Tag Archives: States of UnBelonging

Lynne Sachs’ Films on Ovid

Lynne Sachs’ Films on Ovid

Films Available:
A Biography of Lillith
Investigation of a Flame
The Last Happy Day
Sermons and Sacred Pictures
Starfish Aorta Colossus
States of Unbelonging
Which Way Is East: Notebooks from Vietnam
Your Day is My Night
Tip of My Tongue
And Then We Marched
A Year of Notes and Numbers

About Lynne Sachs
Lynne Sachs makes films, installations, performances and web projects that explore the intricate relationship between personal observations and broader historical experiences by weaving together poetry, collage, painting, politics and layered sound design. Strongly committed to a dialogue between cinematic theory and practice, she searches for a rigorous play between image and sound, pushing the visual and aural textures in her work with each and every new project. Between 1994 and 2009, her five essay films took her to Vietnam, Bosnia, Israel, Italy and Germany — sites affected by international war – where she looked at the space between a community’s collective memory and her own subjective perceptions.

Recently, after 25 years of making experimental documentaries, Lynne learned something that turned all her ideas about filmmaking upside down. While working on Your Day is My Night in the Chinatown neighborhood of New York City, she came to see that every time she asked a person to talk in front of her camera, they were performing for her rather than revealing something completely honest about their lives. The very process of recording guaranteed that some aspect of the project would be artificial. She decided she had to think of a way to change that, so she invited her subjects to work with her to make the film, to become her collaborators. For Lynne, this change in her process has moved her toward a new type of filmmaking, one that not only explores the experiences of her subjects, but also invites them to participate in the construction of a film about their lives.

Her films have screened at the New York Film Festival, the Sundance Film Festival, Toronto’s Images Festival and Los Angeles’ REDCAT Theatre as well as a five-film retrospective at the Buenos Aires Film Festival. The San Francisco Cinematheque recently published a monograph with four original essays in conjunction with a full retrospective of Lynne’s work. In 2014, Lynne received a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship in Film and Video.

About Ovid
With the help of an unprecedented collaborative effort by eight of the most noteworthy, independent film distribution companies in the U.S., Docuseek, LLC launched an innovative, new, subscription video-on-demand service, OVID.tv.

OVID.tv will provide North American viewers with access to thousands of documentaries, independent films, and notable works of international cinema, largely unavailable on any other platform.

OVID’s initial offerings fall into roughly three categories: a) powerful films addressing urgent political and social issues, such as climate change, and economic justice; b) in-depth selections of creative documentaries by world-famous directors; and c) cutting-edge arthouse feature and genre films by contemporary directors as well as established masters. And new films in all three areas will be added to the OVID collection every two weeks.

OVID.tv is an initiative of Docuseek, LLC, which operates Docuseek, a streaming service for colleges and universities which was established in 2012, streaming a library of over 1600 titles.

The eight founding content partners are:

BULLFROG FILMS The leading U.S. publisher of independently produced documentaries on environmental and related social justice issues, in business for more than 45 years, it currently distributes over 750 titles.

THE DGENERATE FILMS COLLECTION dGenerate Films distributes contemporary independent film from mainland China to audiences worldwide. They are dedicated to procuring and promoting visionary content, fueled by transformative social change and digital innovation.

DISTRIB FILMS US An independent distributor of international feature films, Distrib Films US is known for its strong collection of French and Italian fiction feature films.

FIRST RUN FEATURES Founded in 1979 by a group of filmmakers to advance the distribution of independent film, First Run has been honored with a major retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art for its significant contributions.

GRASSHOPPER FILM A distribution company founded in 2015 by Ryan Krivoshey, dedicated to the release of independent, foreign, and documentary film.

ICARUS FILMS A leading distributor of documentary films in North America, with a collection exceeding 1000 titles. It recently celebrated its 40th anniversary.

KIMSTIM A distribution company dedicated to the release of exceptional independent, foreign, and documentary film.

WOMEN MAKE MOVIES Women Make Movies (WMM), a non-profit feminist social enterprise based in New York, is the world’s leading distributor of independent films by and about women.

Lynne Sachs Featured on The Screen’s Margins Podcast

The Screen’s Margins Podcast
Oll Obout Ovid! No. 21 – All the World’s Memory, Lost Course, the works of Lynne Sachs, and more!


The segment on Lynne Sachs

Welcome to the 99th and final podcast from THE SCREEN’S MARGINS of the year! What a year it’s been, and what better way to round out 2021 than by…okay there’s nothing special, it’s just B Peterson and Witney Seibold talking good film that’s available on Ovid.tv, aka the premise of OLL OBOUT OVID! We talk Alain Renais’ 1956 tribute to libraries, Madeline Anderson’s documentation of Civil Rights activism and activists, Lynne Sachs’ experimental explorations of history, language and the documentary form itself, Jill Li’s chronicling of a democratic movement in Southern China, and more besides! We hope you enjoy, and thank you for your time.

Link to B’s new podcast, launching Jan 1st: anchor.fm/bluegreycloset

See Lynne’s films on Ovid.tv here:

Welcome to the queer-led podcast network from @bluegreycloset, @haroldtxt, @iamthecampion, @the_hoyk and @WitneySeibold exploring lesser-known films/filmmakers.

Cryptofiction Presents Five Films by Lynne Sachs


Cryptofiction is excited to present five films by Lynne Sachs including: “Which Way is East” (1994); “Investigation of a Flame” (2001); “States of UnBelonging” (2005); “Your Day is My Night” (2013); and “Epistolary: Letter to Jean Vigo” (2021).

Lynne discovered her love of filmmaking while living and studying in San Francisco where she worked closely with artists Craig Baldwin, Bruce Conner, Barbara Hammer, Gunvor Nelson, and Trihn T. Min-ha. During this time, she produced her early, experimental works on celluloid which took a feminist approach to the creation of images and writing— a commitment which has grounded her body of work ever since.

From essay films to hybrid docs to diaristic shorts, Sachs has produced 40 films as well as numerous projects for web, installation, and performance. She has tackled topics near and far, often addressing directly the challenge of translation — from one language to another or from spoken work to image. These tensions were investigated most explicitly between 1994 and 2006, when Lynne produced five essay films that took her to Vietnam, Bosnia, Israel, Italy and Germany—sites affected by international war–where she looked at the space between a community’s collective memory and her own subjective perceptions.

Over her career, Sachs has been awarded support from the Guggenheim Foundation, the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Jerome Foundation. Her films have screened at venues such as the Museum of Modern Art, Wexner Center for the Arts, the Walker and the Getty, and at festivals including New York Film Festival, the Sundance Film Festival, Punto de Vista, DocAviv, and DocLisboa. Retrospectives of her work have been presented at the Museum of the Moving Image, Sheffield Doc/Fest, Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema, Festival International Nuevo Cine in Havana, and China Women’s Film Festival. Her 2019 film “A Month of Single Frames” won the Grand Prize at Oberhausen Festival of Short Films in 2020. In 2021, both the Edison Film Festival and the Prismatic Ground Film Festival at the Maysles Documentary Center awarded Lynne for her body of work in the experimental and documentary fields.

Cryptofiction: Interview with Lynne Sachs


Cryptofiction is an international distribution and production platform based in London, UK.

With over 25 years of combined experience as filmmakers and over a decade as distributors, our team is devoted to bring the attention and viewership deserved by the remarkable and courageous titles that we represent. In addition to distribution services, we offer a wide range of production support for rising and established moving-image makers.


We are dedicated to supporting and representing independent cinema from around the world.

Our top priority is to foster excellence amongst an intergenerational community of visionaries and to help younger talent meet and rise in conjunction with established filmmakers. Our on-demand platform is a virtual extension of our distribution agenda. Dedicated to supporting and promoting excellent independent cinema from around the globe, we have carefully curated an exciting set of programs consisting of a mix of young and established filmmakers. As part of our ongoing programming, we offer a new range of films and thematics every 3 months. Unlike similar commercial platforms, we do not and will not operate on a subscription basis. Our viewers are encouraged to browse and watch their desired programs whenever they wish. We are hoping this platform would become a viable means to generate passive income for the remarkable artists and filmmakers that we represent. 

In addition to our on-demand services, we run an annual virtual film festival also dedicated to global intergenerational discourses on relevant thematics and contemporary issues. Supplementing these platforms are a series of one-off events and surprise programmings that bring timely attention to the work of filmmakers as unique socio-political struggles arise.

Mania Akbari (b. Tehran, 1974) is an internationally acclaimed artist and filmmaker. Her provocative, revolutionary and radical films were recently the subject of retrospectives at the BFI, Lon- don (2013), the DFI, Denmark (2014), Oldenburg International Film Festival, Germany (2014), Cyprus Film Festival (2014) and Nottingham Contemporary UK (2018). Her films have screened at festivals around the world and have received numerous awards including German Independence Honorary Award, Oldenberg (2014), Best Film, Digital Section, Venice Film Festival (2004), Nantes Special Public Award Best Film (2007) and Best Director and Best film at Kerala Film Festival (2007), Best Film and Best Actress, Barcelona Film Festival (2007). Akbari was exiled from Iran and currently lives and works in London, a theme addressed in ‘Life May Be’ (2014), co-directed with Mark Cousins. This film was released at Karlovy Vary Film Festival and was nominated for Best Documentary at Edinburgh International Film Festival (2014) and Asia Pacific Film Festival (2014). Akbari’s latest film ‘A Moon For My Father’, made in collaboration with British artist Douglas White, premiered at CPH:DOX where it won the NEW:VISION Award 2019. The film also received a FIPRESCI International Crit- ics Award at the Flying Broom Festival, Ankara.

Kino Rebelde to Represent Lynne Sachs’ Catalogue Internationally


Kino Rebelde has created a retrospective that traces a delicate line connecting intimacy, power relations, violence, memory, migration, desire, love, and war in Lynne’s films. By looking at each of these works, we can see a director facing her own fears and contradictions, as well as her sense of friendship and motherhood.  Moving from idea to emotion and back again, our retrospective takes us on a journey through Sachs’ life as a filmmaker, beginning in 1986 and moving all the way to the present.

With the intention of allowing her work to cross boundaries, to interpret and to inquire into her distinctive mode of engaging with the camera as an apparatus for expression, we are delighted to present 37 films that comprise the complete filmmography, so far, of Lynne Sachs as visual artist and filmmaker. Regardless of the passage of time, these works continue to be extremely contemporary, coherent and radical in their artistic conception.

About Kino Rebelde

Kino Rebelde is a Sales and Festival Distribution Agency created by María Vera in early 2017. Its exclusively dedicated to promotion of non-fiction cinema, hybrid narratives and experimental.

Based on the creative distribution of few titles by year, Kino Rebelde established itself as a “boutique agency”, working on a specialized strategy for each film, within its own characteristics, market potential, niches and formal and alternative windows.

This company supports short, medium and long feature films, from any country, with linear or non-linear narratives. They can be in development or WIP, preferably in the editing stage.

The focus: author point of view, pulse of stories, chaos, risk, more questions, less answers, aesthetic and politic transgression, empathy, identities, desires and memory.

Kino Rebelde was born in Madrid, but as its films, this is a nomadic project. In the last years María has been living in Lisbon, Belgrade and Hanoi and she’ll keep moving around.

About María Vera

Festival Distributor and Sales Agent born in Argentina. Founder of Kino Rebelde, a company focused on creative distribution of non-fiction, experimental and hybrid narratives.

Her films have been selected and awarded in festivals as Berlinale, IFFR Rotterdam, IDFA, Visions Du Réel, New York FF, Hot Docs, Jeonju IFF, Sheffield Doc/Fest, Sarajevo FF, Doclisboa and Viennale, among others.

María has a background as producer of socio-political and human rights contents as well as a film curator.Envelope


Lynne Sachs (1961) is an American filmmaker and poet living in Brooklyn, New York. Her moving image work ranges from documentaries, to essay films, to experimental shorts, to hybrid live performances.

Working from a feminist perspective, Lynne weaves together social criticism with personal subjectivity. Her films embrace a radical use of archives, performance and intricate sound work. Between 2013 and 2020, she collaborated with renowned musician and sound artist Stephen Vitiello on five films.

Strongly committed to a dialogue between cinematic theory and practice, she searches for a rigorous play between image and sound, pushing the visual and aural textures in each new project.

Between 1994 and 2009, Lynne directed five essay films that took her to Vietnam, Bosnia, Israel, Italy and Germany – sites affected by international war – where she looked at the space between a community’s collective memory and her own perception. 

Over the course of her career, she has worked closely with film artists Craig Baldwin, Bruce Conner, Ernie Gehr, Barbara Hammer, Chris Marker, Gunvor Nelson, and Trinh T. Min-ha.

Film Dienst – First person # 3: A conversation with filmmaker Lynne Sachs

Film Dienst
Saturday, February 6th, 2021
By Esther Buss 

A conversation with the US filmmaker Lynne Sachs about the importance of the autobiographical in her films

  1. From the beginning of your career as an artist and filmmaker you were in one way or another present in your films: as a body, as a voice, or with certain‚ chapters’ of your own (family) history. Why was this personal or autobiographical approach important to you, why is it still relevant?

Presence in a film comes in a variety of forms.  When I used to cut the actual film footage with a guillotine splicer, I felt that my finger prints on the celluloid were the beginning of my engagement with both the celluloid material and the moment that it signified through the images I had collected with my camera.  Of course, that haptic connection has now disappeared with the intervention of the digital.  Still, in our current time, every image or sound that you collect, be it your own or a found one, is a document of a thought. During the first decade of my filmmaking practice, almost every film I made included some image of my own body, sometimes clothed, sometimes not. It almost became a joke in my family. ”Oh, there she is again!” But, for me, this was a way to subvert the subject/object paradigm of the camera. I needed to flow back and forth, as if through the mechanism of the lens itself.  The presence of my body paralleled the presence of my words, whether experienced aurally as voice-over or on the screen through my hand-written gesture.  Today, we all recognize the inundation of media in our lives.  With the sensation of feeling this material as either an assault or caress (depending on your mood as you scroll through your cell phone just before going to sleep at night), each of us must find a way to register awareness and critique.

  1. Although you choose a personal approach, you represent yourself (and others) more in a fragmented way than as ‚authentic’ characters. What is the idea behind this?

Seeing my work through your eyes is a revelation, actually.  I would not have articulated my approach this way, and yet I completely agree with your assessment. I have never identified with storytelling and, in turn, the effort to create a character. This homage to narrative tradition I find reductive and limiting, in the same way that I would find writing a conventional feature film script to be deeply restrictive. One of the words I despise most in today’s parlance is the word “template”.  When I discovered that there are templates for writing feature film screenplays, I felt like weeping.  When one uses the word “personal” to describe their work, I think they are claiming ownership for all aspects of the creative process, from the structure to the content.  Yes, I do feel an affinity for a more fragmented depiction of another person because I want to make clear that my ability to understand is determined by my point of view. These fissures give someone watching the film the possibility of providing the glue, the connections, the linkages that always circle back to their own life experiences.

  1. How do you deal with the double position of being the author and the figure of your films at the same time?

Sometimes I make films that are very clearly an outgrowth of my own identity as a white Jewish woman born in the United States in 1961. I can’t change any of that and I can’t simply hide one part and flaunt another. Other times, I make films that don’t make those ingredients so apparent, even though they are always there.  Even when my voice, my writing or my body are not there, we all know that my position is influencing every decision I make, how person is framed, how a sound is heard, which music is included, which images are given the space to thrive and which are punished for their very existence.

  1. When speaking about her autifictional novel The Cost of Living, the British writer Deborah Levy characterized her literary (female) subject as a person who is not herself, but who is ‚close’ to her. Who are you in your films?

Deborah Levy’s sense of her own presence in her work is very intriguing, even candid. This reminds of a cultural theory observation by filmmaker, poet and teacher Trinh T. Minh-ha in her essay “Speaking Nearby” (1992) which I quote here:

“There is not much, in the kind of education we receive here in the West, that emphasizes or even recognizes the importance of constantly having contact with what is actually within ourselves, or of understanding a structure from within ourselves. The tendency is always to relate to a situation or to an object as if it is only outside of oneself. Whereas elsewhere, in Vietnam, or in other Asian and African cultures for example, one often learns to “know the world inwardly,” so that the deeper we go into ourselves, the wider we go into society.”

Trinh was a professor of mine in graduate school. I am convinced that her practice of transposing her understanding of herself to her earnest, but always recognizably incomplete, effort to project on others had an enormous impact on my work.

  1. In your films about family members like your father in Film About a Father Who (2020) or The Last Happy Day (2009), which tells of a distant cousin of yours, you sometimes seem to dissolve as the authorial voice, or to put it another way, you pass on your voice – for example to your siblings or children. Is this also a form of giving up some of the power that one has as a narrative authority?

Hmmmm. This makes me think very hard about my process. That’s what a good interview does. Thank you for giving me this chance to be introspective. On one level, I am very committed to a non-hierarchical way of working, one that does not privilege my perspective over another person’s. On another level, perhaps I am ashamed of expressing my thoughts or feelings in a singular voice so I depend on others to prop me up.  Both of these films are part of a triptych of films, the third of which is States of UnBelonging (2005).  The intention with this three-part endeavor was to grapple with the ways we can and cannot understand another human being.  States of UnBelonging looks at a woman in Israel-Palestine who was total stranger to me.  The Last Happy Day is a fragmented portrait of a distance relative, so one degree closer, in a way, to me. Film About a Father Who is, obviously, about my dad. That was supposed to be the easiest, and ultimately it was the most difficult.  Closeness and intimacy somehow became an obstacle. I end up relying on others to give me clarity.

  1. In A Month of Single Frames, your film with images, sounds and notes by the now deceased experimental filmmaker Barbara Hammer, I was very taken with your expanding the First Person Singular. What gave you the idea of this grammatical shift?

Oh, I am thrilled to be talking about voice, language and grammar all in one question. In A Month of Single Frames I decided that I would use the expanded Second Person that includes an ambiguous “you”. It could be the “you” that we usually find in a correspondence with another person.  Or, it could be the “you” that embraces all of us in one sweeping address.  When I write the word you, the viewer might think I am talking to Barbara Hammer, who is no longer alive but through cinema can be included in this dialogue. Or, the viewer may feel that I am addressing them.  It’s kind of wonderfully unclear, which might be an accident or might be intentional. I will never tell.  

This is how I see you. This is how you see yourself. 

You are here. I am here with you. 

This place is still this place. This place is no longer this place. It must be different. 

You are alone. I am here with you in this film. There are others here with us. We are all together. 

Time    less    yours   mine 

(On Screen text by Lynne Sachs from A Month of Single Frames)

  1. For some time, personal or autobiographical narratives are strongly present in documentary filmmaking. How would you explain the strong interest in the personal in these times?

My interpretation of this current enthusiasm for the personal narrative has to do with our interest in knowing who is speaking to us. So much media in our lives is delivered to us without this clarity of positionality. We are forced to discern and to guess how who someone is affects what they are saying to us.  Maybe it is refreshing to have this kind of transparency. 

“States of UnBelonging” at DocAviv 2020

Film About a Father Who
Doc Aviv

“States of UnBelonging” will be available from 3/9 at 12AM until 12/9 at 12AM
Follow this link for tickets:

LIVE Q&A SUNDAY 6/9/ 2020 at 19:00
Lynne Sachs, Filmmaker of States of Unbelonging and Film About a Father Who in conversation with Dr. Laliv Melamed and Nir Zats, co-writer if States of Unbelonging

Register here to attend: https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_0aZv_2c1QqiMEqCWECjDGQ

Filmmaker Lynne Sachs never met Revital Ohayon, an Israeli filmmaker and mother killed near the West Bank. In 2002, she read a news article about the death of Ohayon and her two small children in their house in Kibbutz Metzer. She immediately started gathering information. Despite the distance, New York-based Sachs slowly gets to know more about the young Israeli filmmaker, who had so much in common with her but lived in a starkly different reality. She puts the pieces together through phone calls and correspondences with Nir Zats, an Israeli friend and former student of Sachs, who acts as her field agent. The puzzle takes her over two years to complete, and the picture that emerges is complex and multi-faceted. Although seemingly different, each person in it is trying to survive in a violent present, while carrying a violent past. Without taking sides or casting blame, the film becomes a cine-essay on fear and filmmaking, tragedy and transformation, violence and the land of Israel/Palestine.

The film is screened as part of a tribute to Lynne Sachs, alongside her new work Film About a Father Who…

Previous Festivals: BAFICI (Buenos Aires Intl Film Festival), Margaret Mead Film Festival New York

“From the Outside In: Investigation as a Language In the Films of Lynne Sachs” at DocAviv

From the Outside In: Investigation as a Language In the Films of Lynne Sachs
Sunday, 6/9/2020 
By Dr. Laliv Melamed 

A Conversation with Lynne Sachs, director of Film About a Father Who… and States of Unbelonging, with co-author Nir Zats, moderated by Dr. Laliv Melamed

Lynne Sachs has been making films for over thirty years. Her work is investigative, lyrical, sensitive, and intimate, and her films raise questions about language, narrative techniques, and the cinematic practice itself. Sachs delegates the storytelling work to her subjects—from illegal workers to her own family—letting them negotiate with her camera. Two of her films are screened at this year’s Docaviv: Film about a Father Who and States of Unbelonging. Both film take the viewers on a journey of discovery, but the roads fork many times over and do not lead to definite answers. The discovery, if it exists at all, isn’t always a solution or a revelation, and the journey is internal and external at the same time.

Sachs’ most recent film, Film about a Father Who, is the culmination of thirty years of documentary work—a period as long as her entire professional career. The film’s focus is on her father, Ira Sachs. Sachs Senior is a colorful and licentious type, and his daughter takes his character apart and puts it back together again through the testimonies of his mother, his wives, and his many children, scattered across considerable distances. The film, much like its title, is an unfinished sentence. “This is not a portrait,” she tells us. It is a space she crafts meticulously and laboriously, unraveling and weaving threads with anger and forgiveness, affection and aversion for a father who (…).

In States of Unbelonging (2005), Sachs follows the trail of Revital Ohayon, a film teacher from Metzer, a Kibbutz near the West Bank, who was murdered by a terrorist along with her two children. Having learned about the incident from a newspaper article, Sachs becomes determined to understand this woman, who was as close to her as she was far away. She does this through letters and footage obtained by Nir Zats, an Israeli filmmaker and friend. Driven by an imagined affinity between her and Ohayon, Sachs tries to figure out her relationship with Israel, a torn, wounded nation. “As a documentary filmmaker, I am always reckoning with what it means to shoot from the outside in,” she says. The two films move simultaneously inward and outward, cutting through layers of language, meaning, and identity.

Authored and presented by Dr. Laliv Melamed

Israel’s Ynet Looks Lynne Sachs’ “Film About a Father Who”

“Coming Back to Father’s House”
by Amir Bogen
English translation by Nir Zats
February 14, 2020

For more than 30 years the Jewish filmmaker Lynne Sachs followed her father with her camera. Her father is Ira Sachs Senior, the lauded, and hedonistic Real Estate entrepreneur. From this intimate footage grew her last film, which combines memories, discoveries of siblings and a self examination of her family and herself. In an interview before her NY premier, she shares her personal doubts and her timid feelings regarding the film’s revealing quality. In this interview, she also discusses the documentary she made in Israel about Revital Ohaion who was murdered in a terror attack in 2002.

For more than three decades filmmaker Lynne Sachs have been making experimental documentaries. Her films that deal with political conflicts, social and personal matters took her to various places in the US, Bosnia, Vietnam, and Israel. However, throughout that period, 59- year-old  Ms. Sachs kept working on a film that was most close to her heart: an intimate documentary that deals with the story of her father Ira Sachs Sr.

After the premier of “Film About a Father Who” at Slamdance in Park City, Utah, which occurs concurrently with the famous Sundance film fest, the film travels to Sachs home, New York City, where it will screen on Friday at the Museum of Modern Art. “As I stand shortly before the film’s first NY screening, among my community, I still think ‘have I made a mistake?’. Said Sachs in an interview before the film’s NY premier.

In her new film, Sachs provide the audience with an almost unmediated point of view into her family cell. A nuclear cell that sprawled with her father’s sexual adventures. In an attempt to capture the character of Sachs Sr. who had a reputation of a unique entrepreneur with a hedonistic lifestyle and of being a womanize. She digs into her memories, her mother’s, her father’s lovers, and that of her eight siblings from several women. She includes her brother Ira Sachs the well known film director (Love is Strange, Frankie), and her sister the writer Dana Sachs. The film that was constructed among others from a vast home video archive is a portrait of a man with lust for life. A man that inspired but also hurt many around him. Through her loving and compassionate look, Sachs weaves the perspectives of her close relatives, including some she discovers while making the film. She collects pieces of memories in an attempt to create the figure of her father. Ira Sr. is still alive, but being in old age his health deteriorates. He has difficulties to speak and difficulties to remember. 

Lynne Sachs

“I walked the path of this film most of my adult life. Eventually I had to either accept it or forget about it”. Sachs explains. “If you don’t write a diary, poetry, or other kind of documentation, you basically advocate intentional obliviousness. Most of us do it very well”. Those were the motives that kept her committed to this project for so many years. “Either you speak out or you repress. The easy way is to ignore.  I have two sisters whom I haven’t met till a few years ago. One of them was very involved in my father’s life. The film gives them a space to express their point of view. We all have step siblings. The nuclear family became a more rare thing nowadays with DNA support. My film is not about DNA, rather it takes place in a society where secrets are harder to keep”. 

The Family dynamic around your father is very complex, and it brings some strong, mixed emotions, from your family and from yourself.

“I have been working on this film about my father for 30 years. I didn’t know exactly what I’m doing. But I knew it had a strong presence in my life. It was the starting point to start deciphering our parental fingerprint. No matter how unstable or complicated they were, or if they were awful and you disengaged from it in adolescence, and if so does if it had a positive effect on your life.

The last few weeks after completing the film, I had come to the realization that the frame of contemplating other people’s lives opens a door inwards. I felt the need that this time my door will open within. In order to see how it feels to be watched. As I myself watched my family and myself. This is one of the special merits that cinema possesses. When you carry a camera in public everybody is looking back at you.

The film also shows the process of an active man getting old. It is not an easy experience.

Cinema has the possibility to allow us to process things unlike any other medium. My father is getting old along the film, but so do I, and so all the other characters in the film. We are all getting old. Unfortunately, in our society it is common to hear “you don’t look your age’. It became an antonym to success. The truth is that we do get old. However, cinema launches you backwards and forwards into somebody else’s life, or your own, to parallel or different periods in life. Nowadays, my father is quite frail and has a hard time articulating his words. However, I didn’t want the film to be about that, rather I wanted the film to focus on the access and repulsion from the memory itself.

Still from Film About a Father Who (2020)

The biography of Ira Sachs Sr. Is full of twists and turns even from his childhood. He was born to an American parents from Jewish heritage, and grew up with his mother and stepfather. Both were converted to Christianity after WWII. As he got older, he promoted large scale developing projects for wealthy investors. He alway kept time for hiking and exclusive clubs. His first wife gave birth to his first three kids: Dana, Lynne and Ira. During his marriage and after his divorce, he conducted multiple relationships with different women with whom he brought more children. Not a role model father figure with American values. Not to mention Jewish ones. Nevertheless, Lynne says that Jewish identity was present from an early age, and she has made a few films exploring Jewish themes. Biography of Lilith (1997), The Last Happy Day (2009), and States of Unbelonging (2005) about Revital Ohaion who was murder in a terror attack. (Source: diesem Link)

States of Unbelonging was screened in 2006 at the Jerusalem Film Festival. The film is an attempt to decipher the character of Ohaion who was a film teacher. She was murdered with her two sons by a Palestinian terrorist in her house on kibbutz Metser. An article in the NY TImes ignites Sachs’s interest and sent her to explore the death of a woman in the other side of the globe, a process that Sachs describes as an obsession. She creates an abstract portraits of Ohaion with letters correspondence with her Israeli student Nir Zats. While Sachs is drawn deeper into the character of Ohaion, Zats was providing her with the sights and sounds of Israel. Among others she interview Ohaion’s family and ex-husband. Sachs is captivated not only with Ohioan herself but also with the landscape in which she has lived in. Eventually Sachs decided to visit Israel herself and deal with her complicated feelings.

Still from Film About a Father Who (2020)

“I was so obsessed with her” Sachs says. The subject matters that came in that film are still resonance with me. “I remember how I called Avi, her ex-husband over and over. At first it seemed he hesitated talking to me. Many things happened. I traced her younger brother here in NY. He is the one who gave me some of her home videos. He has never watched it. It was too traumatic for him. I couldn’t stop thinking about her. The only thing that disappointed me in all the erosion of working on this film was that I wasn’t related to the films she has made. It really bothered me for days. I have told myself that I must like her works. I tried to convince myself that it is all right since she was more of a teacher than a filmmaker, and I also teach film. Anyway not everything must fit. I was so immersed in seeing the world through her eyes.

Although Sachs inclines toward the personal. Her film inevitably was also part of the general political context. Different people expected her to take sides in the Palestinian Israeli conflict. “Following the making of the film I met a few Jewish American artists that were supporting BDS. I on the other hand was looking for a way to create a dialogue, and to meet with the peace support movement on both sides”. Sachs says that although she identified with Revital who was murder by a Palestinian, she was looking the complexity in the story. “When I started working on the film there was an expectation to protest the terror toward Israel. And there are different kinds of terror, military, organized and more. Eventually I was trying to avoid talking about the terror in itself”.

That must raise some questions with certain people.

When I submitted the film to the Jerusalem Film Fest, I had to coordinate the film hard copy delivery. I have called and talked to someone in the festival office. He said the jury would probably not like the film. When I was wondering why, he said that it is obviously very pro Zionists, and the jury are definitely not. When I wonder what made the film pro Zionist, he claims that the reason is that I focus on a woman that was killed in a terror attack. I said that I am searching for a more complex point of view. So he said: ok so they might like it after all. He himself was with a set of preliminary points of view about my work. When I reached the festival I was so excited. But then the second war in Lebanon has erupted. We were supposed to have a tour with the film in several places in Israel, but all was canceled. It was so disappointing.


“On Writing the Film Essay” by Lynne Sachs

 “On Writing the Film Essay” by Lynne Sachs
Published in Essays on the Essay Film, edited by Nora M. Alter and Tim Corrigan
Columbia University Press, 2017

Note: All of the films I discuss in this essay can be found on www.lynnesachs.com

Essays on the Essay FilmI feel a closeness to writers, poets and painters, much more than to traditional film directors. For one thing, we ciné experimenters are not bound by the plot-driven mechanics of cause and effect that, for me, often bring the transcendent experience of watching a movie to a grinding halt. The kinds of films I make give the space for mysterious – at least initially — sequences that don’t simply illustrate why one event or scene leads to another. More like an artist than a traditional documentary maker, I am interested in a kind of meaning that is open to interpretation.  Once a film is complete, I often learn things about it from my audience — how the convergence of two images actually expresses an idea or how a non-diegetic sound expands the meaning of spoken phrase. I hope it’s doing one thing, but I might discover that it’s doing something completely different. In this way, the films are kind of porous and flexible; they are open to interpretation. My essay films, in particular, are full of association. Some are resolved and some are adolescent; they’re still trying to figure out who they are.   Through the making of the film, I learn about myself in the context of learning about the world.   My job is not to educate but rather to spark a curiosity in my viewer that moves from the inside out.   The texts for these films come to me in both public and private spaces:  on a long train ride, during a layover in a strange city, at a café, in a hotel room, on the toilet.

Throughout the 1990s, I gravitated toward the simultaneously visceral and cerebral French feminist theory of Hélène Cixous and Luce Irigaray. As a moving image artist searching for a new discourse that spoke to radical issues with an equally radical form, I embraced this kind of writing as it led me toward the non-narrative, unconventional grammar of experimental film as well as the self-reflexivity of the essay.  My first essay film was “The House of Science: A Museum of False Facts” (1991), a personal rumination on the relationship between a woman’s body and the often-opposing institutions of art and science.  While I was shooting this film, I was also keeping a diary:

“My memory of being a girl includes a “me” that is two. I am two bodies – the body of the body and the body of the mind.  The body of the body was flaccid and forgotten.  This was the body that was wet with dirty liquids, holes that wouldn’t close, full of smells and curdled milk.  Of course there was the skeleton.  This was assumed and only reconsidered upon my very rare attempts at jumping farther than far enough, clearing the ditch, lifting the heave-ho. But the body of the body was not the bones.  This body wrapped and encircled the bones, a protective cover of flesh, just on the other side of the wall I call skin.”

I will never forget a cross-country plane ride I took near the end of editing this film. Throughout the time I was in the air, as I flew across the Mississippi, the Great Plains, and the Rockies, I was searching frantically for the hidden skeletal structure of the film. I’d committed to a premiere at the Los Angeles Film Forum, and I only had a couple of months until my screening date.  (Stupid me. I’ll never do that again!) Midway into the flight, I realized it was all laid out before me in the form of the poetry journal I carried in my backpack.  The writing had been with me all along; I simply hadn’t realized that this text was more than a dispensable traveling partner in the “journey” that was the production of the movie. Over the next few weeks, my poems began to guide my editing of the images and sounds,.  Ever since that early period in my filmmaking career, I’ve kept a handwritten journal during the making of my films. In addition to contributing an often times essential narrative element, this kind of writing can also be the critical link to the “naïve” yet curious person I may no longer really “know,” the person I was when I embarked on the intellectual and artistic adventure that is the creation of a film.

In my 1994 essay film “Which Way is East: Notebooks from Vietnam” (1994), I built a voice-over narration out of two surprisingly oppositional perspectives on post-war Vietnam. My sister Dana Sachs, one of the first American journalists to live for an extended period of time in Vietnam, offered expansive, highly informed insights on Vietnamese daily life.  In contrast, my writing traced my own transformation from earnest, war-obsessed American tourist to more keenly observant traveler:

“Driving through the Mekong Delta, a name that carries so much weight. My mind is full of war, and my eyes are on a scavenger hunt for leftovers. Dana told me that those ponds full of bright green rice seedlings are actually craters, the inverted ghosts of bombed out fields.  At Cu Chi, we pay three U.S. dollars so that a tour guide will lead us through a section of this well-known 200-kilometer tunnel complex. This is the engineering masterpiece of the Viet Cong, a matrix of underground kitchens and living rooms and army headquarters. As I slide through the narrow, dusty passageway, my head fills up with those old war movies Dad took us to in the ’70′s. My body is way too big for these tunnels. I can hardly breathe. After five minutes, I come out gasping.  We decide not to spend the extra ten dollars it costs to shoot a rifle.”

Only by reconnecting to the developing stages of my awareness through my journal could I provide an opening to my American audience.  The narrative trajectory of this half-hour film follows our evolving understanding of the landscape and the people of Vietnam. Honestly, my sister Dana and I fought all the through the shaping of the film’s voice over.  If she hadn’t been my sister, I probably would have fired her as a collaborator!  The fundamental tension between the two of us grew out of several distinct differences between our points of view.  While she had very much completed her own reckoning with the destruction of the war between Vietnam and the United States, I, like most tourists, was still dealing with the war’s echoes and the guilt that came with that psychic burden.  While she wanted to follow the order of events to the letter, I felt free to articulate our experiences by distilling our stories into anecdotes that could function like parables. By recognizing the inherent tension between my position as a non-narrative experimental filmmaker and my sister’s commitment to a more transparent commentary, we were able to find a rhetorical strategy that mirrors the most fundamental conflicts around discourse and truth facing an essayist in any format.   In several quintessentially self-reflexive moments, my sister expresses exasperation with almost every aspect of my production process:

“Lynne can stand for an hour finding the perfect frame for her shot. It’s as if she can understand Vietnam better when she looks at it through the lens of her camera. I hate the camera. The world feels too wide for the lens, and if I try to frame it, I only cut it up.”

In 1997, I completed “Biography of Lilith” (1997), a film exploring the ruptures both women and men must confront when transitioning from being autonomous individuals to parents with responsibilities.  I began making this film when I discovered I was pregnant with my first daughter and by the time I finished three years later I was able to punctuate the final sound mix with the cries of my second child. Inspired by the theoretical texts of Julia Kristeva and Antonin Artaud, in particular, this film celebrates my most intimate and abject concerns about the changes in my body and my place in the world as a woman. My film on Lilith, Adam’s first mate, is also a portrait of a female archetype who boldly wanted to be on top during sex. The film matches a non-authoritative exposition of Lilith in a multiplicity of cultures – both ancient and contemporary – with my own pre and post-partum writing. In this way, I juxtaposed two years of historical and cultural research and interviews with intimate ruminations on my own sexuality and motherhood.

“I’m learning to read all over again. A face, this time, connected to a body.  At first, I feel your story from within.  Nose rubs against belly, elbow prods groin. Your silent cough becomes a confusing dip and bulge.  You speak and I struggle to translate.  I lie on my side, talk to myself, rub my fingers across my skin, from left to right.  I read out loud, and I hope you can hear me.  I’m learning to read all over again, but this time I have a teacher.”

In “States of UnBelonging” (2005), my fourth film in a five-film body of work I call “I Am Not a War Photographer”, I turned to Terence Malick’s “The Thin Red Line” and to the “Hell” section of Jean Luc Godard’s “Notre Musique” for lessons from makers who were capable of articulating the horror of war. I constructed this film around an epistolary friendship I had with an Israeli student who moved back to Tel Aviv during an extremely volatile period in Israel-Palestine.  A meditation on war as well as land, the Bible, and filmmaking, this essay film is built from over three years of emails.  With enormous hesitation and intimidation, we reveal our anguish and bewilderment in the film’s soundtrack as well as on the screen as text. With an awareness of my own position in this charged political landscape, I start the film with a kind of meta-historical lamentation on the way that human beings organize time:

“Do you ever have the feeling that the history you are experiencing has no shape?

Even as a teenager I was obsessed with history’s shifts and ruptures. Wars helped us order time. A war established beginnings and endings. There is “before.” There is “during.” There is “after.”

I am currently working on “Tip of My Tongue”, a film on memory that began with 50 autobiographical poems I wrote about each year from my birth in 1961 to my 50th birthday.  Unlike my previous films, in which the research and shooting themselves prompted the text, this project grew directly from my poetry.   Without the slightest concern for how the poems would eventually shimmy their way into one of my movies, in 2012 I gave myself the unencumbered freedom to write about my own life.  In each poem, I looked at the relationship between a large public event and my own insignificant, yet somehow personally memorable, connection to that situation.  Now, three years later, I am working with a cast of eleven people from almost every continent, each of whom was born around the year 1961. Together we are creating an inverted history of our collective half-century through a series of spoken story distillations that place the grand in the shadow of the intimate.  From glimpsing a drunken Winston Churchill on the streets of London to watching the Moon landing from a playground in Melbourne to washing dishes during the Iranian Revolution to feeling destitute during the Recession, we are working collaboratively to construct our own recipe for a performative sound-image essay film.

Excerpt from Review by Tanya Goldman in Cinema Journal:

“There is often a poetic dialogue extending between sections when a voice of the past rhymes with the present. In 1948, Alexandre Astruc wrote of a cinema that should function as “the seismograph of our hearts, a disorderly pendulum inscribing on film the tense dialectics of our ideas.” This quality is echoed in Lynne Sachs’s 2016 reflections on her own practice through which she feels a stronger sense of kinship with writers, poets, and painters than film directors. She states that her job “is not to educate but rather to spark curiosity in my viewer that moves from the inside out.” Observations such as these bestow the essay film with a distinct emotive quality much at odds with classical documentary’s association with sobriety.”

Tanya Goldman
Cinema Journal, Volume 57, Number 4, Summer 2018, pp. 161-166 (Review)
Published by University of Texas Press
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1353/cj.2018.0064





The Essay Film: Students Contemplate States of UnBelonging by Lynne Sachs


On March 6, 2016, University of Iowa graduate students Brittany  Borghi (MFA in the Non-Fiction Writing Program) and Hannah Bonner  (MA in Film Studies ) wrote this letter to me:

Dear Lynne,
My name is Brittany Borghi and I’m a graduate student in the Nonfiction Writing Program at the University of Iowa. I’m enrolled in an essay film class this semester, and this week, I’m putting together a presentation on you and your film, States of Unbelonging. 

This class is the first time that I (and many of my classmates) have gone in-depth with the essay film, and we’re slowly making our way through the process of creating our own (very, very amateur films). In my very preliminary research about you, I’m finding that you seem to be extremely open to conversations about your craft and your work, and I’m wondering if it might be possible to send you a few questions from our motley crew of budding filmmakers, to share with the class on Thursday night. Since you are someone who transitioned from writing to filmmaking, it might be particularly helpful to hear more about your perspective. Also, our class is full of female filmmakers, and I know they would love to hear from you. 

I’m sure you’re extremely busy, but if you wouldn’t mind me emailing you a few quick questions, I would be delighted. 

I hope this email finds you well. Looking forward to hearing from you!
Best and Thanks,
Brittany Borghi 

HI Brittany, this is a start for you and your class. I will try to write more tomorrow before I get on a plane but otherwise it will be finished next week.

I got through about half of your fantastic questions.


Hi Lynne, 

Sorry for the delay on this–I tried to curate some questions from my classmates and they were slow getting back to me. Feel free to answer any of these that appeal to you. It’s really exciting to be able to pull your perspective as filmmaker into our class. I hadn’t seen States of Unbelonging before taking this class, and I really loved the film. Thanks for being so generous!



How intentional was the visual and aural layering in the film, and what was your motivation behind that level of layering? 

As with many of my films, I start out thinking the journey of the production will take me one place but the realities of the real life situation take me somewhere far different. In the case of STATES OF UNBELONGING,  I actually knew the title of the film even before I began looking into Revital’s life as a filmmaker.  I had felt torn about the situation in Israel,  believing that the country itself had come into existence for profoundly disturbing and meaningful reasons but that the contemporary realities had become unfathomably complex.  I see the ‘state’ in which Palestinians and Jews are trying to live as a pathological place where no one and everyone belong and don’t belong. Even the notion or ownership and nationhood is so contested. For this reason, I wanted the portrait of Revital to reveal my own sense of doubt and I tried to make this evident through the tensions that exist in the very fabric of the film.     Throughout the film, I try to create a sense of poignancy in either the image or the sound but often not both, except for the documentary material from the kindergarten (where children talk about death) which is so powerful on its own and should not be circumvented.

I’ve read that Chantal Ackerman is an inspiration of yours, and the beginning of the film almost reads like an reimagining of News From Home. Can you talk about pulling Ackerman into this film? Were you inspired at all by Chantal’s installations, as well as her films?

Most definitely, the epistolary structure and intimacy of NEWS FROM HOME was an inspiration for me.  I think that our culture has actually become more literary since the advent of email and that we are constantly hearing our friends’ and families’ voices in our heads as we read their words, these monologues then travel with us throughout the day.  Cinema is particularly capable of replicating this psychological connection to another human being.  Regarding Akerman’s installations, the only one I’ve seen was “D’est” (From the East) a sweeping yet somehow very human meditation on the changes brought on by the fall of the Iron Curtain in Eastern Europe.  I suppose that her use of long noninflected pans across landscapes was important to me, but on the other hand I focus on one person’s life caught up in political turmoil and Akerman was, in this case, looking at a contintal gestalt.

In The Essay Film, Tim Corrigan writes, “Like an endless war, these states of unbelonging offer no place in which a self can be situated and clearly articulated. It is rather a state of perilous expectations or, as Revital’s husband describes it, a place of such intense longing that there is simply nowhere to locate the extreme sorrow of that longing.” He goes on to say that happens even in the practice of filmmaking. Did you have a position for your essayistic self before beginning States? How did you position yourself against the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Against Revital? Against Judaism or Islam? Did making the film change those positions? 

Making the film put me into the wrestling ring where I was being bounced around by every single conversation, large scale political event, suicide bomb, unwarrented settlment – – really the gamut of the the Israeli-Palestinian war was on my mind for the entire time. I was wrought by it all, but then again this was exactly what I wanted. I wanted to reckon with the dilemma in my own exploratory way. I was constantly haunted by her death, but I was not angered to the point where I wanted revenge.  I will share a story related to the distribution of the film.  I contacted the Jerusalem Film Festival a few months after completing the film to ask about their submission deadline.  When I described  the subject of the film, the secretary who happen to answer the phone told me immediately that the film would NOT be accepted into the festival because of its subject matter. I said “Why?” feeling broken-hearted that I would not be able to show the film in that highly respected festival. He then explained that all of the programmers were very progressive and would not like a movie that functioned an exposé on a terrorist act against a Jewish woman and her children. I then explained that the film is not a  one-sided critique of either the murderer or the Palestinians, but rather a thought piece on the whole situation and its resonance for those of us who are far way physically but close emotionally. In the end, my collaborator Nir Zats and I were invited to the festival.  And, to my great joy, Chantal Akerman was there screening “La Bas” (Down There) here own rumination on the fraught situation in the Middle East.  I was able to meet her the day that the war broke out between Israel and Lebanon. A very scary day for both us in Jerusalem.

I love that we end with the innocence of your daughter’s question, which is at once so wonderfully comforting and so entirely unnerving. What was that conversation like in real life? Was it an honest revelation of hers–or a prompting for the film? Can you talk about your perspective as a woman and a mother–in relation to both Revital as a mother and filmmaker, and to the creation of States itself?

This film is very much coming from my position as a mother.  I made the film BIOGRAPHY OF LILITH about ten years before and some of the issues around the creative process and its relationship to having children are in both films.  Honestly, I initially thought the best way to make this film was to make an anti-documentary that would not allow me to smell, hear, feel or hear anything related to the actual place I was exploring. I was interested in using other people’s and the mainstream news’ mediations coming from every direction. Plus, this intellectual premise, this rhetorical stance, would actually provide an armor or a buffer, protecting me from the very thing that had actually killed Revital. In the end, I capitulated and ended up going to Israel to shoot.  This in and of itself is problematic for those people who believe that boycotting Israel is the best way to create change.  I am not convinced this is true. I wanted to challenge the status quo through the work of making the film.  In this way, the core of Revital’s work as an artist and her commitment to recognizing the rights of the Palestinians was hopefully recognized by the film itself.  She bravely chose to live near a Palestinian village she admired a great deal.

As Corrigan points out (and is clear in the film), our narrator shifts throughout the duration of States, and we come to eventually see the full revelation of you as narrator as Revital’s grave. Can you walk me through your decision-making process for that shifting? How did the essay take shape in that way, or when did it? Did you always intend for the audience to experience this unfolding of and with the narrator? Or was that a part of your filmmaking process? At the level of craft, your voicing is so much different at the beginning than it is even halfway through the film. What were you channeling in those opening moments of the film? 

I’m enchanted by the textual and discursive distance between the narrator’s voiceover, Nir’s voiceover, the text on the screen, and the extreme diversity of rendered images. Again, echoing Corrigan, there is something Marker-esque happening on the screen–and in the mind of the viewer. It puts us on unstable ground, an obvious connection to the thematic exploration in States. Can you elaborate on your own intention with that distance, and how you made those choices? Where are you hoping to situation the audience, and your own essayistic self?

Can you get crafty with us? How many different cameras did you use when recording? How much behind-the-scenes work was happening between you and Nir, in terms of both filming and writing? What was your editing process like? 

Anything else you want us to know about the film? What you wanted to do, and what you wanted us to walk away with? (We’ll have a lot to say about that in class, I’m sure, but I’d love to include that information from you.)

One more question came in from my professor, Jeff Porter, if you have time to answer! 

Dear Lynne—such a compelling and subtly complex film. Thanks for fielding questions from our class. I have a number but let me keep it to one or two. At what point in figuring out your story did you realize that your gradual, visual emergence as a complete presence in the film would tie together so many narrative strings? Was there anything about the editing process that lead you to that solution?

Basically,  I admitted to myself that I would be absolutely candid about my own fears, because I knew that I could not be a war photographer in any way, I knew that my sensations of ambivalence and hesitancy and curiosity were neither unusual or heroic.  I was scared to be so open but it was also very much a relief.  It’s true that I, as a woman with  a camera , only really emerge at the end when I become a listener to Revital’s husband.  This was not planned but it did somehow make sense. When I make essay films, I always end up figuring out the ending at the completion of the editing.  This keep me entertained throughout the process, wondering how I will tie it all up.

Many thanks,
Jeff Porter


Thank you so, so much! These are so interesting to read, and the answers I shared in my presentation last week helped spur a really fascinating discussion that I don’t think we would have had otherwise. I’ll look forward to sharing the rest of them when we get back from spring break.

Creating my own brief essay film for the first time this semester is proving to be a wildly fun challenge, and I’m still not really sure how it’s going to take shape before the end of the semester. Corresponding with you has been really motivating, though. Glad to know that you feel like I “got” your film. The genre has been new to me this semester, and I’m absolutely loving it. Any parting advice for someone slowly trudging through this study and work?

When will TIP OF MY TONGUE come out? I’ll be looking forward to it!

You’re great, this has been great, and again, I really do appreciate it.

All the Best,