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“Lynne Sachs: Between Thought and Expression” and why you cannot miss her MoMI retrospective

E. Nina Rothe
January 12, 2021

In-depth interviews and casual chats with the personalities and influencers of today, yesterday and tomorrow.

A still from the short ‘Maya at 24’ by Lynne Sachs

“Lynne Sachs: Between Thought and Expression” and why you cannot miss her MoMI retrospective

All the great filmmakers have been artists of the lens. If you think about Hitchcock, Truffaut, Wilder, Kazan, Visconti, Fellini and endless more that make up our collective cinematic heritage, they constructed their work like one long sequence of aesthetics — sight and sound. 

Lynne Sachs is no exception. While effortlessly flowing between documentary, experimental and narrative styles, Sachs’ films — whether 4 minutes long or full length — reward the adventurous viewer with a sense of beauty, elegance and joie de vivre. And I say “adventurous viewer” because it may have been difficult for non-urban audiences to catch the prolific artist’s work.

Until now that is. While in the past someone like me had to rely on the cool publicist devoted to Sachs and her films to point me in the direction of her next screening at a festival or inside a hip city venue, this January the Museum of the Moving Image has organized a wonderfully comprehensive retrospective of Lynne Sachs’ cinematic work. Beginning on January 13th and streaming online this proves a rare treat, since Sachs’ films are perfect for the kind of intimate viewing we are relegated to these days. Watch one, switch it off, talk about it with your family or friends, share your views online with the larger social media community — Sachs is the filmmaker of the times and how appropriate for her retrospective take place now!

Lynne Sachs, dir. of Film About a Father Who

Lynne Sachs photographed by Abby Lord, used with permission

So what makes Sachs’ work so unique? When I met her in person, right before our current pandemic and at the screening of her latest film at MoMA in NYC, she struck me as a rare combination of kind, unconventional and courageous. And her clothes betrayed the kind of effortless elegance that makes her films so appealing. Her voice, so often the soundtrack of her work, feels familiar even the first time you hear it, like that of a best friend who calls just to see how you’re doing. And in doing so makes the world a better place.

To me, Sachs is an artist, a visual explorer of the beauty that is hidden in cinema, for only a few to figure out. But I wonder how she views herself, as an artist or a filmmaker, or even a poet? She answers via email from NYC, kind as ever. “When you add the word “hidden” to the word “beauty”, I really start to get interested. Lately I have been thinking about certain images that, like our bodies, are growing old with the dignity of their own life span, their provenance. These are the kinds of images that reveal their journey and don’t pretend to have appeared on this earth, or more precisely on our screens, in the year 2021.” She continues, “artist and cultural theorist Hito Steyerl writes eloquently and perceptively in her essay “In Defense of the Poor Image” about the way that images from the past move into our present by carrying the baggage of time. I like seeing the dirt, rust, and wrinkles that tell a story in a purely visual way. When I see images that insist on carrying slivers of their past –- be it joyous or traumatic –- I see beauty.” 

The retrospective includes some of Sachs’ earlier work, shorts and mid-length films about her children, the world around her, art, poetry, feminism — her own brand of the stuff — and science. It’s divided into five programs — Early Investigations, Family Travels, Time Passes, Your Day Is My Night and Tip of My Tongue — plus a special online screening of her latest feature ‘Film About a Father Who’ which is a personal favorite and a must-watch for anyone wanting to learn more about Sachs and her fascinating family. You can find my personal review of it here. 

There is a Michael Apted feel to her work which often revolves around family, or rather those who are important in Sachs’ life, shot over a long period of time. I’m thinking of the shorts which star her daughter Maya at around 6, in her teenage years and then again at 24. What a treat they are but also a wonderful way to examine the constantly changing pattern of our lives. So I ask Sachs how she’s seen the pandemic change things, as related to her work-in-progress with Maya and she surprises me.Now this is an intriguing way of asking me about the pandemic, through a film about my daughter Maya that I have essentially shot three times over the course of twenty years. When she was six I made ‘Photograph of Wind’, at sixteen I made ‘Same Stream Twice’ and at twenty-four I made ‘Maya at 24’. What I think you are getting at is an epistemological question about the meaning of time.” Yes, she gets me, she really gets me! She continues, “in this period of sheltering-in-place or at least quasi-isolation, many of us are wondering how to register our days. Is there going to be an end? Or are we caught in a constant, traumatizing, unending middle? We are all aging at the same rate; we register each day in the same way. In these three films (each between 3 and 4 minutes), I asked Maya to run in circles around me while I was filming her with my 16mm camera. We both stare at each other the entire time. Dizzying as it may be, we are together exploring our relationship through our eyes. Without touching, we are as intimate as a parent and child can be. During the pandemic, as I communicate with my own mother from hundreds of miles away using the virtual technology available to us, I must remember that this form of contact might not be great, but it is good enough.”

A still from ‘House of Science’ by Lynne Sachs

Elements of her feminist spirit, but not the extremist kind we see these days rather a more inclusive approach, also permeate Sachs’ work. It’s a breath of fresh air to see a woman filmmaker explore our bodies, our minds and our sexuality on screen. And what a wonderful surprise to find out that Edo Choi curated for the Museum of the Moving Image this comprehensive retrospective of Sachs’ work. As both a lover of film and a film writer, Choi makes the perfect conductor for our journey in the midst of the filmmaker’s opus. So as a final question I asked Sachs how it feels to have a retrospective of her work at MoMI, especially now. 

“Scary, vulnerable and exciting,” Sachs admits, mentioning Choi right away. “Today, I was working with the Museum of the Moving Image’s marvelous, insightful, and dedicated assistant curator Edo Choi on some technical aspects of the program. You see when you are dealing with film files that were created over thirty years, they might not be compatible, on a technological, thematic or conceptual level with other films that you recently completed. I mentioned earlier what we all know –- time runs in seconds, minutes, hours, days, months, years. It does not change. But technology does, at least in the world of video. So, some of my files run at 29.97 frames per second, some at 23.98 fps and some at 24 fps. It all depends on when the films were born! This makes it very hard to stream them together.” What does that mean to a filmmaker? She explains, “maybe this is telling me something about myself, what was on my mind back in 1986 may be very different from what I am thinking about in 2021. To my surprise, I do see themes that connect me to who I was at 25 and who I am today at 59. When people watch the films, I hope they can find some of these threads that carry through all of the work. I am not going to say here what I see, because I am very interested in finding out what viewers discover on their own.”

To watch Lynne Sachs’ work check out the Museum of the Moving Image website. The retrospective runs from January 13th to the 31st, 2021. 

“Lynne Sachs: Between Thought and Expression” – Museum of the Moving Image to host Sachs Retrospective

Museum of the Moving Image 


Lynne Sachs: Between Thought and Expression

January 13–31, 2021

For more than thirty years, artist Lynne Sachs has constructed short, bold mid-length, and feature films incorporating elements of the essay film, collage, performance, and observational documentary. Her highly self-reflexive films have variously explored the relations between the body, camera, and the materiality of film itself; histories of personal, social, and political trauma; marginalized communities and their labor; and her own family life, slipping seamlessly between modes, from documentary essays to diaristic shorts. On the occasion of her latest feature, Film About a Father Who, a kaleidoscopic portrait of the artist’s maddeningly mercurial father, the Museum is pleased to present a career-ranging survey of Sachs’s work, including new HD presentations of Drawn and QuarteredThe House of Science: a museum of false facts, and Which Way Is East: Notebooks from Vietnam, as well as the premiere of Maya at 24, the third edition of Sach’s temporal portrait of her daughter.

Organized by Assistant Curator of Film Edo Choi.
Special thanks to Canyon Cinema and Cinema Guild for their support in organizing this program.

All films will be presented in MoMI’s Virtual Cinema, including a new video interview between Lynne Sachs and Edo Choi, which will be available exclusively to ticket holders.

Tickets: An all-series pass (including Film About a Father Who) is available for $30 ($26 MoMI members). A pass for just the repertory portion is $20 ($16 members) / individual program tickets are $5. Tickets for Film About a Father Who are $12 ($10 members).

All films are directed by Lynne Sachs.

Program 1: Early Dissections
In her first three films, Sachs performs an exuberant autopsy of the medium itself, reveling in the investigation of its formal possibilities and cultural implications: the disjunctive layering of visual and verbal phrases in Still Life with Woman and Four Objects; un-split regular 8mm film as a metaphorical body and site of intercourse in the optically printed Drawn and Quartered; the scopophilic and gendered intentions of the camera’s gaze in Following the Object to Its Logical Beginning. These experiments anticipate the range of the artist’s mature work, beginning with her first essayistic collage The House of Science: a museum of false facts. Itself an autopsy, this mid-length film exposes the anatomy of western rationalism as a framework for sexual subjugation via a finely stitched patchwork of sounds and images from artistic renderings to archival films, home movies to staged performances.

Still Life with Woman and Four Objects (1986, 4 mins.)
Drawn and Quartered (1987, 4 mins. New HD presentation)
Following the Object to Its Logical Beginning (1987, 9 mins.)
The House of Science: a museum of false facts (1991, 30 mins. New HD presentation)

Program 2: Family Travels
One of Lynne Sachs’s most sheerly beautiful films, Which Way Is East is a simultaneously intoxicating and politically sobering diary of encounters with the sights, sounds, and people of Vietnam, as Sachs pays a visit to her sister Dana and the two set off north from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi. The film is paired here with a very different kind of family journey The Last Happy Day, recounting the life of Sachs’s distant cousin Sandor Lenard, a Jewish Hungarian doctor who survived the Second World War and was ultimately hired to reassemble the bones of dead American soldiers. Here Sachs journeys through time as opposed to space, as she assembles a typically colorful array of documentary and performative elements, including Sandor’s letters, a children’s performance, and highly abstracted war footage, to bring us closer to a man who bore witness to terrible things. This program also features The Last Happy Day’s brief predecessor, The Small Ones. Program running time: 73 mins.

Which Way Is East: Notebooks from Vietnam (1994, 33 mins. New HD presentation)
The Small Ones (2007, 3 mins.)
The Last Happy Day (2009, 37 mins.)

Program 3: Time Passes
Twenty years unspool over nine short films: portraits of Lynne Sachs’s children; visits with her mother, brother, niece and nephew; a tribute to the city where she lives; and scenes of sociopolitical trauma and protest. Nearly all shot on super 8mm or 16mm, and often silent, each work is at once a preservation of a moment and a record of change, seamlessly weaving together the candid and the performed gesture, the public and the private memory, in a simultaneously objective and subjective posture toward the passing of time. Program running time: 51 mins.

Photograph of Wind (2001, 4 mins.)
Tornado (2002, 4 mins.)
Noa, Noa (2006, 8 mins.)
Georgic for a Forgotten Planet (2008, 11 mins.)
Same Stream Twice (2012, 4 mins.)
Viva and Felix Growing Up (2015, 10 mins.)
Day Residue (2016, 3 mins.)
And Then We Marched (2017, 3 mins.)
Maya at 24 (2021, 4 mins. World premiere)

Program 4: Your Day Is My Night
2013, 64 mins. “This bed doesn’t necessarily belong to any one person,” someone says early in Your Day Is My Night. It could be the metaphorical thesis of this film, perhaps Lynne Sachs’s most self-effacing and meditative work. A seamless blend of closely observed verité footage, interpretive performance, and confessional monologues and interviews, the film doesn’t document so much as create a space to accommodate the stories and experiences of seven Chinese immigrants from ages 58 to 78 who live together in a “shift-bed” apartment in Manhattan’s Chinatown. Sachs’s quilted sense of form achieves a new level of refinement and delicacy in collaboration with her cameraman Sean Hanley and her editor Amanda Katz, as she works with the participants to exhume a collective history of migration and struggle.

Program 5: Tip of My Tongue
2017, 80 mins. Sachs’s richly generative Tip of My Tongue finds the filmmaker responding to her 50th birthday by gathering twelve members of her generational cohort—friends and peers all born between 1958 and 1964, and originating as far as Cuba, Iran, and Australia—to participate in the creation of a choral work about the convergent and divergent effects history leaves upon those who live it. From the Kennedy assassination to Occupy Wall Street, the participants reveal their memories of, and reflections upon, the transformative experiences of their lives. Set to an ecstatic, pulsing score by Stephen Vitiello, the film interweaves these personal confessions with impressionistic images of contemporary New York, obscured glimpses of archival footage, and graphically rendered fragments of text to create a radiant prism of collective memory. Preceded by Sachs’s frantic record of accumulated daily to-do lists, A Year in Notes and Numbers (2018, 4 mins.).

Third Man Records to feature experimental filmmaker Lynne Sachs






Third Man Records to feature experimental filmmaker Lynne Sachs
by Joe Nolan

Knoxville-born Quentin Tarantino is argu- ably Tennessee’s most important contribution to popular film, but there’s another filmmaker whose personal, sometimes mesmerizing, body of work has made her the Volunteer State’s most visible ambassador to the world of ex- perimental film. Lynne Sachs is currently a New Yorker, but the Memphis-born director will be in Nashville for The Light and Sound Machine’s presentation of Yes/No: The Cinema of Lynne Sachs on Thursday, Sept. 17, aTt 8 p.m. in the Blue Room at Third Man Records. Sachs will be presenting a selection of films from her 30-year career followed by a Q&A event.

Sachs divides many of her movies into two categories: “Yes” films and “No” films. In film- maker and critic Kevin B. Lee’s short video essay, Yes and No Films, he interviews Sachs about the distinctions between the two:

“I have a group of films I’ve made called my Yes films and I have a group of films called my No films. The Yes films are films where absolutely anything goes… Then I have the No films—but, No is not bad. The No films have a really clear idea, and I’m like quite focused.”

Still Life with Woman and Four Objects (1986) is one of the Yes films Sachs will show on Thursday. It pictures a woman putting on a black-and-white-checkered houndstooth coat. She then takes an avocado from a pantry and peels it before balancing the pit on the top of a glass of water. She sits at a table eating a meal—a man stops briefly at the table. The last scene pictures the woman putting on the coat again, inter-cut with shots of her sitting on the bed, seeming to comment about the author of a letter.

That might sound like a rather random ar- rangement of events, and it is, and that’s part of the beauty of Sach’s “anything goes” Yes films.

But it’s not the content that makes Still Life notable, it’s the context Sachs creates around it that lashes these rituals and actions into a more dynamic whole: During the first coat shots, a voice-over sounds like it’s reading from a script, describing “scene one” and then “scene two,” while the coat shots repeat themselves— the lack of repetition in the ongoing voice-over tells the viewer that the shot has been cut that way on purpose. This makes the viewer aware of the script and the editing as well as the woman and her coat. The film was made in the late 1980s but it speaks directly to the French New Wave films of the 1960s with their mischievous love of techniques that pointed cinema back at itself, not allowing audiences to get lost in the illusion of a seamless narrative. The use of mismatched scenes and voice-overs seems specifically out of Jean-Luc Godard’s cinema and it’s no surprise that Sachs credits his Vivre Sa Vie as an influence here.

The poetic intimacies of nude images and naked interactions are the subject of the silent study of male and female forms, Drawn and Quartered (1986). I love the punning title here—the camera crawls around the “out- line” of necks and shoulders, along fingers and feet from the point of view of an artist’s hand drawing the figures. Sachs also divides her screen up into four quarters, nodding to male/female duality while also disorienting the viewer and turning the experience into a sensual confusion of androgynous play. Drawn is a No film that Sachs directed with strict limits she illuminates at the Fandor.com streaming film site:

“I shot a film on a roof with my boyfriend. Every frame was choreographed. Both of us took off our clothing and let the Bolex whirl and that was it. Pure and simple.”

Thursday’s screenings will also include Following the Object to Its Logical Beginning (1987), which is a companion piece to Still Life; Investigation of a Flame (2001), an experimental portrait of Vietnam War peace activists; Photograph of Wind (2001), Sachs’s meditation on passing time and her growing daughter, Maya; Noa, Noa (2006), Sach’s exploration of childhood play with her daughter, Noa. Sachs will also show selected scenes from Every Fold Matters (2015) and screen her newest work, Starfish Aorta Collosus (2015).

Seannon Nichols on Lynne Sachs’ “Experience Cinema”

Seannon Nichols
Final Paper/Exam
COM 450 Experimental Cinema: History and Theory
November 18, 2014

Lynne Sachs: Prescribing the Cure to Existential Crises by Utilizing ‘Experience Cinema’ as a means to partake in, and showcase organically produced affirming moments in nature through Drift and Bough (2014), Georgic for a Forgotten Planet (2008), Photograph of the Wind (2001), and Tornado (2001).

            Viewing what one wishes to see or thinks about in their minds eye is something that was once only possible in dreams. However dreams were made into realities when the camera was invented. Since the first camera was used, it is clear that representations of ideas can be shared and experienced by anyone who seeks them. The people behind these ideas are the filmmakers. Filmmakers are a sum of their experiences. Experiences shape how they do things, how they think, what they feel, and why they are here. The difference between filmmakers and every one else is that they chose to represent all these things in their work. They chose to share the sum of their parts.

Depending on the filmmaker there usually are different parts, so the sum doesn’t always add up to the same thing. This is especially true in avant-garde or experimental filmmakers. Every avant-grade filmmaker has a unique way of expressing themselves. Avant-garde by definition means not of the norm, before anything ordinary they exist.

The one who speaks to the tortured soul in all of us is Lynne Sachs. Sachs is a self defined experimental filmmaker. Sachs, born August 10th, 1961, originally from Tennessee, now she works primarily out of New York. She is a mom and filmmaker, a lot of the time combining the two in her works. When asked why she used so many different kinds of art in her films and if thats why she considered herself experimental she responded in saying “Honestly, I sometimes feel like a scientist working with materials that are simultaneously familiar and exotic.  When I juxtaposed a home movie of my fourth birthday with an image of a black widow spider in my film “The House of Science”, I was experimenting with meaning, making suggestions about the connections between childhood and fear.  I didn’t know if my “experiment” worked until I activated it with an audience. I’ve never been attracted to the kind of filmmaking that necessitates that you follow a formula for writing a script.  The idea that there is a software template, for example, that screenwriters use to create a narrative film disturbs me to my very core.  Each time I come up with an idea for a new film, I have to try out new ways of using a camera, which might seem as basic as it gets. I play with the technology as much as a feature filmmaker plays with her story.  In an experimental film, the form and the content are essentially strangers who eventually will become the dearest of friends.  Finding the chemistry for this new “relationship” pushes the experimental filmmaker to invent, play, take risks, fail and get right back up again.”

Her work is her life and in order to understand her work you need to understand her influences. In an interview I conducted with Sachs she expressed to me that her style and influences come from a plethora of directors such as “Chris Marker, Chantal Ackerman, Bruce Conner, Stan Brakhage, Haron Farocki, Holis Frampton, and so many others!” She also expressed to me upon my probing that Su Friedrich is one of her many influences. I had noticed a similarity in style with them when I had made the comparison of the two in my own critical review. Then subsequently, when asked wether I was correct in the similarities she responded by telling me “Su’s early films were extremely influential to me. Her oneiric “Gently Down the Stream” seemed to have been spit right out of a dream she had the night before she made the film. When I saw that film, I was awed by the closeness she had to her unconscious.  Later, I saw “Sink or Swim” and was enthralled with her ability to tell such an intimate story about her relationship to her father while she was growing up.  Throughout her career, there has always been an implicit confidence in the ability of women to find their way in the world and to express this journey from a specifically female perspective. This is in and of itself a political position that resonates with me.  Both of us often intertwine autobiography with observations of the world around us.” Her obvious pull towards feministic ideals along with her desire to tell intimate stories about the relationships between objects and people and between people themselves came from all these influences. The focus and connection I’m demonstrating will be Stan Brakhage’s penetration through her work.

It is said that “Brakhage’s work… required nothing less than a radical revision of the conditions of cinematic representation and the rejection, in practice, of its codes… which entailed both a redefinition of the space of cinematic representation, and the institution, through speed and validity of editing… and bodily movement traced by a handheld camera. (Michelson, pp. 113)” He revolutionized what filmmakers could do with cameras and subscribed to no rules and regulations. His painting directly on celluloid and scratching on celluloid (Sitney), created a whole new way to view film and relay messages which opened a completely new door for linguistics. Many filmmakers following him chose to walk through that door, including Su Friedrich. Like Friedrich and many other using linguistics in film had become a popular fashion and Sachs jumped on that train as well. Her love of the written word was present before her love of filmmaking, especially when it comes to poetry. In our interview she mentioned “When I decided to become a filmmaker, I never had to abandon my poetry writing…” It is vital to her artistic expression and to her representation of relationships and their meanings.

Lynne Sachs filmography as a whole stretches far and wide across genres and themes. Some themes that seem particularly important and relevant within her works are nature, relationships, and organically produced joy. Thus comes my interpretations of some of her best works. Lynne Sachs, contemporary avant-garde filmmaker, showcases and manufactures ‘experience cinema’ by showing atmospheres where audiences are saturated in overwhelming organic sensations, thereby exploring existentialism as it as a means to deter existential crises or as it applies to every day life, which can be seen in her films Drift and Bough (2014), Georgic for a Forgotten Planet (2008), Photograph of the Wind (2001), and Tornado (2001).

In order to fully understand the assertion of Sachs’ films as an aide to existentialism through ‘experience cinema’ I must explain those two concepts. To start, existentialism. Existentialism as most clearly defined, in the way that I am referring to it, is a philosophical theory or approach that emphasizes the existence of the individual person as a free and responsible agent determining their own development through acts of will. Earlier it is said that Sachs films can be used as a way to deter existential crises. Now that we know what existentialism is we need to determine what one does when they are suffering from a crisis of the theory. Normally that type of crisis is defined as one where an individual may waver on their meaning in the world, wether their particular life serves any purpose, or makes any true impact on this existence.

Next, one must understand the term “experience cinema.” “Experience Cinema” is a kind of cinema that I was seeing in some filmmakers pieces but had no term for it specifically. It is something that is not present in every film and that all filmmakers cannot achieve. I do believe it is possible to try and write a scene that is considered experience cinema but for the most part the cinematographer or directors needs to find or produce it. The clearest way it can be explained is something that happens in a scene or throughout a film, when your whole body becomes enraptured with a character, a setting, a sensation, a particular visual, because they touch upon everyone of your senses. Sachs’ films, the ones I chose in particular demonstrate this with every ticking second. She understands how to perfect an image with a camera and incorporate different stylistic types of art to make a perfect recipe of cinematic sensations that occupy the viewer so that it becomes four dimensional. Our brains make it real. I will start explaining more clearly what I mean with the aforementioned films by Lynne Sachs, in order to supply sufficient evidence that experimental cinema demonstrates itself as proof that we are here and by enjoying life’s organically produced moments there is no need to have existential crises.

Drift and Bough (2014) was made by Sachs in central park in New York City during a particularly aggressive snowstorm. This black and white film shot in super 8mm is a six minute film that opens on a partially covered empire state building and sweeps down to the ground, as if to follow the elegantly aggressive white snow falling to the park. The harsh winter winds blow through the trees and covers the rambles. It’s covering the people and the benches, covering whoever and wherever it wants, even the ducks trying to make their way through the frozen pond. It is clear it is snowing heavily and fast and you can experience how cold it is when the frozen people, all bundled up in their winter’s best, waddle by. The branches of the trees hang low from the weight of the snow and they struggle against the winds, as do the birds who group together trying to avoid this storm that ravages around them. When the storm finally calms we see a child heading up a hill with a sled enjoying the calm after the storm. A dog joyously celebrates his new snow covered park along with a people in a bike carriage enjoying the fresh fallen snow. As you can see by the representations of forceful nature and the pure joy experienced by its surroundings and individuals who realize that the anger of mother nature calmed to beauty, they are really living. When the film is played backwards in the middle after the storm has stopped all the previous images of the cold ducks and the snow heavy trees take on a different connotation. One that appreciates winter and what we have. That togetherness and the simple beauty of snow is a reason to be glad that we are here. Experience cinema has given the viewer harsh cold, relief, joy, Childish excitement, beauty, purity, and music that stirs the soul and looked to stir the snow.

Georgic for a Forgotten Planet (2008) is a film about wildlife in central park. When interviewing Sachs she told me in this film “I love working with plants or finding the biomorphic in inanimate things.  Living in New York City, I probably don’t get enough pure living, so I try to make up for that by weaving in images of gardens or trees or water in my films. “Georgic for a Forgotten Planet” was shot in community gardens around the city and the title comes from Virgil’s Georgics, which were poems to agricultural written in 29 B.C.E.” The interweaving in the film with this eerily centric music accompanied by street noises and organic plant life and human interaction, including Sachs change of camera lens, makes this whole piece feel raw and gentle. The scene where she shoots up at the dandelions and weeds and accompanied by trucks and airplanes over head makes it clear that these simple plant pleasures are being missed by the busy world around it. She demonstrates this again by the editing of one shot during the busy street over the ignored plant life. Her homage to joyous organic moments, the bee pollenating the plant while a child plays and then the coming of water, all rounds out they joy one could find in life is one only appreciated it. There would be no need to internalize frustration about why we are here if you appreciated the joy of whats in front of you. The way she places the camera in nature makes one reflect back to brakhage and his many treks through the colorado forest. “I have always loved the way Brakhage creates abstract images from the flora and fauna that surrounded him in Colorado” Sachs says. Her inspiration to capture and influences from his work is apparent. When Sachs wrote a paper about Brakhage and his work on Window Baby Water Moving she comments that “Brakhage’s images have clearly touched me personally, aesthetically, and intellectually as a mother and as a maker of experimental films (Sachs, pp. 194).” Clearly his influence reaches far and deep and those struggle to appreciate the world and their purpose in it have Sachs and Brakhage to thank for the release they might find in their works.

Next is Photograph of the Wind andTornado (2001). Photograph of the Wind is a work in black and white that follows Sachs’ daughter Maya, named after Maya Deren, spinning around her running in a circle creating wind in her hair. In the description of the video Sachs said “ As I watch her growing up, spinning like a top around me, I realize that her childhood is not something I can grasp but rather (like the wind) something I feel tenderly brushing across my cheek.” Clearly speaking in terms she was unfamiliar with at the time, this is exactly experimental cinema doing its job. Feeling the wind whip through her daughters hair, and sensing the turn of a top as you spin round and round. Sachs’ herself had a realization of existentialism. She was here forever trying to hold on to the childhood of her daughter finally realizing like the wind its something she cannot grasp but has to appreciate.

In Tornado (2001) Lynne shows the charred remains of papers that were destroyed after September 11th, and twin towers were crashed into. It coincides with a poem about tornadoes and how they destroy everything in its path. What makes this film so important, and in my opinion the best of her experience cinema films is the hands that hold the charred and ripped papers. They are wrinkled and smooth and you can hear them rustling with themselves and scratching along the paper, as if to say these pages may be broken but I still remain whole. These works are all representative or productions of experience cinema they make you feel and have reaffirmations of life. They affirm our existence they represent creation. Audience experience why they exist. They aide in those who question it.

These representations can be seen in popular cinema as well. One of the films I find most representation of experimental cinema and existentialism, which in hollywood cinema seems to be produced in americana crises, is American Beauty. This film tells the story of Lester Burnham who lived his suburban life in a daze and one day is awoken to find he hadn’t been experiencing life at all. Some might say he had a mid-life crisis. I believe he had a mid-life awakening and the way Sam Mendes represents this is through experience cinema. In particularly with the protagonist, there is a scene where he is fantasizing about a teenage girl Angela, and he walks into a steam filled bathroom and you can feel his heart race, and the wet sticky steam of the bathroom and the softness of the rose petals that lay in the water on top of Angela. This erotic metamorphous from a non sensational life into a full on orgasm of sensational experiences shows his existential turmoil fading away with experience cinema. Another example in the film of experience cinema being used to explore existentialism is the scene where Ricky shows Jane his video of the most beautiful thing he’s ever shot, a plastic bag blowing in the wind. This video showcases how this epithelial object danced with the wind and no one appreciated the simplistic beauty but Ricky. He saw the beauty in real life. He was the only one of them that was truly living. Ricky woke everyone up. He was the savior of suburbia.

Another few pop culture films that deal with existentialism outright are Groundhog’s Day, when a weather man must relive groundhog’s day over and over and over again until he is living a true and happy life. Another few are The Truman Show, I Heart the Huckabees and Fight Club. Now Fight Club more so represents than some of the others because the main character Tyler Durdin is a projection of Edward Norton’s subconscious to preform his desired actions. His life was already in an existential crisis. It takes him the whole movie to figure it out, but he is having one nonetheless. These subsequent films use different idioms to resurrect existential crises but they serve the purpose to show that this genre of self doubt is one that is still relevant even in fields that aren’t experimental.

In conclusion, Lynne Sachs as an experimental filmmaker is one to be admired. Her films do more than just entertain, they reach through the screen and enrapture your senses with experimental cinema. Wether she is citing beautiful poetry or overlaying bohemian experimental music over her images, you feel their power. They affirm why we are here. What their is on this earth for individuals to appreciate. We do not need to feel lost or purposeless, there is joy everywhere. Every organism matters. Lynne Sachs shows us that.



Deutsch, J. (2004). Maya Deren and the American Avant-garde.       American Studies In  ternational, 42(1), 132-133. Retrieved        from http://search.proquest.com.esearch.ut.edudocview/             197130140accountid=1476

Drift and Bough. Dir. Lynne Sachs. 2014. DVD.

Fincher, David, Arnon Milchan, Jim Uhls, Art Linson, Ceán Chaffin, Ross G. Bell, Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, Carter H. Bonham, Loaf Meat, Jared Leto, Zach Grenier, Holt McCallany, Eion Bailey, Michael Kaplan, James Haygood, Alex McDowell, and Jeff Cronenweth. Fight Club. Beverly Hills, Calif: Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, 2002.

Georgic for a Forgotten Planet. Dir. Lynne Sachs. 2008. DVD.

Mendes, Sam, Alan Ball, Bruce Cohen, Dan Jinks, Kevin Spacey,           Annette Bening, Thora Birch, Mena Suvari, Wes Bent               ley, and Chris Cooper. American Beauty. Universal             City, CA: DreamWorks Home Entertainment, 2000.

Michelson, Annette. “Stan Brakhage (1933-2003).” October 108       (2004): 112-115. Academic Search Complete. Web. 8 Dec.          2014.

Niccol, Andrew, and Peter Weir. The Truman Show. Hollywood, CA: Paramount Pictures, 1999.

Photograph of the Wind. Dir. Lynne Sachs. 2001. DVD.

Pierson, Michele. “Avant-Garde Re-Enactment: World Mirror Cinema,Decasia, and The Heart of the World.” Cinema Journal         49.1 (2009):1-19. JSTOR. Web. 27 Oct. 2014. <                 http://www.jstor.org/stable/25619742>.

Rabinowitz, Paula. “Medium Uncool: Women Shoot Back; Feminism,          Film and 1968 — A Curious Documentary.” Science & Society          65.1 (2001):72-98. JSTOR. Web. 27 Oct. 2014.                  <http://www.jstor.org/stable/40403885>.

Ramis, Harold, Bill Murray, Andie MacDowell, Chris Elliott,        Stephen Tobolowsky, and Brian Doyle-Murray. Groundhog Day.         Burbank, Calif: Columbia TriStar Home Video, 1993.

Russell, David O, Jeff Baena, Gregory Goodman, Scott Rudin,        Dustin Hoffman, Lily Tomlin, Jason Schwartzman, Isabelle          Huppert, Jude Law, Peter Deming, and Jon Brion. I [heart]          Huckabees. Los Angeles, CA: 20th    Century Fox Home Enter         tainment, 2004

Sachs, L. (2007). Thoughts on birth and brakhage. Camera Obscu          ra, (64)194-196. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.esearch.ut.edu/docview/217539662?accountid=14762

Tornado. Dir. Lynne Sachs. 2001.


1. What influences, as far as directors, do you have when you do your work?
I have been inspired by Chris Marker, Chantal Ackerman, Bruce Conner, Stan Brakhage, Haron Farocki, Holis Frampton, and so many others!
2. You tend to use many different forms of art in your filmmaking, like collage, painting, and layered sound deign, in your works, why did you decide to use all these forms instead of just shooting? Is that what experimental is to you?
For me, each film needs to search for its own language of expression, and this creative journey is never mapped out ahead of time. I love using my camera, of course, but I also find the dialogue between the moving image and other artistic forms to be quite unpredictable and, therefore exciting. When I decided to become a filmmaker, I never had to abandon my poetry writing or my love of collage and painting. My work in sound came more recently, as I discovered that the aural dimension invited audiences to participate more freely with the cinematic moment.


  1. If not what about your work defines it as experimental cinema?
    I really love that you are curious about the word experimental. Honestly, I sometimes feel like a scientist working with materials that are simultaneously familiar and exotic. When I juxtaposed a home movie of my fourth birthday with an image of a black widow spider in my film “The House of Science”, I was experimenting with meaning, making suggestions about the connections between childhood and fear. I didn’t know if my “experiment” worked until I activated it with an audience. I’ve never been attracted to the kind of filmmaking that necessitates that you follow a formula for writing a script. The idea that there is a software template, for example, that screenwriters use to create a narrative film disturbs me to my very core. Each time I come up with an idea for a new film, I have to try out new ways of using a camera, which might seem as basic as it gets. I play with the technology as much as a feature filmmaker plays with her story. In an experimental film, the form and the content are essentially strangers who eventually will become the dearest of friends. Finding the chemistry for this new “relationship” pushes the experimental filmmaker to invent, play, take risks, fail and get right back up again.

4. One of the reason I like Su Friedrich’s work is because it uses narrative form and documentary form with interviews as well as makes commentary, you tend to use political issues to make social commentary like your recent work Your Day is My Night, but use the same kind of form. Is this what you’re really passionate about or what inspired you to do this work? Did Su Friedrich’s Style have any influence?
Su’s early films were extremely influential to me. Her oneiric “Gently Down the Stream” seemed to have been spit right out of a dream she had the night before she made the film. When I saw that film, I was awed by the closeness she had to her unconscious. Later, I saw “Sink or Swim” and was enthralled with her ability to tell such an intimate story about her relationship to her father while she was growing up. Throughout her career, there has always been an implicit confidence in the ability of women to find their way in the world and to express this journey from a specifically female perspective. This is in and of itself a political position that resonates with me. Both of us often intertwine autobiography with observations of the world around us.
5. Georgic for a Forgotten Planet, was inspired by poetry by relates heavily to nature, is nature something your passionate about, cause we see your connection to snow in Drift and Bough as well.
I love working with plants or finding the biomorphic in inanimate things. Living in New York City, I probably don’t get enough pure living, so I try to make up for that by weaving in images of gardens or trees or water in my films. “Georgic for a Forgotten Planet” was shot in community gardens around the city and the title comes from Virgils Georgics, which were poems to agricultural written in 29 B.C.E. I recently shot images of the People’s Climate March and hope to make a film with that material. “Drift and Bough” is simply a film I made in homage to Central Park, a natural wonder in the heart of the city where I find solace and joy. I shot the whole film during one snowstorm last winter.
6. Does this connection to nature  come from a Stan Brakhage influence and his wonderings in Colorado.
Another great question, I have always loved the way Brakhage creates abstract images from the flora and fauna that surrounded him in Colorado, but the again he was also able to create exquisite beauty from a crystal ashtray in his “Text of Light” (1979).
7. The other works I’m examining are Tornado and Photograph of the Wind. I was wondering if you use these banal objects like your daughters hair and the charred papers to demonstrate beauty in meaningless articles?
Years ago I made two films about objects in our lives – “Still Life with Woman and Four Objects” (1986) and “Following the Object to Its Logical Beginning” (1987), so you are so right. I like to determine how we as humans engage with the things in our lives. In “Tornado” (2002), I am reflecting on the Twin Towers at the World Trade Center as objects that sadly became anthropomorphized when they fell and “died”. In “Photograph of Wind” (2001), I think a viewer does feel the swoosh of the wind through the watching of my daughter’s hair swirling around the camera. Your comparison of these two films which both integrate my daughters is very astute.
8. I’m terming this effect that you show in your films as “Experience Cinema” Cinema that you feel in every shot wether its the cold of snow or the wind of your spinning daughter. Is this something that you try to express when you make your films?
Wow! I love your naming of my films as “Experience Cinema”. I am honored by this very sensitive and perceptive observation and frankly I never could have come up with this myself. If making films gives me and hopefully you this shift of awareness, then I can be happy about my practice as an artist. While I love words dearly, this non-verbal level of communication is vital work.
9. Lastly, is there anything pertinent about the above films I’ve mentioned that you think I should know in regards to influence or things you were thinking during development?
You are a wonderfully insightful and original thinker. There is nothing I would add to this gift you have given me.


MOTHER WORKS @ Microscope Gallery (including Same Stream Twice by L. Sachs)


This Sunday night I will show Same Stream Twice a new short film I made in collaboration with my daughter Maya Street-Sachs in this program at Microscope Gallery in Bushwick, Brooklyn.   As some of you know, I was very inspired by conceptual artist Mary Kelly’s Post Partum Document in the early 90’s so I am excited to see the interview with her that is part of this program. I am also curious to see the piece by Linda Montano and her daughter. Linda is the performance artist who wore and lived in monochromatic colors for seven years in the 1970s.
Maya and I will both be at Microscope. I hope you can join us.

Sunday November 11, 7pm
Videos by Catherine Elwes, Marni Kotak, Linda Mary Montano, and Lynne Sachs
plus a rare interview with Mary Kelly
Admission $6

Microscope Gallery
4 Charles Place
Bushwick, Brooklyn

With women issues at the forefront of recent political and social discourse, we present an evening of videos by working women artists including Catherine Elwes, Marni Kotak, Linda Mary Montano and Lynne Sachs concerning motherhood. The program features original video works and a rare interview with artist Mary Kelly, covering four decades from the setting of 70s feminism, where motherhood was often marginalized, to today’s over-the-top celebration of mommy culture.

The common element in these very different  approaches to the experience of motherhood and the mother/child relationship is the elevation of the personal daily experience. Each of the works – even when unstated – is also a collaboration with the artist’s son or daughter, or in the case of one, with her own mother.

presents film, video, sound, performance, new media and other time-based artists through exhibitions, screenings
and other events.


PROGRAM includes:

“There is a Myth”, Catherine Elwes, video, color, sound, 19 minutes, 1984
A single breast fills the screen and is repeatedly pummelled by the infants hand. These brutal caresses soon produce the desired effect and milk oozes from the swollen nipple. The viewer, deprived of any conventionally sexual reading, is left to confront or repress pre-lingual memories of the physical and psychological pleasures of lactation.  — C E

“Little Brother”, Marni Kotak w/ Ajax Kotak Bell, HD video, color, sound, 12 minutes, 2012
The latest in series of collaborative video works in which the artist equips her young child with a video to record his daily activities and the world he encounters. The featured segments were recorded during the past month.

“The Birth of Baby X”, Marni Kotak, video, color, sound, 4:30 minutes, 2012
Documentation from the live birth performance “The Birth of Baby X” in which the artist gave birth to her son as a work of art.

“Mom Art”, Linda Mary Montano, color, sound, 23 minutes, 2012
An interview between Mildred Montano and Linda Mary Montano (1970′s) featuring Mildred Montano’s paintings.

“Same Stream Twice”, Lynne Sachs with Maya Street-Sachs, 16mm b&w to DVD, 4 minutes, 2001-2012
My daughter’s name is Maya. I’ve been told that the word maya means illusion in Hindu philosophy. In 2001, I photographed her at six years old, spinning like a top around me. Even then, I realized that her childhood was not something I could grasp but rather – like the wind – something I could feel tenderly brushing across my cheek. Eleven years later, I pull out my Bolex camera  once again and she allows me to film her – different but somehow the same. — L S

In addition, a 17 minute segment from a rare interview with artist Mary Kelly discussing her works including her influential work “Post Partum Document”.


Kid on Hip, Camera in Hand Interview with Lynne Sachs

Kid on Hip header


Interview with Lynne Sachs

Can you talk a bit about your background and what led you to filmmaking?

As a girl, I always loved to paint and write poetry. Since I had never

seen an experimental film, I had no real  desire to create one. Then I

happened to stroll into some films by Marguerite Duras and Chantel

Ackerman in Paris when I was about 19. Like a flash of lightening, I

discovered there was a place where I could put all of my ideas about

images and words in a non-narrative vessel that had no formula other

than time.

Can you talk about a moment, a film, a screening that really

inspired you to become a filmmaker?

Looking back on the influential films I saw as a child, I think I

should mention “Finian’s Rainbow” by Francis Ford Coppola, “Billy

Jack” by Tom Laughlin, “Walkabout” by Nicolas Roeg, and “Children of

Paradise” by Marcel Carne. These were movies I saw as young person

that turned my world upside-down. “Billy Jack” is an intense, very

political, very macho, kind of hippie movie that I am embarrassed to

say so rocked my world that I went to see it about five times when I

was ten years old.

What is the genesis of “Photograph of Wind”?

One spring afternoon in 2001, I was standing in my backyard watching

my daughter Maya playing in the grass.  As I stared intently at her, I

realized that my relationship to her fleeting youth was somehow

similar to that of my teacher Gunvor Nelson’s with her own daughter in

her film “My Name is Oona” (1969). In this film, Gunvor stares at Oona

who is riding with blissful abandon on a horse at the beach.  Oona is

free to run with the animal wherever she may choose, and yet she is

somehow lovingly reigned in by the gaze and concern of her mother.

Through the fabric of the celluloid in both its clarity and its

obscurity Gunvor weaves an intimate, oneiric homage to her daughter.

On the soundtrack (recorded with Patrick Gleason and inspired by

American composer Steve Reich), she creates a musical litany made of

the sound of Oona speaking her name over and over. Perhaps it was

seeing this film that compelled me to pull out my 16mm camera to film

my daughter running as many circles as she could before falling

dizzily to the ground.  I called this short cine-poem “Photograph of

Wind” (2001).

What were some of the film’s influences?

I was very influenced by the films that Robert Frank made of his own

children. I am not sure where he wrote this but somewhere he used the

expression “photograph of wind” and it spoke to me in a profound way.

Can you elaborate on the process of making the film? How

important is the process to you?

Sometimes I make very complex collage films. This is just the

opposite. “Photograph of Wind” is a very spare work that combines two

shots. In these two images, we see the collision of black and white

and color, a human being and the leaves of a tree.  But in the

juxtaposition, I think we witness the sense of a fleeting childhood

and the last moments of summer. No matter how tightly we grasp the

moment, it will go away.

Can you contextualize “Photograph of Wind” in relationship

to your body of work overall. Does this film relate to themes that you

typically explore or is this film a departure?

I have been exploring women’s experiences through so much of my work,

going back to my first short film “Still Life with Woman and Four

Objects” (1986).  I like investigating my own discoveries about my

life – from getting my period, to having children, and all the things

in between.  Specifically, I have made about five films with my

daughters. We all enjoy diving into the creative process together.

How does your point of view as a mother and a woman inform your

filmmaking? (Some women have felt that if they were to be taken

seriously as filmmakers they had to be “closeted” mothers or choose

between the two. Is that something you have encountered?)

Being a mother makes me feel like I can run outside to look at a

flower bursting from a branch – carrying a camera or dragging along

one of my children – and I have an audience with whom to share the

experience.  On a more somber note, I also made a film about an

Israeli mother and filmmaker who was killed with her children in a

political conflict.  The film is called “States of UnBelonging” and

making it allowed me to explore what it means to take risks as a

mother and an artist.

Does your role as a filmmaker inform how you see yourself as a mother?

I think that by being an artist, and in my case a filmmaker, we can

share an excitement about making things with our children. Life feels

like a universe of possibilities, and the measures of success are not

so much commercial as personal.

Did you have reservations about including your kids in the

project? Can you share a story about the process of working with your


I did not have reservations.  Making this film with my daughter was

just a continuation of our play – at least for her.  For me, of

course, I had to spend days in the optical printing room transforming

the original footage into the dreamy, high-contrast motion you see on


How do you balance teaching, making films, your family, life,

etc? Can you share a day in your life doing this balancing act?

I am not sure I have found a balance, but I guess that I try to

translate the joy I have for teaching to my relationship with my kids.

Both are oriented toward young people of course, but my students just

stay the same age and my daughters grow up. The hard part is not to be

too much of a teacher with your own children.

We have shared the rationale behind putting together the Kid on

Hip program. Do you have any thoughts on being included in this group

of films as a screening program?

Truly honored.