as a living being, a metaphor for human desire to reach beyond, and a state that demonstrates the capacity to move between the realms of life and death. Artifacts from hand-processing and color filters are emphases of our physical intervention, manipulation and violence against nature
Dusty Wave by Eeva Siivonen. Finland/Canada, 2017, 3’ My moving image works experiments with text, image and sound to create an experiential space—a kind of ontology—within which subjectivities and bodies as totalities don’t exist and connections and hierarchies are continuously undone and remade. Subjective experience exists as a dialogical and rhetorical relationship, as something scattered in time and space, emerging and disappearing, resisting language and definition. These works describe the complex, fluctuating, and interdependent relationships between living and non-living entities—relationships that defy linearity and boundaries. My practice is grounded in refusal and resistance to closed definitions and categories such as self/other, human/animal, interior/exterior,
It Matters What by Francisca Duran. Chile/Canada, 2019, 10’ Absences and translations motivate this experimental animation in an exploration of the methods and materials of reproduction and inscription. The inquiry is set within a framework of practical and critical human relationships with other-than-human-species elucidated by the theorist Donna Haraway.
A fragment from Haraway’s essay “Tentacular Thinking: Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Chthulucene” is reworked here as a poetic manifesto. Enigmatic found-footage calls into question human violence over animal species. Plant life is both the subject matter of the images and assists the means of photographic reproduction.
The techniques used include in-camera animation, contact-prints and phytograms created by the exposure of 16mm film overlaid with plant material and dried for hours in direct sunlight.
Transcript by Erica Sheu. Taiwan/USA, 2018, 3′ I transcribe a relationship on film with what I found at home: the flower baby’s breath, love letters my father wrote and sun print papers my lover gave me. This film is a dedication to Shadow Film: A Woman with Two Heads (Nito-onna: Kage No Eiga), 1977, by Shuji Terayama.
Girl is Presence by Lynne Sachs and Anne Lesley Selcer. USA, 2020, 4’ During the global pandemic, Lynne Sachs and Anne Lesley Selcer collaborated remotely to create Girl is Presence, a visual rhythmic poem tinged by gender and violence. Against the uncertain and anxious pandemic atmosphere, inside domestic space, the “girl” arranges and rearranges a collection of small and mysterious things. As the words build in tension, the scene becomes occult, ritualistic and alchemical. Commissioned by Small Press Traffic for Bay Area Shorts during the national shelter-in-place order caused by the Coronavirus Pandemic of 2020.
As Long As There is Breath by Emily Chao. USA, 2020, 2′ An assembly of collected memories shatters the interior and open portals to the outside. Completed during shelter-in-place in Northern California. Commissioned by Small Press Traffic.
Wastelands No. 2 : Hardy, Hearty by Jodie Mack. USA, 2019, 7’ “Can it be true,” said the first leaf, “can it really be true, that others come to take our places when we’re gone and after them still others, and more and more?”
“It really is true,” whispered the second leaf.
“We can’t even begin to imagine it, it’s beyond our powers.” “It makes me very sad,” added the first leaf.
They were very silent a while. (Felix Salten, Bambi: A Life in the Woods)
Garden ghosts flirt with the weeds of spring, cycling matter[s] and lives and deaths.
Founded in 2010, CROSSROADS is the San Francisco Cinematheque’s annual film festival that showcases contemporary film and experimental media produced by artists from the international art and film community. CROSSROADS is curated by the Artistic Director of the San Francisco Cinematheque, Steve Polta, with the intention of evoking the creative resonance between works by established artists and that of emerging artists, reflecting on the field and inspiring trends.
Consisting of eleven works presented at CROSSROADS 2019 and 2020, regeneration rituals evoke both the toxic and the transcendent, the violent and the sublime, while contemplating the contemporary psychic landscape. Intimacies and delicacies discovered in nature and domestic space contrast with the brutalities of the Capitalist Anthropocene Era as computational mythologies are explored.
Established in 2010, CROSSROADS is San Francisco Cinematheque’s annual film festival, presenting contemporary cinema and experimental media by artists from the international art and film community. CROSSROADS is curated by Cinematheque’s Artistic Director Steve Polta with the intent of evoking creative resonance between works by established and emerging artists while reflecting on and inspiring trends in the field.
Consisting of eleven works presented in CROSSROADS 2019 and 2020, rituals of complaint evokes both toxic and transcendent, violent and sublime, while contemplating the contemporary psychic landscape. Intimacies and delicacies discovered in nature and domestic space are contrasted with the brutalities of the capitalist Anthropocene were the mythologies of reckoning are explored.
STEVE POLTA CROSSROADS SAN FRANCISCO CINEMATHEQUE
An open letter from Cristiana Miranda on the 2021 DOBRA Festival
With which weapons can we overcome dismay? Arduous and uncertain struggle, in this Neo-fascist, pandemic and global warming context. About art’s vital power, we had many opportunities to read and write. Today, it rests the certainty that in this battle for the enchantment of living, we need to have feet that touch the land and eyes that see the sky, whose movable painting made of lights is overshadowed by the screens of our smart and portable communication equipment. If the 20th century seems to have finally ended with the pandemic, the 21st century’s odyssey is yet to be build. Many ancient wonders will survive as mere little active curiosities, cinema, however, continues to grow in practices more and more new and necessary.
In the massive presence of audiovisual language in the contemporary world, experimental film grows in shapes and lights, in an even more pandemic contagion that connects us, instead of separating us. Seven years ago, DOBRA – International Experimental Film Festival has been the author and witness of a history where the experimental language of film has become a fundamental tool of the artist’s action in critics and in the world’s transformation.
In 2021, DOBRA maintains its breath by bringing to the public a screening program where the artists’ voices from various locations of the planet toast us with films that stir the contemporary sore, practice critical exercise and propose different forms of comprehending and living the defies of the current world. Cristiana Miranda, Lucas Murari and Luiz Garcia, from the more than a thousand film submissions on the open call made by the festival, created 8 screenings where wefts, bodies and lines of flight bring a vanguard cinema that doesn’t fear being ahead in the construction of another world. To celebrate the force of encounters and bonds of friendship, we have the honor to receive the participation of Steve Polta as invited curator,
We are still moved by the consciousness of urgency, by the desire of retrieve life as an act of producing beauty. More and more convinced of the transforming power of experimental film, we invite all to one more edition of DOBRA, so together we can make the virtuality of online transmissions an encounter of thinking and emotions, a shared act of creation. May cinema infect us with luminous experiments.